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Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan

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Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan PDF, ePub eBook "This book, the only biography ever authorized by a sitting President--yet written with complete interpretive freedom--is as revolutionary in method as it is formidable in scholarship. When Ronald Reagan moved into the White House in 1981, one of his first literary guests was Edmund Morris, the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Theodore Roosevelt. Morris developed a fas "This book, the only biography ever authorized by a sitting President--yet written with complete interpretive freedom--is as revolutionary in method as it is formidable in scholarship. When Ronald Reagan moved into the White House in 1981, one of his first literary guests was Edmund Morris, the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Theodore Roosevelt. Morris developed a fascination for the genial yet inscrutable President and, after Reagan's landslide reelection in 1984, put aside the second volume of his life of Roosevelt to become an observing eye and ear at the White House. "Coming and going with Reagan's benign approval ('I'm not going to charge up San Juan Hill for you'), Morris found the President to be a man of extraordinary power and mystery. Although the historic early achievements were plain to see--the restoration of American optimism and patriotism, a repowering of the national economy, a massive arms buildup deliberately forcing the 'Evil Empire' of Soviet Communism to come to terms--nobody, let alone Reagan himself, could explain how he succeeded in shaping events to his will. And when Reagan's second term came to grips with some of the most fundamental moral issues of the late twentieth century--at Bitburg and Bergen-Belsen, at Geneva and Reykajavik, publicly outside the Brandenburg Gate ('Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!'), and deep within the mother monastery of the Russian Orthodox Church, Morris realized that he had taken on a subject of epic dimensions. "Thus began a long biographical pilgrimage to the heart of Ronald Reagan's mystery, beginning with his birth in 1911 in the depths of rural Illinois (where he is still remembered as 'Dutch,' the dreamy son of an alcoholic father and a fiercely religious mother) and progressing through the way stations of an amazingly varied career: young lifeguard (he saved seventy-seven lives), aspiring writer, ace sportscaster, film star, soldier, union leader, corporate spokesman, Governor, and President. Reagan granted Morris full access to his personal papers, including early autobiographical stories and a handwritten White House diary." -- from the book's jacket description

30 review for Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    There is not going to be a way for me to write this review well, so bear with me while I muddle through. I bought this book a couple of days after Reagan's death in 2004 from Borders in Springfield, Missouri, along with a city guide of San Francisco and a copy of "On the Road." I bought them for the trip to California, and packed them along with my entire collection of Natalie Goldberg and my heartsick copy of "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn." I found that I had wanted to attend Reagan's funeral, and w There is not going to be a way for me to write this review well, so bear with me while I muddle through. I bought this book a couple of days after Reagan's death in 2004 from Borders in Springfield, Missouri, along with a city guide of San Francisco and a copy of "On the Road." I bought them for the trip to California, and packed them along with my entire collection of Natalie Goldberg and my heartsick copy of "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn." I found that I had wanted to attend Reagan's funeral, and why didn't he die just three weeks later when I could have made a Southern California stop. Yes, I admired Reagan. I never got the chance to vote for him--my first voting opportunity was Clinton, and I didn't like Bush--but I have to admit that I loved Reagan's personae. I never knew much about his politics; I was eight years old when he took office and sixteen when he left. But he was comforting. And maybe the fact that he was President during those years of my life made him the FDR of my days, it's hard to say. When I arrived in California I was lucky enough to live in the South Bay at an apartment with a pool and at a location two train stops from Palo Alto's Stanford Theater. That summer Stanford Theater was featuring all of the movies of Ronald Reagan--I know that I saw two, but the only one I remember was "Kings Row." Despite the fact that I was raised on classic movies my parents never watched Reagan's films (I have a strong suspicion it was because they didn't like him as much as I did), so I was seeing him young for the first time, an unnerving experience. I saw the movies and tried to read the book, but the biographer seemed to be over my head, like Henry James or something, and I gave up. I also gave up on Kerouac and picked up "The Tree Grows in Brooklyn" and Goldberg books instead--all that heavy literature depressed me when I was so homesick. A couple years back and millions of heartbeats later, I tried again, making it about a hundred pages farther than I did the first time. Still blech. The book is written from a fictional premise with facts, something a little hard to deal with when I was sorting out a broken bone and something even more difficult to explain now, but all I can say is, that with the complete concentration I can afford these days, it finally made sense this time. I'm sure my smarter friends would get it in twenty seconds and marvel at my stupidity, or judge its obtuseness, but in the end I'm glad to have read it. I find that I worship Reagan less after doing so, but that I like him more, that I wish in some ways I could be like him while finding myself ashamed by that envy. This book also made me think about comparisons between the Cold War and our current battle with global terrorism. The comparisons are too complicated to discuss here, but I loved making them in my private journals. The book was mine, but now it's read. There's a problem--most people in this area hate Reagan, and I have to give the book away now. If I give the book away using BookCrossings, it will get destroyed. So it gets the boring fate of the library donation. I hope someone else in the Bay Area has the open mind to read it. I hope someone else in the Bay Area is an Independent. Good night, Great Communicator, and thank you. P.S. - Ronald Reagan's final letter to the American public, in which he disclosed his diagnoses of Alzheimer's, was handwritten, in cursive. I found this particularly poignant, and that in a generation someone will have to translate it, even though it's written in English. The cursive facsimile is reproduced in the book courtesy the author, and I was grateful.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    Edmund Morris caught a lot of shit for writing this book. Yet, I for one, thought it was one of the best political biographies ever. Reagan was one of those guys defined by public life; he had little use for introspection, personal relationships etc. He was truly most comfortable and at home in the limelight. A quote from the book to illustrate the point: "Decades before Alzheimer's clouded Reagan's mind, he showed a terrifying lack of human presence. "I was real proud when Dad came to my high s Edmund Morris caught a lot of shit for writing this book. Yet, I for one, thought it was one of the best political biographies ever. Reagan was one of those guys defined by public life; he had little use for introspection, personal relationships etc. He was truly most comfortable and at home in the limelight. A quote from the book to illustrate the point: "Decades before Alzheimer's clouded Reagan's mind, he showed a terrifying lack of human presence. "I was real proud when Dad came to my high school commencement," reports his son, Michael Reagan. After posing for photos with Michael and his classmates, the future president came up to him, looked right in his eyes, and said, "Hi, my name's Ronald Reagan. What's yours?" Poor Michael replied, "Dad, it's me. Your son. Mike."

