Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Wilderness Warrior

The Wilderness Warrior has been released to largely favorable reviews but I thought it best to offer a couple of differing opinions on Brinkley's massive tome of Roosevelt's Wilderness Legacy. Paul Abrams of the Huffington Post says that in,

Reading Brinkley's well-documented tale, one slowly begins to realize that Theodore Roosevelt ("TR") is indeed an epic hero in the original sense of that term -- his world view was that our lands and forests and birds and animals must be defended from the rapacious talons of corporations and monied interests whose only concerns are profits. And, he did everything and anything he could to mount that defense, not worrying about the enemies he made in the process.

While, Clay Reynolds of the Dallas Morning News sums up the book,

Yet for all the well-researched detail Brinkley provides, reading this new biography is a slog. His prose varies from impenetrable encyclopedic listings to rambunctious, self-indulgent colloquialism, replete with interjections, vulgar epithets and excessive exclamation points.

It certainly isn't light reading, and Brinkley seems to make many of the same mistakes he admonishes a young Teddy for in his early writings. Nevertheless, Brinkley does a pretty good job of reconciling TR's hunter's instincts for the great outdoors with his inspiring preservation record.


  1. It's nice to see that someone actually tried to read the book before reviewing it. I think the review in the Huffington Post takes the book's promo at face value.

    Plus, I think the secret of being taken seriously as a presidential biographer is to come in with heft, with substance secondary (this is where I need Robert to counter my skepticism).

    In any event, Gintaras, I guess it's you and me on this one, unless Marti is in?

    How do want to tackle this since neither of us have finished it yet?

  2. Brinkley begins with a very interesting prologue that highlights TR's passion for birds and the creation of a sanctuary at Pelican Island, Florida, which ushered in the National Wildlife Refuge System. He then leads us through TR's youthful obsession with birds, culminating in a published study of the Summer Birds of the Adirondacks in Franklin County, N.Y,


    which appears rather sparse in content.

  3. I think the first part of the book is most interesting in the associations TR developed and his early noteriety as a "Birder." He amassed a pretty impressive collection, which Brinkley meticulously notes, with the obvious intent of showing the reader why he took such a keen interest in Pelican Island and other well known avian paradises in America.

  4. His birding even as a young boy writing home to his mother was definitely news to me. Many of the other naturalists I've read about started out as young geologists or fossil hounds -- so TR was definitely ahead of the rest in that regard.

    Bird protection is often named as the earliest indication of a growing environmental movement, so TR was at the forefront of the movement. Not sure I'd equate him with Lincoln as Brinkley does though.

    Plus, I was sort of taken aback by his comments that the reason TR hasn't been given his due is because of "left-leaning bias" against the upper classes and their penchant to kill everything in sight.

    People like Grinnell, for example, also promoted national parks. Grinnell was the Duncan/Burns original national parks hero. He wanted to protect Glacier so that elk could breed there and come down in the fall to be hunted. It didn't matter that there were no elk left in Glacier. He'd import them (and eventually the park did -- from Yellowstone).

  5. One of the general weaknesses I see with this book is that Brinkley doesn't seem to have a good handle on the back story -- e.g., his use and mis-use of Darwin and Darwinian, or what I perceive to be his conflating of the ideas of conservation and preservation.

    Later in the book he talks about the falling out Muir and Pinchot over this difference, but I don't get the idea that Brinkley really understands it.

    Still, many of the quotes he uses from TR are very illuminating and new to me, so for that alone the book is worth it.

    I'm about half way through and committed to finishing it. (Then on to the big Muir bio.)

  6. Thanks for that link to his early publication. Fascinating to see him trying his hand at being a scientist. Also enjoyed his "board of directors" setting up the natural history museum. Very precocious young man.

    Also interesting to read Brinkley's aside early in the book about TR being manic -- if not depressive. (That may be why later, when he goes off to Cuba, many around him think has gone mad.)

  7. The Darwin angle was really something. I don't think Brinkley understood Darwin very well, and I seriously doubt TR had any grasp of Darwin's theory of natural selection beyond a very rudimentary level at age 8 or 10 when he first heard of the book. I think the idea of Darwin's travels are what appealled to him most. Later, he says TR gained a fuller understanding in reading Darwin in Europe. But, he couldn't have been much more than 12 or 14. Anyway, I think this is used more to show that TR was ahead of the curve when it came to the Creation-Evolution debate. Interesting that Brinkley picks up yet again when TR is in college, noting his fondness for the recently passed away Agassiz, despite the great paleontologist/geologist having opposed Darwin's theory, although I assume not on religious grounds.

  8. I think you're right about TR -- that does seem awfully young to "get it."

    Agassiz actually did oppose Darwin on religious grounds -- I'm pretty sure that's what motivated him. He was very famous, though, which probably attracted TR. And he was a huge collector. It has been awhile since I read his bio, but I vaguely recall a Harvard basement full of unclassified specimens when he died. He had people sending them in from all over the world.

    Brinkley's book reads like a dissertation -- and having purchased a couple to read as background they can be very informative. Just not great "books."

    I hope you stick with it Gintaras, but if not I understand. We can start looking around for another one whenever you're ready, and hopefully others might be interested in joining in. If at all possible I'd like to stay with this general era/subject matter just because I need to get back to work on my own informative boring dissertation......

    I'm about half way through Wilderness Warrior (what I title!) -- I think I'm at page 400. In any event, "the cowboy is in the white house" now as Mark Hanna decried (although they got him out of NYC).

    When I'm done I'm going to move over to John Muir's bio -- Worster is an incredible writer and historian, so I know that will be a good one.

  9. Here's a little overview of Agassiz and the Harvard museum:


  10. I will get back into it, av, because as you say there is a lot of interesting information. Odd that a man who was into paleontology would argue against Darwin's theory of natural selection on religious grounds. I thought Agassiz might have supported the Lamarck view on evolution.

  11. Here's what the site at Harvard says:

    Agassiz promoted a new discipline called “comparative zoology,” endorsing the classification of living things based on their similar structures, which he believed were only explainable through their divine creation.

  12. Somewhere I have a book on him -- but it's been awhile since I've read it. As I recall he traveled extensively in South America with the expressed purpose of proving Darwin wrong.

