A. Scott Berg. Putnam, $40 (832p) ISBN 978-0-399-15921-3
This won’t replace John Milton Cooper Jr.’s superb 2009 biography of the United States’ 28th president (Woodrow Wilson), and one could argue that Berg’s isn’t needed so soon after Cooper’s; other than two caches of papers belonging to Wilson’s daughter Jesse and his physician, nothing significantly new about him has been learned in the past four years. Notwithstanding, Berg (he won a Pulitzer for Lindbergh) has written a lively, solid book. It’s more digestible than Cooper’s scholarly tome, and Berg does a better job of capturing Wilson’s personality. Before he occupied the Oval Office, Wilson served as president of Princeton; Berg—like Cooper—is an alumnus of the university, and is generally sympathetic to the man (he puts much emphasis on Wilson’s love for his two wives and characterizes him as a passionate lover as well as a determined leader), while taking a more critical stand against his racial views and policies, his handling of the League of Nations, and of the secrecy that surrounded his late-presidency illness. Most importantly, Berg presents Wilson’s failure to win the world over to his post-WWI vision as a personal and national tragedy. He’s right, but Berg’s likening of Wilson’s life to biblical stages is overkill (chapter titles include “Ascension,” “Gethsemane,” etc.). Fortunately, the theme of tragedy—while nothing new—binds the book and lifts it above more conventional biographies. Photos. Agent: Lynn Nesbit, Janklow & Nesbit Associates. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/08/2013
Release date: 09/10/2013
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