At 35, after failing at cattle ranching in the Dakotas and a career lagging in Washington in minor political office, Roosevelt (1858-1919) was offered an appointment by the mayor of New York City as commissioner of street cleaning. ""If the job had had a more illustrious title,"" speculates Brands (Reckless Decade), ""he might have accepted it. As it was, he nearly did."" A few years later--with no military experience--he was second in command of a volunteer cowboy cavalry unit in Cuba, ""The Rough Riders""; then governor of New York; McKinley's vice president; and, after a fortuitous assassination, U.S. president in 1901. The myopic, asthmatic, restless Roosevelt, with little but family connections and modest financial independence, as well as a bit of luck, had brazened his way to the White House. Although Edmund Morris (in 1979) and David McCullough (1981) have produced acclaimed biographies, neither was followed up by a life of T.R. at the top. Brands's narrative is lucid, fast-moving and unblinded by hero worship. In a single volume he has packed Roosevelt's 60 years of ambition, adventure, expediency, achievement and, finally, frustration at having peaked too soon. According to Brands, T.R. is more a romantic in his capacity for self-delusion than in his self-image as romantic hero, with rectitude as his ideal and a stableful of political and financial bosses as villains. As one Roosevelt watcher observed, ""You had to hate the Colonel a whole lot to keep from loving him."" (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 11/03/1997 Release date: 11/01/1997 Genre: Nonfiction
During the Covid-19 crisis, Publishers Weekly is providing free digital access to our magazine, archive, and website. To receive the access to the latest issue delivered to your inbox free each week, enter your email below.