  13. I wonder if the Creationists point to Agassiz in their arguments refuting "Darwinism." I've heard the name but never gave much thought to him. But, I see here that Agassiz is considered by some to be the godfather of "Creationism,"


  14. Interesting history of the word. I also didn't remember (or ever know perhaps) that he believed in multiple creations. But this is the sort of world TR grew up in -- where imminent scientists like Agassiz were able to give voice to the idea of catastrophism (what a word!) and why, that overview from Harvard suggests, he was so warmly welcomed by Boston.

    Also interested in the comment about Agassiz's promotion of "comparative zoology," since "comparative anatomy" is really the basis of Darwinism.

    I looked back through the two books on Agassiz that I could find on my shelf, and his letters with Baird, and didn't find what I remember reading, so must have been in something else. Definitely an interesting period.

  15. As a total aside, I think the paleontologist ED Cope was a Lamarkian by the way. I don't think he even embraced Darwin either.

  16. It seems that Brinkley tries to put Roosevelt front and center in this period, but it appears he had little if any association with any of these leading lights of Harvard, and that his interests were as diverse as any other Harvard collegian.

    As I recall, Henry Adams was rather harsh on Teddy's intellectual abilities. It was more his exuberance and powerful sense of commitment that he found appealling.

  17. According to Brinkeley, Adams had little use for Roosevelt. That's also my memory of him from the books about Adams I read awhile back. Many of his associates thought he was mad.

    Yes, it is interesting to watch Brinkley try to force a square peg into a round hole -- and yet there is much about TR to admire even during this early period. But at some point I've sort of stopped hearing a lot of Brinkley has to say, alas.

  18. I've been following your discussion. How does Brinkley "use and mis-use . . . Darwin and Darwinian"? Grammatically or conceptually? Just wondering.

  19. I would say both -- although I suppose you can use Darwinian to modify just about anything if you want to. The New York Times book discussions were often Darwinian, for example.

    I'll try to find something in the book to give you an idea of what we're talking about. After awhile, it's sort of weird the different ways he uses the term to mean (I think) analytical, scientific, environmental, ecological, atheistic, etc. and even at one point I think he meant it to suggest a penchant for collecting, which I sort of thought would have been better described as Humboldtian.

  20. I haven't marked these, so may just have to find them as I read further, but here is the kind of non sequitur that you encounter every page or two:

    "When it came to identifying Egyptian wildlife, he put Darwin aside and instead listened carefully to the observations of local guides...."

    Later, when he kills his first grizzly, TR isn't bothered because "he considered himself privileged as a Darwinian biologist, a big game hunter, and a naturalist."

    And yet later, in a passage I did question, Brinkley writes that "Grinnell believed that Roosevelt was talented, but that to be a real Darwinian zoologist he should have spent more time doing field observations before rushing into print...."

    Grinnell did critique TR's writing, but my guess is he didn't question his "Darwinian zoologist" credentials.

    Or this about Remington, who illustrated one of TR's books, which I also questioned:

    "Belief in Darwin and the science surrounding that belief -- humans evolving from apes, natural selection, and survival of the fittest -- were also an important component of Remington's artistry." WHAT?

    After awhile, you get the sense that the word gets woven into the narrative almost randomly and it loses its meaning.

    Looking back through the opening, I did notice this bit quoted from TR's autobiography: TR said that when he went to Harvard he wanted to be like Audubon or Coues or Hart Merriam -- he does not mention Darwin which Brinkley cites continually as his real guiding light.

  21. I guess one has to be careful not to overly criticize the writer and lose sight of the story he is trying to convey, but in this case I find that hard to do as I have to wade through so much verbiage to get to any meaningful references or comments. As you say, av, Brinkley drops "Darwinian" so many times that it becomes a meaningless modifier. I think what he is trying to convey is that TR had modern sensibilities.

    I don't recall any other author I've read make such a strong connection between TR and Darwin. Given his strong sense of nationalism, it makes more sense that TR identified himself with American naturalists like Audubon, Coues and Merriam.

  22. I agree with you about not being too critical, but in this case his over emphasis of Darwin not only becomes meaningless -- it often becomes a narrative obstacle. Remington a Darwinian? I haven't a clue what that means, unless he's getting at the idea of the survival of the fittest in the West maybe?

    And yet I believe him when he says TR read Origins as a young man -- that seems totally in line with his self-education. I just think Brinkley makes too much of it. I'm assuming any educated young man during that period would have read and debated Darwin. And at Harvard in particular it would have been hard to miss the debate because of Agassiz.

    By making the TR/Darwin link so strong, I'm assuming Brinkley's making the case that TR was the first or one of the earliest conservationists. There is a link between the demise of species, their protection, and evolution, but that's not the argument I read into this.

    In any event, onward. There's lots of good info to come (although I'm now at the point where TR is a [Darwinian] pro-Native, and pro-Black president which also seems questionable -- but he does come up with some good examples so I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt on that one).

  23. TR pro-Native & pro-Black? I have to wonder, at least about the first part, after hearing Mark Dowie on NPR today

    It never occurred to me before how much the idea/image of "wilderness" and the cause of "conservation" entirely leaves a human presence out.

    Maybe Dowie's book would be a good follow-up to the one currently being discussed (and/or to avrds' proposed one on Muir). I could be up for it: http://www.amazon.com/Conservation-Refugees-Hundred-Year-Conflict-between/dp/0262012618/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1251430384&sr=8-1

    Aside: When I saw Brinkley on tv recently, something made me wonder the same thing I wondered about Goodwin and others: is the writing of history a kind of academic industry? I find it hard to believe the writers of some of these massive histories compile the huge amounts of data, so much of which seems to find its way into massive tomes that get purblished on a schedule that is hard to imagine allowing time for compiling, culling, interpreting, writing, editing, etc. Do these writers have hordes of grad. assistants or other helpers? [I hope none do what a (not history) prof. I once had did: assign research papers on subjects being covered in his work-then-in-progress on jazz.]

  24. Off topic.

    I ran into "Darwinian" in Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel" yesterday. It has been on my shelf for quite some time and, having tired of the reading I must do, I pulled it off the shelf.

    It wouldn't be surprising to learn that academic writers like Brinkley have hordes of assistants doing much of the grunt work for them a la James Michener. And I, too, remember having an English professor who one semester encouraged his students to write their term papers on the Scottish poet James Thomson, who he just happened to be writing about. I don't know if any of our research ever turned up in an article or book. Thomson was actually a pretty decent poet, much to my surprise.