  3. 4 out of 5

    John

    This is one of the worst books I have ever read. The author injecting himself into the story as a fictional character was an egotistical and awkward attempt to insult the President. Very cowardly. Once I got my equilibrium after the initial confusing first couple of chapters, it was obvious to me that this book was less to do about Reagan, and more to do with the author's oversized ego. Mr. Morris wrote a critically acclaimed book about Theodore Roosevelt. After reading this disaster, not sure t This is one of the worst books I have ever read. The author injecting himself into the story as a fictional character was an egotistical and awkward attempt to insult the President. Very cowardly. Once I got my equilibrium after the initial confusing first couple of chapters, it was obvious to me that this book was less to do about Reagan, and more to do with the author's oversized ego. Mr. Morris wrote a critically acclaimed book about Theodore Roosevelt. After reading this disaster, not sure that I want to invest the time.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Fred

    I enjoyed this book, just as a good read, not as a hagiography (it's far from that), or a history book. Obviously, Edmund Morris's approach (fictionalizing Reagan's life with a participatory, made-up narrator based on Morris himself), was offbeat. And he doesn't really seem to like Ronald Reagan very much, which I think was also off-putting to a lot of people (including me, to some extent, it seemed disloyal somehow, since Reagan essentially hired him to write it as an "official" biography and g I enjoyed this book, just as a good read, not as a hagiography (it's far from that), or a history book. Obviously, Edmund Morris's approach (fictionalizing Reagan's life with a participatory, made-up narrator based on Morris himself), was offbeat. And he doesn't really seem to like Ronald Reagan very much, which I think was also off-putting to a lot of people (including me, to some extent, it seemed disloyal somehow, since Reagan essentially hired him to write it as an "official" biography and gave him crazy access). But it's really a fascinating story, well told, covering some of the major events of the twentieth century - the war, Communism in Hollywood, the rise of California - in a readable and interesting way. I am pretty much a fiction reader, so maybe that's why this approach appealed to me. But I urge you to give this a try, it's a fairly quick read, for a big book, and an interesting look at history as narrative/biography.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bev

    Worst biography I've read. Morris doesn’t respect President Reagan, in fact shows great disdain for him on nearly every page. It was apparently written for the entertainment generation: it is crafted into screen plays and Saturday Night Live entertainment which means it’s not credible. And Morris deems he is important enough to tell his whole life story simultaneously with Reagan’s. I kept reading it because this is the authorized biographer who was allowed access to all of Reagan’s papers, jour Worst biography I've read. Morris doesn’t respect President Reagan, in fact shows great disdain for him on nearly every page. It was apparently written for the entertainment generation: it is crafted into screen plays and Saturday Night Live entertainment which means it’s not credible. And Morris deems he is important enough to tell his whole life story simultaneously with Reagan’s. I kept reading it because this is the authorized biographer who was allowed access to all of Reagan’s papers, journals and access to his inner circle for the last three years of his presidency. Morris is bored with his journals, pans his autobiography and in a trip to Geneva to meet Prime Minister Gorbachev for the first time, writes most on his conversation with the younger Ron Reagan. Now I must read Reagan’s autobiography to clear my mind of this book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    I was inspired to read this book about Ronald Reagan, my favorite president in my lifetime, by everything that I had read about Edmund Morris and his exalted biography of President Theodore Roosevelt. When I first began reading the book, I read the publisher's note and the comments made by numerous people. It was evident that the book was controversial, but I still fully expected to be reading an excellent biography about an excellent president. You can imagine the depths of my disappointment wit I was inspired to read this book about Ronald Reagan, my favorite president in my lifetime, by everything that I had read about Edmund Morris and his exalted biography of President Theodore Roosevelt. When I first began reading the book, I read the publisher's note and the comments made by numerous people. It was evident that the book was controversial, but I still fully expected to be reading an excellent biography about an excellent president. You can imagine the depths of my disappointment with the book! With each page, Mr. Morris's dislike, disdain, and disrespect for Ronald Reagan became more and more obvious. He even admitted as much in the book when he states that he doesn't know whether or not he likes the president. Although, in the end, he acknowledges a "love" for the president, his demeaning, belittling, and hurtful adjectives and descriptions of R. Reagan show otherwise. To think that Mr. Morris was invited by the president to be his official biographer! That was certainly inviting a snake in the grass, "Anguis in Herba" (Morris likes to borrow from foreign languages), into your home, thinking you've invited a good friend in. Although I won't commit myself to a decision regarding reading more of Edmund Morris's books, I will be very hesitant to ever spend more of my good money on anything authored by him.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mel

    Many reviewers have been dismayed that Morris injected himself as a fictional character in the first half of the book. Those that criticize the method as being dishonest and difficult to follow are clearly not paying attention. I suspect that most negative reviewers would prefer to worship at the altar of their perfect President and cannot abide any criticism of their God and his wife. Morris was allowed unique access to the inner working of the White House and accompanied Reagan's entourage to t Many reviewers have been dismayed that Morris injected himself as a fictional character in the first half of the book. Those that criticize the method as being dishonest and difficult to follow are clearly not paying attention. I suspect that most negative reviewers would prefer to worship at the altar of their perfect President and cannot abide any criticism of their God and his wife. Morris was allowed unique access to the inner working of the White House and accompanied Reagan's entourage to the US/USSR summit in Reykjavik. He often met personally with Reagan from early in his Presidency until the post-presidential years when Reagan no longer recognized him (or anyone else). This familiarality gives Morris a clearer perspective than many of Reagan's other biographers who usually have a political agenda.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    I read quite a bit of this book several years ago but all I can really remember is having to stop because I found the business with the fictional narrator so weird and confusing. It's like that book The Devil in the White City that everyone loves so much. I can't read stuff like that because I need to have a clear idea of where the research ends and the fancy begins. Ronald Reagan is definitely one of the most fascinating figures I can think of. Somehow he managed to make quite an impression on m I read quite a bit of this book several years ago but all I can really remember is having to stop because I found the business with the fictional narrator so weird and confusing. It's like that book The Devil in the White City that everyone loves so much. I can't read stuff like that because I need to have a clear idea of where the research ends and the fancy begins. Ronald Reagan is definitely one of the most fascinating figures I can think of. Somehow he managed to make quite an impression on my little psyche before I was even eight years old. He figured big in a really cool dream I had a few months ago. I wish I knew more about this man, and that is why I've got the American Experience episode about him in my Netflix queue.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Arminius

