The Best 11 Books on Edmund Morris
Described by the Chicago Tribune as "a classic," The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt stands as one of the greatest biographies of our time. The publication of The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt on September 14th, 2001 marks the 100th anniversary of Theodore Roosevelt becoming president.
“Brilliant....This book is a perfect marriage—or should one say, duet—of subject and author, every word as masterly as the notes of the artist it illuminates.” — Christopher Buckley, Forbes
“This is not just criticism but poetry in itself, with the additional—and inestimable—merit of being true.” — Washington Post Book World
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edmund Morris (The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, Theodore Rex, Dutch) is one of America’s most distinguished biographers, known for his rich, compulsively readable prose style. His biography of Beethoven, one of the most admired composers in the history of music, is above all a study of genius in action, of one of the few giants of Western culture. Beethoven is another engaging entry in the HarperCollins’ “Eminent Lives” series of biographies by distinguished authors on canonical figures.
Praise for the classic biographies of Edmund Morris
The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize
“One of those rare works that is both definitive for the period it covers and fascinating to read for sheer entertainment.”—The New York Times Book Review
“A towering biography.”—Time
Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography
“A masterpiece . . . A great president has finally found a great biographer.”—The Washington Post
“As a literary work on Theodore Roosevelt, it is unlikely ever to be surpassed. It is one of the great histories of the American presidency, worthy of being on a shelf alongside Henry Adams’s volumes on Jefferson and Madison.”—Times Literary Supplement
“Hair-raising . . . awe-inspiring . . . a worthy close to a trilogy sure to be regarded as one of the best studies not just of any president, but of any American.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“[A] splendid and indispensable study of America’s twenty-sixth president . . . Morris is a superb chronicler of Roosevelt’s busy, peripatetic life. . . . Abraham Lincoln may embody America’s soul, but Theodore Roosevelt has America’s heart.”—Chicago Tribune
This biography by Edmund Morris, the Pulitzer Prize– and National Book Award–winning author of The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt and Theodore Rex, marks the completion of a trilogy sure to stand as definitive. Of all our great presidents, Theodore Roosevelt is the only one whose greatness increased out of office. What other president has written forty books, hunted lions, founded a third political party, survived an assassin’s bullet, and explored an unknown river longer than the Rhine? Packed with more adventure, variety, drama, humor, and tragedy than a big novel, yet documented down to the smallest fact, this masterwork recounts the last decade of perhaps the most amazing life in American history.
Whether Morris is analyzing images of Barack Obama or the prose style of President Clinton, or exploring the riches of the New York Public Library Dance Collection, or interviewing the novelist Nadine Gordimer, or proposing a hilarious “Diet for the Musically Obese,” a continuous cross-fertilization is going on in his mind. It mixes the cultural pollens of Africa, Britain, and the United States, and propogates hybrid flowers—some fragrant, some strange, some a shock to conventional sensibilities.
Repeatedly in This Living Hand, Morris celebrates the physicality of artistic labor, and laments the glass screen that today’s e-devices interpose between inspiration and execution. No presidential biographer has ever had so literary a “take” on his subjects: he discerns powers of poetic perception even in the obsessively scientific Edison. Nor do most writers on music have the verbal facility to articulate, as Morris does, what it is about certain sounds that soothe the savage breast. His essay on the pathology of Beethoven’s deafness breaks new ground in suggesting that tinnitus may explain some of the weird aural effects in that composer’s works. Masterly monographs on the art of biography, South Africa in the last days of apartheid, the romance of the piano, and the role of imagination in nonfiction are juxtaposed with enchanting, almost unclassifiable pieces such as “The Bumstitch: Lament for a Forgotten Fruit” (Morris suspects it may have grown in the Garden of Eden); “The Anticapitalist Conspiracy: A Warning” (an assault on The Chicago Manual of Style); “Nuages Gris: Colors in Music, Literature, and Art”; and the uproarious “Which Way Does Sir Dress?”, about ordering a suit from the most expensive tailor in London.
Uniquely illustrated with images that the author describes as indispensable to his creative process, This Living Hand is packed with biographical insights into such famous personalities as Daniel Defoe, Henry Adams, Mark Twain, Evelyn Waugh, Truman Capote, Glenn Gould, Jasper Johns, W. G. Sebald, and Winnie the Pooh—not to mention a gallery of forgotten figures whom Morris lovingly restores to “life.” Among these are the pianist Ferruccio Busoni, the poet Edwin Arlington Robinson, the novelist James Gould Cozzens, and sixteen so-called “Undistinguished Americans,” contributors to an anthology of anonymous memoirs published in 1902.
Reviewing that book for The New Yorker, Morris notes that even the most unlettered persons have, on occasion, “power to send forth surprise flashes, illuminating not only the dark around them but also more sophisticated shadows—for example, those cast by public figures who will not admit to private failings, or by philosophers too cerebral to state a plain truth.” The author of This Living Hand is not an ordinary person, but he too sends forth surprise flashes, never more dazzlingly than in his final essay, “The Ivo Pogorelich of Presidential Biography.”