  25. I suppose if you get a cut of the royalties it might not be such a bad deal, but it seems that the best you could hope for in most cases is an acknowledgement if the writer uses your research.

    I think one does have to question the bevy of history books now available, as many of them seem to aim at "weight" more than substance. I guess the idea of a big fat history book has more appeal to it on the bookshelves. God knows, I have my fair share of them and I rarely make it all the way through anyone of these books. I prefer the slimmer, more cogent histories like those of Gordon Wood and Bernard Bailyn.

  26. "According to Brinkeley, Adams had little use for Roosevelt. That's also my memory of him from the books about Adams I read awhile back. Many of his associates thought he was mad."

    Adams or Roosevelt? TR strikes me as the classic over-achiever. The kind of guy bound and determined to make a mark in this world and not be forgotten. The thing I admire most about him was the progressive streak in him. His presidential models were apparently Lincoln and Grover Cleveland, as Edmund Morris told it.

  27. Very funny! Did people think Adams mad, too? He seems the ultimate example of control vs. Roosevelt who always seems a bit out of control. I think the manic depressive diagnosis fits.

    I'll have to check the acknowldegement page to see who helped Brinkley with the book. I'm sure there's never any royalty sharing on those deals. You get paid pretty low hourly wages. My guess is that if we go back and check the acknowledgement pages for Stephen Ambrose, we might find Brinkley there when he was a grad student.

    Remember when all the "big" writers got into trouble back to back for plagerism? It was mostly around the use of notes taken by someone else. I do indeed think it's a racket. Plus, in a book like this one, he does use some of TR's correspondence, but there are lots of secondary sources. So it's not like he spent years in the archives -- he just read books like we do and put them together in a different way -- there's certainly nothing wrong with that.

  28. No, but when some reviewers say "groundbreaking," I'm looking for primary sources that have only recently seen the light of day. As you say, av, there aren't much in the way of primary sources being used that aren't readily available over the Internet. Much of what Brinkley appears to do is place Roosevelt in a larger context of Naturalism and Conservation.

    By contrast, Goodwin was generally lauded for Team of Rivals because she dug up some fresh primary sources and provided one of the more intimate views of the White House during the Civil War. Plus, she is a much better writer, able to capture the feel as well as the meaning of her sources.

  29. I have never read that book by Diamond, Rick.

    I sort of assumed it was one of those best sellers. But I've since read his book on deforestation -- oh, gosh, what's the title? -- with Gintaras I think, and have a different opinion of him now. That newer Diamond book fits right in with TR -- forests seem to be his passion, too.

    That said, I read read Marsh last year which appears to be the same book as Diamond's -- only written 100 years earlier.

  30. I can't conceive of how anyone writes a 940 page book. That means the manuscript was approximately 2,800 pages long. Nor can I conceive of how anyone would be able to keep all the sources straight. Does anyone know how long it took Brinkley to write this book?

  31. Collapse. I thought it was interesting, but wasn't overly impressed. It was more about sustainability than deforestation really, as he illustrated how cultures essentially undermined their existence by destroying their immediate environment. Of course, his study of Easter Island stands out where they used trees to roll all those heads into place to the point there were no more trees left and hence no way to get off the island when other resources ran out.

  32. I think Brinkley pretty much took the Stephen King approach.

  33. Or maybe I should say James Michener approach.

  34. NY, thanks for the heads up on the Dowie book. Hadn't heard about it and will get it for sure.

    That's the great irony of course of "wilderness" and the national parks -- they were formed by eliminating Native peoples from the land. I thought of that when I was reading about TRs forest reserves -- he carved out a huge chunk of the Crow Reservation. But that's also true of Glacier and Yellowstone to some extent. The only exception I know of is in Alaska where Native people still have hunting rights.

    Even the early settlers on the East Coast generally saw an untouched, virgin land when they looked at, either not seeing the people who lived there or not thinking of them as people. A lot of that had to do with land use since it wasn't neatly planted in rows. In fact, a lot of "wilderness" was heavily managed for food production through the use of fire.

    It's all very ironic as you say.

    Really look forward to the Dowie book.

  35. Collapse! Yes, that's it.

    As for Brinkley, he doesn't seem to be a very good historian -- that is to say a good teller of stories about the past.

    I'm still thrilled to read it since it helps me immensely and gets me motivated again. How does one even write a 500 page book.....? (Endnotes help, Rick, if you have the persistence to use it -- footnotes are my weakness I'm afraid.)

  36. By the way, from the sounds of it Dowie seems to be building on these books, all of which are excellent:

    Hunters Game, which Brinkley mentions -- that one includes a chapter on Glacier.

    Crimes against Nature, which talks about how places like Yellowstone and the Adirondacks were shut down to hunting, and locals had to resort to poaching and stealing firewood. I have problems with the Yellowstone chapter, but it's a really good examination generally of conservation and class.

    And then there's one on Alaska, Inhabited Wilderness.

  37. I take that back. Other than Yosemite, he appears to be more interested in "global" refuges which makes sense given the books above.

  38. It looks like Brinkley started working on this in 2002, so it was probably a five or six year project, plus publication time. He had a research assistants looking through microfilm etc, a graduate student who worked on a "couple chapters," and a full time research associate, paid for by the university, to help him put the book together. Not a bad production team.

  39. And for John: Brinkley sees the Virginian as the prototype for Hayduke in the Monkey Wrench Gang. Since I personally know the prototype for Hayduke, I find that very odd indeed, but his discussion of the Virginian makes me want to read that book, too.

  40. Gintaras, I'm not sure where you are (and again, can't blame you if you bail out of the book), but this is from the beginning of the book -- who knew the Roosevelts were animal rights people? I had never heard of Henry Bergh before:


  41. "Darwinian naturalists," according to Brinkley, "believed all birds and animals could feel pain." I certainly believe that, and I know that some Christian teachings say that they don't which I think is very weird, but here's that modifier again.

    And not to beat this poor dead horse, but I also came across this one last night. Roosevelt did not discuss political decisions with politicians, but rather preferred to consult "with Darwin-minded men like Chapman, Dutcher or Pinchot and then acted." In other words -- I think -- he made decisions based on the best science of the day, not politics.