    I was disappointed in this book. Edmund Morris wrote fantastic books about Theodore Roosevelt so I expected his book on the Great Communicator to be just as good. I like that he pointed out how President Reagan developed his communication skills through his acting career and how he adopted his language to be understandable to the masses. I disliked that the author discussed much of his own trials and tribulations which he encountered while writing this book. If you want to learn about President I was disappointed in this book. Edmund Morris wrote fantastic books about Theodore Roosevelt so I expected his book on the Great Communicator to be just as good. I like that he pointed out how President Reagan developed his communication skills through his acting career and how he adopted his language to be understandable to the masses. I disliked that the author discussed much of his own trials and tribulations which he encountered while writing this book. If you want to learn about President Reagan's great accomplishments I recommend Dinesh D'Souza's Ronald Reagan: How An Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    I liked the actual Biography and thought the author had some good insights. However, it felt like it was as much about the fictional narrator than Ronald Reagan. I didn't know until after I had finished that more than two thirds of "first person" accounts were fictional. I didn't enjoy them when reading, and felt the book would have been much better if they had been left out.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Marlene

    I found this a bit difficult to read. The author was trying to be clever, but I sometimes felt like it was an autobiography rather than a biography of President Reagan. However, there certainly are some interesting insights into Ronald Reagan.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    I truly enjoyed this book as read by the author unabridged.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jaime Contreras

    This massive book is reflection of the complex and sometimes baffling man that was Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan is presented as a man who always was up for whatever life brought to him but often did not know what was coming next. His rural Illinois roots in several Illinois towns and a brief stay in Chicago made Reagan was a reflection of middle America - unassuming, engaging, and hard-working. Reagan grew up in a Christian household, was athletic and enjoyed the arts. Gifted, with intelligence This massive book is reflection of the complex and sometimes baffling man that was Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan is presented as a man who always was up for whatever life brought to him but often did not know what was coming next. His rural Illinois roots in several Illinois towns and a brief stay in Chicago made Reagan was a reflection of middle America - unassuming, engaging, and hard-working. Reagan grew up in a Christian household, was athletic and enjoyed the arts. Gifted, with intelligence and charisma, he attended Eureka College at a younger age than other students. Possessed with an innate ability to learn in every situation and used his natural talents to sway and motivate others. Reagan's collegiate studies and interests led to a brief career in broadcasting. He easily moved from sportscaster to movie extra, Reagan was a social persona. In time, he became a stalwart studio actor and married a young starlet, Jane Wyman with whom he would have three children (albeit one died in childbirth). In the military, he was assigned to The First Motion Picture Unit (FMPU), the propaganda film production unit of the US Army Air Forces during WWII . Reagan was one of several actors who served through the film-making unit. It was here that Reagan's political knowledge was expanded through what he saw during the war. The atrocities and man's ruthlessness would stay with him throughout the remainder of his life. The author paints the post-WWII years as a time when Reagan sharpened his political savvy through his leadership in the Screen Actors' Guild (SAG) and various other entertainment councils and committees. As SAG President he would oppose the HUAC 'witch hunt' of Communists and their influence. As chairman of the Motion Picture Industry Council (MPIC), he honed his political leadership and negotiation skills. Reagan's political position as staunch liberal would change to moderate Conservative in the late-1940s when he began to appreciate that a strong society needed rules and parameters. He would see his acting career stagnated while his wife's soared. The author likens this period to an actor preparing for a new role. Indeed, the middle-aged actor did hone new skills and remade himself into a social and civic leader. I must admit that Mr. Morris' writing style was challenging at times but I came to handle it as I read. Nevertheless, it worked especially well when we experience the years of tumult and change that formed the future persona of Reagan. The unpredictable nature of Reagan and how the times shaped his course come across clearly in this section of the book. We feel his doubts, distrust of Communism, hatred of appeasement, living through his divorce from Wyman and being single in the 1950s. Reagan's humor, wit and intelligence carried him though and we see inklings of his future as he looked for a new direction in his life. The author paints the bulk of 1950s as the as the time when Reagan matured as a leader with grand ambitions and public appeal. With a new wife, Nancy Davis and more children, the family man would now looked for a new life. Publicly, his ideology underwent a drastic change as he moved to the moderate and finally conservative sphere of politics. The interesting part of this change was that Reagan was able to adapt new ideas while preserving his belief of uplifting the working man and empowering the laborer with an ethical resolve to have dignity while fighting for a better future. Ever the politician, Reagan evolved as a speaker for laborer's rights and embracing a brighter tomorrow. he rose to the forefront of the labor world and gained valuable allies in the business world and politics. His faith also was reborn as he studied the bible and became friends with many religious leaders. By the early-1960s, the course for his life was set as he became active in the Republican Party. He stood with Richard M. Nixon while he sought the Office of President in the 1960s. As Nixon rose in power within the Republican Party in the 1960s, Reagan became the voice of the other side of the Republican Party - reformers. He found a base in California and local leaders encouraged and supported his desire to be the governor of the state. The world of politics was a natural for the skilled orator, negotiator and charismatic man. Reagan was at home in the public eye as the Governor of California. Ever the protector and visionary, Reagan fought for reform in labor, welfare, housing and taxes. His stands were not at the center of the party and many considered him an outsider. But as the 1970s dawned, the 60+ politician cemented his position as governor and won re-election, Reagan looked for the next challenge. The author dedicates the bulk of the latter part of the book on Reagan's strong sense of decency and devotion to a high set of principles as he sought and eventually won the highest office in the land - the presidency. By the 1970s, reagan was an avowed Christian with strong roots in the teachings of being a noble servant leader. Reagan was the embodiment of what America wanted to reclaim and embrace - strength, decisiveness, and morality. He barely lost the 1976 Republican Party nomination to Ford but won the country's heart. As President Carter stumbled, Reagan waited and planned another presidential run. The last part of the book deals with the Reagan Presidency and retirement. The late-1970s and beyond witnessed Reagan riding a wave of rebirth, nostalgia and hope, By now the wise and savvy politician was the strong and moral leader that the people sought. After winning the election, President Reagan appeared aloof but in fact was quite conscientious of the needs of the people. His popularity grew as he survived an early-term assassination attempt, The legend grew as he unveiled and implemented his dream to restore 'the chining City" (America) to its intended state of strength. With his bold concept of Reaganomics, Reagan prepared to guide the nation though a recession and to reclaim its place as the world leader. His respect and support of the laborer formed the basis of his labor reforms. While he was a stalwart supporter of the military he also saw the need for arms control and eventually, arms reduction. The author dedicates many pages to Reagan's role in the arms control and overseeing the death of the USSR and the dismantling of its military. Reagan's tact and diplomatic skills kept America strong in the face of many military involvements in Latina America, Asia and Africa. Much time is spent of Reagan's meetings, discussions and negotiations with Mikhail Gorbachev, leader of the dying USSR. In spite of a cancer scare, Reagan remained the strong leader as his second term winded down. During his second term, Reagan steered the country through the Challenger disaster, the Beirut bombings, the hostage taken in Lebanon, the Contra arms deal debacle, the disarmament talks with the USSR, the collapse of Communism, and tax reform while dealing with several personal issues. Reagan battled cancer as did his wife, Nancy. Through it all, Reagan's legacy took many hits and his last several months of his eight (8) years in office. The author pulls no punches here as he portrays Reagan as tired, withdrawn, and aging. Still, the man had one last victory, overseeing the fall of Communism and the 'evil empire' (USSR). The author wraps up the book by stating that Reagan's legacy as America's man moral leader and passionate courage. Dubbed 'the great communicator,' Reagan was never one to shy away from the battle but always strategic. He wore the mantle of leadership and re-energized and empowered "the shining city" (the nation) for 8+ years. Reagan stated he had succeeded on filling his promise of making the nation safer and stronger. For me, this was the best part of the book because the historical man is fleshed out by the sharing of thoughts and dreams. As he adjusted to life after the presidency, Reagan's faculties began to fail him and he struggled to maintain the role he once mastered. He made a handful appearances, including a medal ceremony and Nixon's funeral. By 1993, the diagnosis of dementia confirmed that Reagan was not well and frail. In closing, The author treated the deterioration of the once great leader with respect. The author recalls his visits with Reagan from 1993 to 1998 and sensed the rush of death. Ronald Reagan eventually died on June 5, 2004, having suffered from Alzheimer's disease for nearly a decade. Reagan is remembered as a leader who surrounded himself with a group of reliable advisers and experts but always had the last say. He spoke from the heart but always used his head. Throughout his two terms ion office, there was no doubt he was the powerful man with a vision. This was a wonderful book about an important 20th century man and leader.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Steven

