Bearish on TeddyIssue: Summer 1998
H.W. Brands, T.R.: The Last Romantic (New York: Basic Books, 1997)
It is difficult to write a bad book about Theodore Roosevelt, but even more difficult to write a really good one. H.W. Brands, a professor of history at Texas A&M, deserves congratulation on his new one-volume biography, an honest, enjoyable, sympathetic portrait of our twenty-sixth president. Aside from a melodramatic prologue and some unfortunate bows to modern psychology, Brands provides a straightforward narrative of Roosevelt's life, letting T.R. speak for himself and allowing his contemporaries to provide commentary. The result is a vivid character study, stronger on his life than on his times, but engrossing throughout. The book appears in a season of renewed interest in the Republican Roosevelt, not least because of the conservative debate over "national greatness" sparked by David Brooks and William Kristol, in which Roosevelt figures prominently as a patron saint of American nationalism and energetic government.