  42. Yet, TR had the utmost respect for Agassiz. Go figure?

  43. I figure Brinkley doesn't quite get it.

    Agassiz was a huge natural history leader/thinker in his day, so it makes sense that TR respected him. Plus Agassiz initiated the big university research collections -- otherwise it was the Natural History Museum in NYC, which TR's father helped get underway, or the Smithsonian. That put Agassiz at the forefront of research, so it makes perfect sense that TR admired Agassiz. He wasn't quite the Darwin this/Darwin that thinker that Brinkley wants us to believe.

    Still, the more I read, the more impressed I am by TR's accomplishments -- particularly as an advocate of forestry. I'm curious now to find out if he really believed that saving trees was a way to save wildlife, which is an interesting idea Brinkley floats.

    That's the problem with reading a book like this one. Once you question one interpretation, it's hard not to also question others that seem novel, at least on the surface.

  44. Av, is there a good book on natural history or the conservation movement of that period? It would be interesting to cross reference some of Brinkley.

  45. This book looks interesting,


  46. I LOVED that book. It was probably the best history of science I've read, but then I really like Worster's work (he wrote the Muir bio Brinkley also cites).

    Alas, I had to read it quickly because I was prepping for my exams so would probably benefit from reading it again. It was one of the few books I didn't buy -- I read it in two or three sittings in the library -- so might try to pick it up. Brinkley references it at least once that I can recall.

    That said, I'm not sure it would help with this book since this one is neither fish nor fowl really.

    Another book I really loved reading is The Humboldt Current, but it covers an earlier period in America. And one I didn't mention earlier with Crimes against Nature, that's excellent and includes info on Muir, is Pacific Vision -- but it focuses on late 19th century California. Has some of the best gender analysis I've ever read -- King was masculine, Muir feminine.....

    There hasn't been much written about this later 19th/early 20th century period, which is good news for me now that I think of it since this is the period I'm writing about.

    The classic is Samuel P. Hays, Conservation the the Gospel of Efficiency: The Progressive Conservation Movement 1980-1920.

    Of Roosevelt he writes "As president, Roosevelt originated few of the new conservation ideas, but he did give full rein to those officials in his administration who promoted effiecient resource development and freely lent his personal prestige to their cause." I will probably need to reread this one, too, since it is the foundation from this period.

  47. I bookmarked a few others at amazon, av, including "The Idea of Wilderness" by Max Oelschlaeger. Will pick up a couple of books and read them in their own rights, irrespective of Brinkley.

    I think probably the better way to have handled this subject would have been to treat the period as the "Age of Wilderness," and looked at the conservation efforts through a political lens, culminating in Teddy's monumental efforts. The lead-in biography of TR just doesn't work in my opinion. I understand Brinkley's intents, but he spends much too long on this, and I would imagine loses many readers in the process. I have to admit it is a big struggle for me, simply because there is so much frivolous detail about his collections, his hunting trips with Eliot, and need for the outdoors, and not enough about the efforts that were being made at the time to preserve wildlife refuges and wilderness areas.

  48. Interesting to see the reminder of the extinction of passenger pigeons in "This Day in History," since Brinkley referred to passenger pigeons several times in his narrative.

  49. I got a kick out of Brinkley drawing distinctions between buffalos and bisons, saying it was one of Teddy's pet peeves, only to quote Teddy referring to these large even-toed ungulates as buffalos.

  50. He gets to all the refuges, forest reserves, etc. -- it's just a long way to get there.

    I'm about 3/4 through -- it's not as difficult going as you get into it but for me this is sort of required reading. I'll try to post some of the information I found interesting, just to get something up on the book.

    There have been some things about TR that I didn't know. And he does bring in all the usual suspects into one place, like Grinnell and Pinchot, etc., plus a few I hadn't been familiar with -- mostly bird people who collaborated with TR in his early days as president.

    And then there's John Lacey of the Lacey Acts, who really was considered the "father of conservation" or some such -- Brinkley quotes that. I don't think there's a bio of Lacey. In fact I was just reading somewhere that there should be one. Maybe I'll dive into his life a little bit too.

  51. Let me know which books you decide to get, Gintaras, and we can discuss some of them on the side. I haven't read the Idea of Wilderness, but I'm sure it's good. Those other three or four I listed earlier are excellent, depending on your interests.

    Here's a real good overview of where the academic community is about wilderness:


  52. I think that last passenger pigeon was named Martha and is stuffed and displayed in some museum now. Very sad story when you think about it.

  53. Well, I take it back. She's even extinct now at the Smithsonian (she's no longer on view):


  54. I just attended a dissertation defense on the public understanding of evolution as measured by their comments about so-called nature films.

    It's not a very pretty picture out there -- so Brinkley is not alone.

  55. I will catch up on all these posts later tonight. I just posted in meander that I'm 14% through WW and spending to much time on computer and distracted as well by some light reading. See you later.

  56. Rick, not sure if you are a Faulkner reader or not(I think John and I are two of the holdouts), but when Roosevelt went hunting in the south for bears, he hired Holt Collier, who was apparently the inspiration for Faulkner's story the Bear.

    And in another bit of TR trivia, in addition to snakes and rabbits and a pony in the elevator etc in the White House, he kept a pet badger -- I think its name was Josiah. The badger kept nibbling on all the legs in sight -- I thought at first he meant the White House furniture, but apparently Brinkley meant the White House visitors.

  57. I'd never known, until seeing it in Brinkley, that buffalo and bison were slaughtered en masse by order of the government by the Lakota tribe, because of the animals' interference with the railroads and telegraph poles. The animals ran into the trains and scratched themselves against telegraph poles.

  58. I just noticed this book that will be published October 19th:

    The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America



  59. Timothy Egan is the author of the above-noted book.

  60. I have often thought while reading about TR in other biographies that he was crazy part of the time. The bi-polar diagnosis makes sense to me. I think he had a need to prove his manhood through being a soldier and hunter (the soldier because his father bought his way out of participating in the Civil War, as so many of the well-to-do did).

  61. This comment has been removed by the author.

  62. How many pages is the reading text of Wilderness Warrior, without the endnotes, acknowledgments, bibliography, etc.?

  63. 817 pages, marti. I find myself about 20% of the way through the book. I hadn't heard that the government hired the Lakota tribe to thin out the "bisons" either.