    Chapter for chapter, page for page, this is the single daffiest nonfiction work I have ever read from a respected author. Edmund Morris, author of widely praised books about Theodore Roosevelt, was given a free hand and direct access to prepare a biography of Ronald Reagan, and apparently found himself in over his head. In fact, judging from this weird amalgam of memoir, biography, and melodramatic fiction, Morris lost his mind. Even Reagan's admirers acknowledged the man's often spooky lack of a Chapter for chapter, page for page, this is the single daffiest nonfiction work I have ever read from a respected author. Edmund Morris, author of widely praised books about Theodore Roosevelt, was given a free hand and direct access to prepare a biography of Ronald Reagan, and apparently found himself in over his head. In fact, judging from this weird amalgam of memoir, biography, and melodramatic fiction, Morris lost his mind. Even Reagan's admirers acknowledged the man's often spooky lack of affect, and his ability to speak utter nonsense with the utmost conviction. Maybe Morris, unable to get a handle on this affable sphynx, suffered a lapse similar to what Miss Quested experienced in the Marabar Caves scene from A Passage to India. At any rate, this Pulitzer-winning historian decided that the best way to tell the story of Ronald Reagan was to make a fictionalized version of Edmund Morris one of the players. The Faux Morris is present at all sorts of events the real Morris never witnessed, and in the most deranged scene it is revealed that the youthful Reagan, while on lifeguard duty, saved the Faux Morris from drowning. During my time as a newspaper editor, I became aware of a syndrome in which a novice reporter -- otherwise very smart -- would panic and decide that instead of writing a standard news story, instead attempt what he thought was a brilliant new approach that yielded deeper truths than mere pyramid style could contain. I had to talk a couple of these tyros down from the trees and it wasn't pretty, but they eventually realized that they had simply clutched and needed to calm down. Unfortunately for Edmund Morris, too much money, time and prestige had been invested in Dutch to allow for such a graceful exit, and the book now exists like a crazy relative chained in the attic of an otherwise distinguished career. Fortunately for us, journalist Lou Cannon did the job Morris should have done with President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime, and that will have to stand for now.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    I was only 8 years old when Ronald Reagan left office, so I felt like I was rediscovering the era of my childhood while reading this book. RR was such an imposing figure upon my imagination, and I remember sadly watching as Alzheimer's slowly took his faculties and he dwindled away into a shadow of what he once was as I grew into an adult. I definitely learned much about twentieth-century American history, and especially about Dutch himself. The best part about this memoir is the author's abilit I was only 8 years old when Ronald Reagan left office, so I felt like I was rediscovering the era of my childhood while reading this book. RR was such an imposing figure upon my imagination, and I remember sadly watching as Alzheimer's slowly took his faculties and he dwindled away into a shadow of what he once was as I grew into an adult. I definitely learned much about twentieth-century American history, and especially about Dutch himself. The best part about this memoir is the author's ability to insert himself into the narrative (which was highly controversial since he basically made himself a semi-fictional character in this biography), but it works. This is a much more literary biography than I've read before, with beautiful, haunting descriptions and creative narrative touches throughout, including, appropriately enough for the actor-turned president, some script-style sections. The only drawback, in my opinion, is that I think the author expects the reader to be more familiar with the time period that is covered, and there were many cultural and historical allusions or references that were unfamiliar to me. Perhaps, though, it just means I need to brush up on my 20th Century history! All in all, I rate this as a fantastic book, and well worth the six months it took me to finally finish (of course, I had to read the footnotes, too-- they are almost as interesting as the bio itself!).

  16. 5 out of 5

    Duane

    Highly controversial not just for his "fair and balanced" approached to the much revered president but also for the author's literary technique. The technique of inserting the author into the story in a sort of Dante-esque quality is a little odd for a modern biography. But Morris could be excused because he was given unprecedented access to Reagan while he was running the country. In the later chapters when Morris actually "was there" watching history unfold, he offers an intriguing perspective Highly controversial not just for his "fair and balanced" approached to the much revered president but also for the author's literary technique. The technique of inserting the author into the story in a sort of Dante-esque quality is a little odd for a modern biography. But Morris could be excused because he was given unprecedented access to Reagan while he was running the country. In the later chapters when Morris actually "was there" watching history unfold, he offers an intriguing perspective to the inner workings of government and how Reagan ran the executive office like a Turkish pasha. Many people were aghast at Morris describing the president as "somewhat of an airhead" which was jarring to besotted fans of the late president. But overall, Morris admired Reagan enough to write this memoir with "warts and all." Reagan was somewhat aloof and people close to him readily admitted (including his children) that they really never knew him. It is no surprise that Nancy Reagan hated this book (though I doubt she read it), but it is surprising that his kids (except for Michael) claim this "memoir" was an accurate depiction of their father. Edmund Morris is probably one of my top three non-fiction writers (next to Robert Caro and Ron Chernow). This is one of my favorite books.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lorna

    Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan at the time of publication in 1999 was thought to be a literary flop by Pulitzer Prize winning author Edmund Morris, but nevertheless, I was intrigued. As the book opens, it is confusing because the author has inserted himself as a fictional character born around the time of Ronald Reagan and as their paths cross later they become friends. However, in this way he is able to convey the early years of Reagan in interesting ways to bring many of the aspects of Reaga Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan at the time of publication in 1999 was thought to be a literary flop by Pulitzer Prize winning author Edmund Morris, but nevertheless, I was intrigued. As the book opens, it is confusing because the author has inserted himself as a fictional character born around the time of Ronald Reagan and as their paths cross later they become friends. However, in this way he is able to convey the early years of Reagan in interesting ways to bring many of the aspects of Reagan's journey to life. After being chosen by Reagan as his official biographer, Morris spent much of his second term with the President so Morris appears, now as himself, at many State functions. All in all, I found the book intriguing but if one is looking for a lot of insight into Ronald Reagan, it's not there but that may be the point.

  18. 5 out of 5

    David Peppin

    I'm really not sure how I feel about this book. It really took a lot of pages to say very little, but I do feel like I understand RR better as a human than before I read the book. On the other hand, not much attention was given to the political side of his life. The fictional characters didn't bother me that much, since I was aware of the situation before reading the book. It also seemed to be pretty fair. I know it seemed to some people to be a bit rough on the President, but I think the author I'm really not sure how I feel about this book. It really took a lot of pages to say very little, but I do feel like I understand RR better as a human than before I read the book. On the other hand, not much attention was given to the political side of his life. The fictional characters didn't bother me that much, since I was aware of the situation before reading the book. It also seemed to be pretty fair. I know it seemed to some people to be a bit rough on the President, but I think the author was being honest in his assessment. Personally, I found RR quite likeable. It isn't a biography, it's a memoir of the author's experience of the president, so it works on that level. The actual biographical information could have fit into a 20-page book. Altogether I think I may have liked the book.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Helmut Schneider

    When a biographer is hired to write about a current president, he has a problem if he is not sure about his attitude towards the man. This book is a kind of warning shot. Don't accept that kind of assignment. The book took years to be finished and reach the market. The people who had hired him were then already out of office, some even in disgrace. Morris did his best to be fair, objective, and true to his own honest thinking. The result is an ambiguous study about an enigmatic man. It is not a When a biographer is hired to write about a current president, he has a problem if he is not sure about his attitude towards the man. This book is a kind of warning shot. Don't accept that kind of assignment. The book took years to be finished and reach the market. The people who had hired him were then already out of office, some even in disgrace. Morris did his best to be fair, objective, and true to his own honest thinking. The result is an ambiguous study about an enigmatic man. It is not a study of the presidency, but of the life. That means that the first decades are quite boring. The book only picks up speed when the man formerly nicknamed Dutch enters politics. All in all, this is an interesting and original, though not fully satisfactory effort.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Linda Appelbaum