    What got me in Chapter 6: Chasing Buffalo and Grizzlies is the strange way in which Brinkley combines two of TR's more famous hunts with the death of Alice and his mother. Of course, Brink spent most of the time on the hunts, treating the deaths more as a sad reminder that Teddy had other things to think about as well.

    Seems to me Brink should have dealt with these chapters thematically, rather than adhering to a tight chronological order of events where hunting "Lonesome George" competes with TR's feelings toward Alice. Or find a better way to weave the two together.

    Brinkley hardly touches Alice, which I find a bit odd, preferring to stick with TR's passion for the outdoors, and trying to reconcile TR killing a mother grizzly and her cub with the "Darwinian biologist," "big game hunter" and "naturalist" in him at the tender age of 24.

  64. avrds -- I'm a Faulkner fan. On what does Brinkley base his Holt Collier/Sam Fathers connection? I'm skeptical.

  65. Another thing I found funny was Brinkley saying that those tough cowboys TR road with would have been impressed by his knowledge of bird calls. Hard to imagine William Merrifield and Joe Ferris being overly concerned with meadowlarks.

  66. Hard to imagine William Merrifield and Joe Ferris being overly concerned with meadowlarks....

    Good one, Gintaras. I thought it was interesting how he would pick up all the cowboy slang to be one of the boys.

    He seems in this writing to be either someone who would be great fun to be with (and smart) or who would just drive you crazy after a couple minutes. Apparently a lot of these men outright loved him. The description of how these people traveled from all over the country to march in his "multi-ethnic" inauguration parade was eye opening.

  67. The Sioux slaughter of the buffalo was news to me as well and makes me want to dig a bit into the sources. I have Morris around here somewhere.

    Nice to have you both reading along in the book.

  68. "Apparently a lot of these men outright loved him."

    Uh oh. This is beginning to sound like that recent Lincoln biography . . .

  69. I thought Edmund Morris did a nice job of capturing TR's western adventures.

    He also did a very good job with Alice and how this impacted Teddie's life.

  70. Evidence, you want evidence? That's a little unreasonable isn't it?

    The footnote points to a biography of Collier by Buchanan. Here's what Brinkley says, with the assumption that TR was responsible for just about everything -- he went on a big bear hunt, the source of the Teddy Bear story (which turns out to be a myth! Who would have known...).

    "A young novelist from Oxford, Mississippi, William Faulkner, drawing on Roosevelt's enthusiasm [for Collier], later modeled a character in his allegorical short story "The Bear" on Collier, though he made his fictional figure a Chickasaw chief. Capturing the mythical tenor of the bear hunt, Faulkner wrote of his character Sam Fathers that he was an 'old man of seventy' and the 'the woods' were his 'mistress and his wife.'"

    Colliers is an interesting character in his own right -- a former slave who fought with the Confederacy and revenged the death of his former owner. And killed bears to make a living. What a story.

  71. Gintaras, to respond to your earlier comment:

    I think the goal of this book is to write a true biography that doesn't focus on the so-called well-known stories but that starts with his letters home about birds and his preservation of forests etc. as the frame to tell TR's life story. Interesting approach. I just wish Brinkley were better at it.

  72. Some of these issues don't go away. "Hunters purchased nearly 2,600 wolf licenses Monday, the first day they went on sale in Montana."

    Here's an interesting take:


  73. avrds -- I beg your pardon. Carry on.

  74. Sorry, Rick! This is one of those places where I should have used a smiley face....

    This is one of those books where sweeping generalities about TR's influence on everything are great, evidence is less than. And he's used lots of secondary sources.

    Be curious to read your thoughts about Collier.

  75. Since at least 2003 someone using the moniker "Marla" has been saying online that she(?) "cannot help but conclude that Holt Collier is the real-life person upon which the pivotal character of Sam Fathers is based." This comment shows up as a reader comment relative to reviews of Buchanan's book, "Holt Collier: His Life, His Roosevelt Hunts, and the Origin of the Teddy Bear." So it sounds like Marla's comment is a conclusion based on something Buchanan contends in his book but can't substantiate. (Buchanan's book was published in 2002, by the way.) So like I said, I'm skeptical.

  76. And that's Brinkley's referenced source (from the preface by the page number so it's not even in the text -- at least if Brinkley is to be believed).

    This is not a book that worries too much about the evidence. And in some instances that hasn't really bothered me to be honest. It is what it is -- a big best seller presidential biography with an environmental theme. [This is where Robert is supposed to step in and temper my opinions...!]

    But Brinkley sees Roosevelt as influencing everything and everyone (including "a young novelist from Oxford, Mississippi") and you sometimes have to take his word for it or take it with a grain or two of salt.

    It's a great book for me to read because he squeezes SO MUCH into it, but finding out whether or not he's accurate is another issue altogether. Sometimes he quotes primary sources he could have had easy access to but instead cites them as cited in another secondary source (like Morris). Or in the case of the buffalo slaughter mentioned above, a story about the Nez Perce in Forest and Stream from 1877 as cited in another book on bison.

    It's a mess of a book that way I'm afraid.

  77. I think this is a common problem with these mega-biographies. It seems to me Fred Karl's mega-bio on Conrad was similarly unreliable, or at least very poorly sourced in places, as was Hershel Parker's Melville bio.

  78. In history, a rewriting or re-envisioning of the secondary literature can be extremely eye-opening. For example, Limerick's book on the American West -- Legacy of Conquest -- is based almost entirely on secondary sources and yet it really changed the way people viewed western history. It created a whole new school of historians.

    I think Brinkley could have pulled off something similar here about how to view TR in light of his environmental achievements -- which were significant -- but he was too ambitious and wanted to write the big new TR biography. As we've discussed here, it seems to be more material than he can handle in places.

    Still, well worth my time. Hopefully Marti and Gintaras won't be too bored.

  79. I'm not bored, av. There is much that is fascinating, but continue to shrug my shoulders at many of his comments. For a "biography" he gives persons who were very close to TR short shrift like Alice and Edith. I think it would have een bbest to deal with this subject thematically rather than biographically, similar to the way Miller wrote his book on "Lincoln's Virtues," exploring mentors, experiences, references, books and speeches, more or less in chronological order.