    This was an audio book for me and I am not sure I like a biography of an American written and read by someone so completely British! That aside, I'm not so sure I have a better knowledge of Ronald Reagan now than I did before except that he was a very morla, black and white kind of person, stubborn, was once a life guard and saved many lives, really had no warm relationship with his children and was utterly worshiped, protected and controlled by Nancy. It just seems that with all the access Edmu This was an audio book for me and I am not sure I like a biography of an American written and read by someone so completely British! That aside, I'm not so sure I have a better knowledge of Ronald Reagan now than I did before except that he was a very morla, black and white kind of person, stubborn, was once a life guard and saved many lives, really had no warm relationship with his children and was utterly worshiped, protected and controlled by Nancy. It just seems that with all the access Edmund Morris had to Reagan he could have had more insight, more details and less flowery descriptive language. It was sad to see the President slip into dementia/alzsheimers so quickly.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca The Files of Mrs. E,

    It is a very different approach to writing a biography. Morris essentially invented a character of himself and inserted it into Reagan's life. Overall, it made the book a bit more interested and added a color that some biographies seem to be missing. My only complaint is that he spent so much time talking about "himself" when it wasn't even really himself. It just seemed odd. But this book does give a great background of Reagan's overall personal life. He doesn't go into as much detail on issues It is a very different approach to writing a biography. Morris essentially invented a character of himself and inserted it into Reagan's life. Overall, it made the book a bit more interested and added a color that some biographies seem to be missing. My only complaint is that he spent so much time talking about "himself" when it wasn't even really himself. It just seemed odd. But this book does give a great background of Reagan's overall personal life. He doesn't go into as much detail on issues of Reagan's presidency or his entire political philosophy but it isn't meant to be that kind of book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Literary Soirée

    This highly anticipated biography was the book that destroyed the author’s reputation as an impeccable historian. In DUTCH, he introduced himself as a character, impairing the sense of objective scholarship he’d brought to previous works. A shame! I had been looking forward to his scholarly take on Reagan, one of our best and in some ways most enigmatic Presidents. Even Nancy, to whom Ronnie wrote love letters when she was in the same room, said he had a reserve he revealed to no one.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Granny

    Didn't really like the author's style. Contains some profanity. I agree with some other reviewers that there was too much focus on the negative.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Shawna

    The author’s fictional insertion of himself into the life of Reagan was just too confusing. I never knew if what I was reading actually happened.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Bill F.

    When Edmund Morris' "Dutch" was published ten years ago, it created a firestorm within the historical and political community. Morris - a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Theodore Roosevelt - had created a fictional character to accompany Ronald Reagan and to help tell his story. At the time, I remember being shocked that a writer of Morris' credibility would 'stoop' to such a tactic. I refused to read the book at the time. Over the years, though, I've been intrigued by it and often thought When Edmund Morris' "Dutch" was published ten years ago, it created a firestorm within the historical and political community. Morris - a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Theodore Roosevelt - had created a fictional character to accompany Ronald Reagan and to help tell his story. At the time, I remember being shocked that a writer of Morris' credibility would 'stoop' to such a tactic. I refused to read the book at the time. Over the years, though, I've been intrigued by it and often thought of finally picking it up. I'm glad I finally did. For one thing, Morris' publisher does a far better job than the author ever did during that tumultuous book tour ten years ago in explaining why he used this tactic. Morris was announced as Reagan's 'official biographer' by the White House in 1985. Morris was given unprecedented access to Reagan throughout his second term - with the notable exception of when the Iran-Contra scandal exploded. Even then, though, Morris was privy to far more than most biographers. A few years into the project, however, Morris came to a startling revelation: he no more knew Reagan the man after spending nearly three years with him than he did when he started the project. Reagan was impenetrable to biography. There was so little intellectual curiosity in Reagan's mind, and so much 'acting' that knowing the real Reagan - indeed, if there was one - was impossible. It was while trying to figure out how to write the biography with this major roadblock that Morris stumbled upon the idea of creating a fictional character. This character would be able to color in the blank spots on the pages of Reagan's life. Granted, it would no longer be biography in the strict sense of the word. Undoubtedly, the author's own hypotheses and opinions about aspects of Reagan's life - and why he did what he did - would make total objectivity impossible. I'm not sure if Morris was right to do it this way, but he was right about one thing: it works. Dutch is an amazing book. The fictionalized character really does add tremendously to the book as a whole. But where it really helps is in the pre-presidential years. All of the quotes in the book from characters other than Morris' fictional one are true: they were gotten by Morris through years of research and interviews. Nothing in the story is 'fiction' in so far as everything everybody says in the book is something they really said to Morris, or that he really overheard during his three-plus years shadowing Reagan around the White House. There were three 'wow' moments in the book for me: facts that I never knew, and that by themselves make the book a worthwhile read. First, the assassination attempt. By now, we all know that Reagan was far closer to death than we had ever been led to believe. In conversations with the lead emergency room surgeon that saved Reagan's life, and with Reagan's lead Secret Service agent that day, Morris reveals that a single right turn was the difference between Reagan living and a Bush Administration in 1981. At the moment that John Hinkley fired his shots at Reagan, one bullet hit the presidential limousine's armored right-rear panel. In doing so, it changed shape and became a tiny high-speed circular "saw blade"-like object that spun into Reagan's chest with such surgical precision that there was no apparent entry wound. Indeed, as Jerry Parr - Reagan's lead security agent - threw Reagan onto the floor of the car and screamed at the driver, "Haul ass! Let's get out of here!", Reagan felt tremendous pain in his chest and said, "Jerry, get off, I think you've broken one of my ribs." Parr took one look at Reagan's mouth and saw that he was coughing up blood. Parr, too, believed that Reagan had punctured something internally. Not sure whether he was looking at a world-wide conspiracy, Parr's training took hold. He grabbed the car radio and lied to the agent in the car behind, telling him "Rawhide not hurt" using Reagan's code name. This was to throw off anyone in the area eavesdropping on the Secret Service frequency. With that done, Parr made the key move that would save Reagan's life: he made a split second decision to redirect the motorcade [which was heading back to the White House] to George Washington University Hospital instead. Had he not done so, Reagan's physicians told Morris the President would most certainly have died. As it was, getting him to the emergency room as quickly as Parr did almost wasn't enough. The treating physicians assumed the President was suffering from a punctured lung, caused by a broken rib. It was only when a nurse lifted Reagan's left arm to insert an IV line that she saw a neat slit on the side of Reagan's chest open up. "Oh-oh, he's been shot!" she screamed. Reagan - still conscious - looked stunned when he heard this. Reagan would tell Morris that it was only then that he realized he was dying. In the end, Reagan's incredible physical health pre-assassination attempt saved his life. Because he was in such good shape, and his chest muscles like those of a 40-year old, his body was able to withstand the trauma. The second 'wow' moment in the book concerns the controversial visit by Reagan to a Nazi burial ground in Bitburg in 1985. I could never understand how a White House as incredibly detailed in planning as the Reagan administration was could have allowed him to accept an invitation by Helmut Kohl to tour a site that held the remains of Hitler's SS troops. Well, there is a very simple explanation. When Mike Deaver went to Bitburg to advance-scout the cemetery, snow blanketed the graves and their stone markers. Deaver could not see the markers. Had he been able to, he would have clearly seen "SS" on the many graves. While you might think he could have brushed the snow off a few of them, but that is hindsight talking. Deaver joked to Kohl, "Will any of these graves embarrass my President?" Kohl's protocol chief reacted defensively saying, "You think maybe Mengele is buried there?" With that, Deaver left. Had he visited a few weeks earlier or a few weeks later - when there was no snow - the whole embarrassing episode could have been avoided. The final 'wow' moment concerns the weeks after the Iran-Contra scandal broke. Aides became quite alarmed at how disoriented Reagan appeared. New Chief of Staff Howard Baker was stunned by the deterioration in Reagan's mental acuity. So alarmed was Baker that on March 2, 1987, before lunch in the Cabinet room, Baker and his aides purposely positioned their chairs so that they would be able to observe Reagan literally from all angles. Prior to that lunch, Baker's assistant, James Cannon, wrote an emergency transition paper to set in motion the invocation of the 25th Amendment [Presidential Disability] if Baker and his aides found Reagan to be "disoriented" at that lunch. As it happened, Regan was lucid and "on his game" throughout the lunch. Baker shelved the position paper and the 25th Amendment. In conclusion, if you haven't read Dutch, do so. While Morris became a little too close to Reagan to truly be objective, the narrative is wonderful and the details extraordinary.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Gregg