  80. I agree, that would have been a better book. And a shorter one.

  81. I'm trying to figure out how bagging a prize "bison," a complete grizzly family and a Big Horn Ram added anything to the naturalist movement. Seems TR had some wall space to fill back at Sagamore Hill. These were purely ego-driven pursuits, dragging his cowhands on these visionquests through all sorts of inclimate weather and having a bully good time so that he could head back to New York and write about it. Yet, Brinkley fills the better part of two chapters with these accounts, squeezing 2 or 3 pages on how TR formed a relation with Grinnell that "lasted a lifetime," after he got past his indignation with Grinnel's review of his book. Amazing that someone actually knew more about the Badlands and Montana than TR did.

    The description of the buckskin deputy tracking down three men who stole his boat really took the cake. Once again dragging two of his cowhands along with him and filling the empty space by reading Ana Karenina. It seemed Brinkley could barely conceal his chagrin in recounting it.

  82. I saw them as ego-driven pursuits too. I realize he has a completely different mind set than I do, but buffalo were already quite rare and he had to have one and put its head on the wall.

  83. There's a scene later in the book, where one of the bird people -- Chapman I think -- discovers a sort of bird heaven in Florida. His writing is incredible about the rich diversity of species, colors, songs.... And then he proceeds to shoot them all.

    When Hornaday realized that there were few bison left in America, he proceeded to go out to Montana twice to find what was left. He shot everyone he could find too.

    Both of these men at least put the dead specimens in museums which was still part of that culture. TR put his in his den (although there are many references to his sending specimens to the Smithsonian too -- including a mouse he killed and field dressed in Yellowstone).

  84. Audobon shot all his birds too and put them in "naturalistic" poses for his color illustrations. Of course, in his day there wasn't photography, but Brinkley makes note of TR being an avid photographer and putting a dark room in the basement of his Montana retreat. All though, I imagine it would be just as hard to take stills of animals in his day as it would have been to paint them.

    Nevertheless, why so much time given to his "hunts"?

  85. And there are lots more hunts to come! The (teddy) bear hunt in which the bear really was killed contrary to popular folk tales -- he was just knifed to death because he had been tied up -- and wolf hunts with a guy who wrestled them to the ground alive and I think there's a mountain lion hunt in there somewhere too. I know TR kept wanting to kill a few in Yellowstone.

    Brinkley spends so much time on the hunts because they defined TR as much as his efforts to conserve forests and natural landmarks. I can't remember where it was, but early in the book, Brinkley cites a specific kill as the first time TR had "hunted for sport." It was in his blood.

    But this is where Brinkley does his readers a real disservice -- he never really attempts to explain the contradictions, which is probably where the real story lies.

    There's an older book by Reiger on "American Sportsmen and the Origins of Conservation" -- so it's not like this hasn't been written about before. There has also been a lot written about the class conflict inherent in these hunting/wildlife reserves (e.g., Crimes against Nature). But Brinkley doesn't seem interested in digging into any of this.

    I also question his continual linking of forests/landmarks with wildlife protection. That may indeed be how TR thought, but I need to go back and read his own writing. I have too little faith in Brinkley right now.

    With TR it all seems to be tied up in that manliness issue you and Marti talked about earlier. I see it going back to when TR was thumped as a young man and called a sissy. He sort of turned into a killer bantam rooster in response.

  86. My impression is that TR's passion for the Wilderness was that of a sportsman, not a "Darwinian biologist" or even a naturalist. Early on Brinkley did cite that many of the early conservation efforts in England were done by sportsmen wanting to protect hunting grounds. I even recall him saying something about TR pursuing a similar approach in New York, when serving as alderman. TR's greatest fear appeared to be that without national forests and prairie lands there would be no more buffalo, grizzlys, mountain lions or bighorn rams to shoot.

    Because of TR's money and ever-increasing stature in the political world, real conservationists saw the benefit of having someone like him on their side, so they flattered him, appealled to the nascent naturalist in him, and got him to promote their cause. In the end, it worked out well, but all that stuff about Darwin and his early specimen collecting is a bunch of bunk as far as I'm concerned. TR started out with small prey as a boy and worked himself up to larger prey as a man.

  87. "TR started out with small prey as a boy and worked himself up to larger prey as a man."

    Good one. And certainly right on.

    By the way, I mentioned my reading of this book to one of my Yale educated colleagues and though he hasn't read this one, his comments about Brinkley generally included arrogant, self-inflated, and the wrong person to write about Kerouac.

    And probably about TR -- although he goes to great lengths in the acknowledgements to set down his credentials.

  88. The early hunting preserves established in this country were modeled after those in England -- even down to the architecture and entrances etc. As I recall, though you'll know more about this than I do, it was this same architecture that was initially picked up by the park service. So there is a weird continuity there.

  89. It was all part of a romantic revival, inspired by the early Arts and Crafts movement in England which extolled the rustic. Romanesque and Neo-Gothic architecture characterized this movement and was personified in H.H. Richardson in America. It came to be known as Richardsonian. Heavy stone foundation with post and beam construction. In more rustic surroundings, log construction. It was picked up by the WPA in the 1930s, which built so many of the National Park structures.

  90. I thought of another book that sort of parallels this one -- the Nature Fakers.

    Brinkley mentions some of the correspondence TR gets drawn into about wolves etc. which is featured in this book, along with Burroughs, vs. Long and Seaton.


    When looking for that, found this older American Heritage article on the same subject:


  91. Richardsonian.... good term to have access to!

  92. I agree that the hunt scenes in the book help define TR. I just finished chapter 6 and read ch. 7 after that. I bookmarked a page about the extra bears that TR bagged. Brinkley shows right here the contradiction. I don't think he can explain it but he knows it's there.

    I started chapter 8 today while on the exercise bike for a short period. I do like this book while I'm reading it and have more than a little time in my reading session.

    Avrds wrote that he turned into a killer bantam rooster after being called a sissy (couldn't paste it in here). Made me laugh.

  93. Has any of you read Brinkley's book about Hurricane Katrina? I've had it in paperback for a long time but haven't gotten to it. WW is the first of his that I'm reading.

  94. Yesterday I came across this great quote which seems to be in line with what we were talking about earlier(about TR and Brinkley):

    His tolerance of animal behavior and his intolerance of human behavior were like night and day. There may have been an inner struggle between his childlike obsession with disappearing into the freedom of the wild -- responsiblity be damned -- and his compulsion to be biologicaly precise about every songbird, tree, grass blade and insect antenna. The masculine side of his nature wanted to hunt big mammals while his feminine side wanted to nurture small songbirds.


  95. Is this from Brinkley?

    Maybe he was thinking of Alice, Bamie or Edith when he saw those songbirds?

  96. Wading my way through chapter 9 as Brinkley forges a connection between Burroughs and Roosevelt. I thought his historical aside on Burroughs and Whitman much more fascinating in that each appeared to inspire the other on a very profound level. Hard to imagine a similar relation between Bourroughs and Roosevelt.

    Also noted the "Darwinian" connection between Roosevelt and Remington, which like you av, I found very amusing, as I doubt Remington was thinking much about Darwin when he drew and painted his images of the West. I took it more as coming out of the growing "realism" in American arts and literature.

  97. I'm also a big fan of Burroughs. I'm not sure Brinkley does real justice to him here, but nice to see him given some time.

    And yes, the masculine/feminine quote comes from Brinkley later in the book. Like the Remington being a Darwinian, you'll recognize it when you get there!

  98. The way Brinkley tells it, Roosevelt was the linchpin of the conservation movement, giving a tremendous amount of credit to the Boone and Crockett Club in lobbying Congress for tougher measures to protect the vanishing wilderness. Doesn't seem to matter that Yellowstone Park was created nearly 20 years before, with no credit given to earlier conservation figures like Hayden or Jackson. No mention even that Grinnell was part of the Ludlow team that surveyed the park's game life. Their scathing report led to the resignation of Nathaniel Langford, who essentially looked the other way at all the exploitation taking place within the park's limits. Brinkley seems to downplay Grinnell's abilities to organize the Audobon Society and create a forum for the discussion of conservation matters in his magazine Forest and Stream, treating him more as a valued advisor to young Teddy, than a formidable conservation figure in his own right.

  99. I don't know, it would seem that Naturalists would bristle over this book, as many of their iconic seminal figures are reduced to the periphery of the powerful Teddy Roosevelt.

    I think the major weakness of this book is focusing exclusively on Teddy's "Naturalist" side, as I would think you would have to take him as a total package, which is why Morris', McCollough's and Dalton's books are much closer to the mark in establishing the dynamic person that he was, wrapped up in many causes, not to mention his own manhood.

    There is no doubt that TR was a very important figure in the conservation movement, and the declaration of so many parks, monuments and wildlife refuges and the end of his Presidency were much welcomed, but Brinkley's account makes it appear as though this was his primary interest, and everything else was secondary, which is not the impression I've garnered from other biographies of Roosevelt.

  100. I can't recall how he exactly handled it but I seem to remember that TR was viewed by Brinkley as the founder of the Bronx Zoo. He did bring the power of the Boone and Crockett Club and his power as commissioner of whatever he was at the time to make things happen, but I don't think TR originated all the programs Brinkley says he did.

    The Boone and Crockett Club was extremely influential in lots of arenas, but their motive and TR's was to preserve big game from market hunters and "poachers" so that they had access to the big game they wanted to shoot on holiday. And to be nominated as a member you had to have a shot a certain number of large animals. This was not a wildlife conservation group.

    Hornaday _I think_ was more concerned about losing national identity through the loss of bison, elk, etc. And much to his chagrin, he was never invited to join the B&C club.

    Their headquarters, by the way, are here in town. Amazing display of heads and horns and taxidermied animals. I tried once to get into their archives and got nowhere. But now that I know Brinkley has, I'll probably try again.

  101. Gintaras, I didn't see that Brinkley played down the naturalists that were associated with Roosevelt. This was my introduction to them and from what I've read, Grinnell and the others sound like giants who worked full time as naturalists and/or conservationists. He did say that Roosevelt felt superior to Remington (and to others as well), but that wasn't Brinkley's opinion of them. It was Roosevelt's.

    A friend of mine sent me pictures she took at the Bronx Zoo this week. I'd just read about the Boone & Crockett Club's role in forming it and told her about it. Now I will have to do some checking. Don't want to spread bad info.

  102. Saw this on the Bronx Zoo's website:

    "Founded in 1895 as the New York Zoological Society, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) was one of the first conservation organizations in the U.S. The Society began with a clear mandate: Advance wildlife conservation, promote the study of zoology, and create a first-class zoo."

  103. This in Wiki:

    "Fordham University owned most of the land which became the Bronx Zoo and New York Botanical Garden. Fordham sold it to the City of New York for only $1,000 under the condition that the lands be used for a zoo and garden; this was in order to create a natural buffer between the university grounds and the urban expansion that was nearing. In the 1880s, New York State set aside the land for future development as parks. In 1895, New York State chartered the New York Zoological Society (later renamed to Wildlife Conservation Society)[1] for the purpose of founding a zoo."

  104. Funny you should ask, Marti. I just got my book out on the history of the Bronx Zoo.

    It's not that the B&C Club wasn't instrumental -- it was. Just not sure if this was all TR's idea. Here's what it says in the history of the zoo (Gathering of Animals):

    In 1884 the NY public parks commission recommended "suitable tracts for botanical and zoological gardens...." but they could never get it passed because the Central Park Menagerie people did not want to lose their zoo. Plus, there was opposition from pet store owners.

    "In the fall of 1894 Madison Grant [a member of the B&C club] and his brother De Forest threw themselves into the political reform movement in New York City.... The Grants had long had a dream that New York ought to have a great zoological park that would permit wild animals, particularly those of North America, to be exhibited in surrounds as nearly as possible like those of their native habitats...."

    Thinking "their political activities should have given them some influence with the new administration, Madison saw a chance to make the dream a reality."

    "Theodore Roosevelt was still president of the Boone and Crockett club while serving as Civil Service Commissioner in Washington. Madison Grant wrote to him at the end of November, 1894, and proposed that Roosevelt appoint a committee from the club for the double purpose of seeking legislation in Albany to stop the running of deer in the Adirondacks by dogs and to establish a zoological park in New York City."

    "Roosevelt consulted with George Bird Grinnell, secretary of the club, and on December 4 replied to Grant that Grinnell liked the idea but was a little doubtful whether he had the authority to establish a committee without explicit authority from the club. 'However,' he added with the Roosevelt directness, 'I think I will go ahead and do it.'"