    Why are you reading a biography of Ronald Reagan?" is a question i get often these days (in my head). Well, if you must know, for a few reasons. I found Dutch after reading Edmund Morris's excellent Theodore Roosevelt biographical trilogy. And though I was marginally interested in Reagan's story for reasons of nostalgia, the recent (specious) evocations of Reagan’s name these days by the GOP and the right-wing media to somehow delude America into thinking that they haven’t completely gone off th Why are you reading a biography of Ronald Reagan?" is a question i get often these days (in my head). Well, if you must know, for a few reasons. I found Dutch after reading Edmund Morris's excellent Theodore Roosevelt biographical trilogy. And though I was marginally interested in Reagan's story for reasons of nostalgia, the recent (specious) evocations of Reagan’s name these days by the GOP and the right-wing media to somehow delude America into thinking that they haven’t completely gone off the far-right deep-end are telling of a party that has completely gone off the far-right deep end. Interesting, by the way, how the GOP, once the white-bread party of Harvard and Yale wall street business types, has now completely aligned itself with the uneducated, inner-aisle America of low income and cars on cinderblocks out front, while the Dems have become the party of higher-educated, shop-the-perimeter, live-on-the-perimeter America. Seems like an opportunity for the Dems if you ask me, since, let’s face it, they are the only party that really cares about income equality. But i digress... The cult of personality made Reagan a celebrity, and therefore at the center of the national stage during his transition from Hollywood hack to New Deal Democrat to Goldwater conservative (p.312). This guy C. Wright Mills, back in the 60s, wrote a book called The Power Elite, and in it he talked about how the leaders of corporate America have traditionally controlled everything. But now, there was this new man, the professional celebrity, who is judged by a different set of criteria. For example (p.398) in 1976, when Reagan was running against President Ford for the GOP nomination, a reporter for the Washington Post wrote a piece on Reagan’s propensity for exaggeration and numerical errors. But his editors refused to print it. Why? They didn’t believe Reagan was serious. Sound familiar? Or this one, about Reagan’s propensity to mangle the truth, (p.415) "The only reliable way to recognize the approach of a Reagan untruism is to listen for signal phrases like ‘I have been told’, and ‘As I’ve said many times’. Also sound familiar? The bottom line though is that all this right-wing media Reaganalgia is really grasping at straws. Stealing a campaign slogan (See: Make America Great Again) does not make you a Reaganite. The most important differences are fairly obvious; i.e. Reagan’s lack of racism, his bi-partisan popularity, his inclusion of all races and religions in his definition of America, etc. If Hillary was smart she would use these differences in core values to her advantage. Morris says it best in his diary in May 1988 (p.636): “they know he is talking nonsense, but they forgive him because they know that his heart is good." I think we all know what’s in Donald Trump’s heart: a small penis.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Simon Morris

    A stunning and unforgettable fusion of political biography and otherworldly fictional elements. Everything someone like Don DeLillo promises and never quite delivers. You'll sense the world looking different and transformed after putting this down.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Brett

    As I was too young to remember the Reagan presidency in anything but hazy images, I was interested to read his biography. It was evident that Morris' style would not match those of most Presidential biographies I had read; being more of a semi-factual literary narration than an academic character exposition. To me, it felt that I was reading about Reagan from the perspective of a Californian and not a Washingtonian. As a result, the book more effectively captured the man than explained his accom As I was too young to remember the Reagan presidency in anything but hazy images, I was interested to read his biography. It was evident that Morris' style would not match those of most Presidential biographies I had read; being more of a semi-factual literary narration than an academic character exposition. To me, it felt that I was reading about Reagan from the perspective of a Californian and not a Washingtonian. As a result, the book more effectively captured the man than explained his accomplishments and shortcomings as Governor and as President (though perhaps that kept it to a somewhat manageable length, considering his life covered such as broad swath of history). Overall, I would advise people against reading this book if they want to get a thorough understanding of his Presidency, but I would recommend it for those seeking an idea of who was Ronald "Dutch" Reagan. That said, the answer to the later seemed to be that Reagan was, like a celestial body, a radiant force that was hard to examine too closely, and yet had a gravitational pull that seemed to shape people and objects came into proximity. Some interesting things I learned from the book (spoiler alert): Reagan was a lifeguard, saving 77 people from drowning over summers at a beach in Illinois, where he grew up, the son of an alcoholic, shoe-salesman. Reagan initially was a loyal, FDR Democrat but became conservative in reaction to Communist threats in Hollywood, as well as his experiences in post-WWII, welfare-dominated England. Jane Wyman supposedly threatened suicide to get him to marry her in 1939, but then she humiliated him after their divorce just 7 years later. Reagan disliked Nixon (and it seemed he had low opinions of all of his recent predecessors, regardless of party), but he did vote for Eisenhower in 1952. He had a largely successful two terms as Governor of California (though this is probably subject to debate). He barely survived the assassination attempt at the 'Hinckley Hilton' (due to the quick thinking of a Secret Service agent who diverted his motorcade to the GW hospital). The Reykjavik summit on arms control with Gorbachev almost resulted in a historic treaty to limit nuclear missiles, but was torpedoed by Reagan's insistence on pursuing his goal of a Strategic Defense Initiative. Nevertheless, Reagan played a part in bringing the Cold War to a successful end despite SDI being abandoned as technologically infeasible. He did not take an interest in AIDS until Rock Hudson's death in 1985. Nancy Reagan's power in the White House was "exaggerated politically and underestimated psychologically," and she relied on an astrologer for advice.

  29. 4 out of 5

    AC

    "Why do these printed shapes beneath his moving finger not form themselves into words, as they used to…? Who is this big brown-suited man in the television documentary, saluting and smiling? Why does the light go dim when clouds drift together? Why are “the fellows” so uncooperative at three in the morning when he dresses for an urgent appointment? Why do magnolia blossoms, pristine on the tree, darken when they fall? And what is this pale ceramic object on the sandy floor of his fish tank at Fo "Why do these printed shapes beneath his moving finger not form themselves into words, as they used to…? Who is this big brown-suited man in the television documentary, saluting and smiling? Why does the light go dim when clouds drift together? Why are “the fellows” so uncooperative at three in the morning when he dresses for an urgent appointment? Why do magnolia blossoms, pristine on the tree, darken when they fall? And what is this pale ceramic object on the sandy floor of his fish tank at Fox Plaza? A miniature white house, with tall classical columns, hauntingly familiar. He takes it home, clenched wet in his fist: “This is…something to do with me….I’m not sure what.’" This made me cry. And I don’t mean my eyes welled up with tears and I brushed them away. No. I read these words aloud to my wife. As I finished I tried to hold back. I couldn’t. I sobbed and let out a cry so desperate and primal. The last time I cried like this was when they placed my grandmother in a wall at a mausoleum. She died of complications from Alzheimer’s like Ronald Reagan. When she was suffering through the disease I never sat down to think about what she may have been going through. Sure I looked up the symptoms and I knew that she would eventually forget “how to eat” but that was what I read online. I never saw it. I never stopped to think about it. Then today I read the above. How President Reagan, the man who brought this country out of a recession, the man who called the Soviet Union the Evil Empire and helped bring about the fall of Communism and the decades of death that that system had brought about to millions in Europe and throughout the world; this man, this larger than the life figure did not understand how clouds could block out the sun’s rays. This man who was the leader of the free world, who told Gorbachev to “bring down this wall”; this same man could not remember that he was president. I thought of my grandmother and also my grandfather who is in the beginning stages of the disease, and wondered if they had the same thoughts. Did she forget why flowers darken? Did she forget the woman who was always smiling in pictures? Did she forget why she never looked directly at a camera? Did she forget when a photographer in the 30s told her it was “bad form” to do so? Did she forget that she was mayor of Matanzas? Did she not know that it was her favorite grandson who was with her at the hospital the night before she died, holding her hand, whispering in her ear that “I am with you. I love you, abuela. God hears you”?

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Cobb

    I became a fan of Edmund Morris for his trilogy of works about the Life of Theodore Roosevelt. I was pretty excited to get a copy of this book in a used book store pretty cheap. I figured a book written by an author I like about the man I consider to be the greatest president of the 20th century was going to be a great read. I was wrong. The author is "too familiar" with Reagan. On the whole the book does not seem as well researched or as well written as the Roosevelt ones. Mr. Morris's life int I became a fan of Edmund Morris for his trilogy of works about the Life of Theodore Roosevelt. I was pretty excited to get a copy of this book in a used book store pretty cheap. I figured a book written by an author I like about the man I consider to be the greatest president of the 20th century was going to be a great read. I was wrong. The author is "too familiar" with Reagan. On the whole the book does not seem as well researched or as well written as the Roosevelt ones. Mr. Morris's life intersects several times with that of Reagan and the writing seems to be more of an expanded personal diary rather than a researched biography of a President. The perspective is very jerky as Morris jumps back and forth through time and at different parts of the book. He seems to gloss over major periods of time in a much shorter span. Morris overuses foreign phrases (French, German, you name it) without giving a translation the comes across as an attempt to appear intellectually superior but is just plain annoying. Morris over inserts himself into the narrative, telling the reader about his personal life, his marriage, his son. Lastly the author seems to have this strange sense of schizophrenia that he wrestles with through out the book. Oftentimes he comes across as "OOOOO look at me, I know Ronald Reagan, I'm so cool just because of my proximity to me." From that vantage point he vacillates to the other extreme with a "Aww shucks, doesn't he know who I am after all we've been through? He doesn't even remember me, the jerk". At the end of the day, he covers the material but not as well or as in-depth as I would have preferred.

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