    Grant was appointed to head the committee, which included Grant La Farge and Elihu Root.
    As they worked it through the political process which was extensive they kept B&C members on their committees and board.

    Henry Fairfield Osborn later that the "the real founders of the [Zoological] Society and pilots of its policies" were Osborn, Grant, Whitehead, Cadwalader, Schuyler, La Farge [all B&C members] and John S. Barnes.

    "The club held one of the vice presidencies (Whitehead) and both secretaryships [Grant and Grinnell]."

  105. ".... Theodore Roosevelt, who might be looked upon as the patron saint of the society, since it was his encouragement in the Boone and Crockett Club that gave Madison Grant his impetus, was not present at any of the organizational meetings in the spring of 1895, but -- like so many men who get elected to onerous jobs in absentia -- he was put on the board of managers anyway. He did not stay put. At its meeting on January 30, 1896, the executive committee voted to ask each member of the board of managers to become either a life member at $200 or a patron at $1000. Three weeks later T.R. submitted his resignation from the society...."

  106. So I just went back to that chapter and Brinkley calls the zoo TR's "brainchild."

    It's points like this that make this book sketchy at best, alas.

  107. Here's what the history of the Bronx Zoo says about the B&C Club, which I think is entirely fair (and shows the hunting and class bias of these "wilderness warriors"):

    "At a dinner party sometime in December, 1887, Theodore Roosevelt and ten guests founded the Boon and Crockett Club. The initial members and those who later became members, to a total of one hundred, were men prominent in many professions and, in the main, of considerable means, but above all they were sportsmen and hunters of big game. They knew only too well what market hunting, game hogs, and unsportsmanlike practices were doing to American big game and the wilderness, and they were determined to stop them by legislation, by publicity and protest against abuses they observed on their travels, and by any other means their prominence and influence could make effective. The club was not a mere social organization; it was a crusading -- almost what today we call an activist -- group."

  108. Brinkley referred to it as a lobby, which it seems in effect it was. But, as Brinkley also noted, Grinnell had already been lobbying on the behalf of the Audobon Society and other Conservationists for years, and according to Brink, TR relied on Grinnell heavily to get the Boone and Crockett Club going. It seems that TR's greatest gift was his ability to assemble people that would have the most influence in promoting conservation efforts.

  109. I'm going to make a push to finish Brinkley this weekend. Don't blame you if you've given up on him, but I'll report back if there's anything else interesting. Now it's mostly just a list of all the land preserves he set aside.

  110. Which were significant, I should add.

  111. Haven't given up, av, just haven't had much time as of late. Working on a project that I need to wrap up by Tuesday. Will see if I can squeeze a little reading this weekend.

  112. Not a problem. Just wasn't sure where you and Marti were with the book. I'll keep posting my weird insights as I go along.

    The Octopus question was not meant to be snarky, but this one is.... When you come across the name, he has Pumpelly wrong. Maybe picked it up misspelled in the roster of the B&C Club, but it's more indication that he really doesn't have handle on this period.


  113. I'm in middle of Ch. 14 where it has been suggested that TR be VP to replace deceased Garret Hobart. Hobart was born in Long Branch, NJ, my hometown. Hadn't heard about him before.

  114. I'm pushing to the end of the book -- another 50 pages or so to go -- and it occurs to me that Roosevelt was indeed dedicated to preserving bird habitat and forests, but he was equally dedicated to killing big animals as Twain complained.

    There's another bear hunt coming up in which he is determined to kill one of the last bears in Louisiana.

    I wish Brinkley were more discriminating in his enthusiasm. But when TR is out there committed to killing a bear before he goes home, I guess that speaks for itself.

  115. I do like, though, that TR is quoted many times in different contexts saying that the resources he does want to preserve need to be preserved for future generations. That's the way we should look at all natural resources.

    Remember James Watt?

  116. I wondered when I read in the book about preserving wildlife for future generations: so that they can hunt them . . . and enjoy the kill as much as he did?

  117. Yes, I think that's what he had in mind in spite of Brinkley's thinking.

    Later in the book when Twain disparages TR for killing the Louisiana bear, Brinkley discusses the idea of micro-evolution -- continually eliminating the biggest animals thus encouraging the survival of smaller members of the species.

    I had read that this had become a real problem with fish, since the practice is to throw the little ones back, but it makes sense that it would also work with animals, too. Even Brinkley admits that the practice of the B&C club would potentially eliminate the very animals they wanted to preserve for the next generation to hunt.

  118. This makes me think of another human-caused change in animal behavior -- it won't be long and many of the great migrating herds will either die off or radically change their behavior since they can no longer move freely between areas.

    That's a huge fear for the antelope in Yellowstone. It's already happened for the most part to the bison there since they get shot when they leave the park.

  119. The temptation is simply too great, av. Elephants have much shorter tusks today as a result of big game hunters and poachers. The only way to protect the bigger tusked elephants has been to seal off the game reserves entirely from hunters and deal very harsh sentences against poachers.

  120. Every once in awhile, I have to give TR real credit. When his bird refuges in Floria were called socialism he said:

    "Every civilized government which contains the least possibility of progress, or in which life would be supportable, is administered on a system of mixed individualism and collectivism and whether we increase or decrease the power of the state, and limit or enlarge the scope of individual activity, is a matter not for theory at all, but for decision upon grounds of mere practical expediency. A paid police department or paid fire department is in itself a manifestation of state socialism. The fact that such departments are absolutely necessary is sufficient to show that we need not be frightened from further experiments by any fear of the danger of collectivism in the abstract."

  121. I'm down to the last chapter which I may yet read tonight, leaving off as TR prepares to kill big game in Africa and send the skins and heads back to American museums. Can hardly wait.....

  122. Here's something else that has always fascinated me and I hope to write about -- the idea of zoological "fine specimens" and eugenics. I don't think this was just coincidence.

    Grant was the one who first approached TR about the Bronx zoo. He was also a B&C club member.

    I hope this link works for everyone here -- it's from a listserv I belong to:


    If not, here's the Amazon page:


  123. One more snarky comment before I give up on poor old Brinkley.

    He refers to elk as elks. I looked it up and technically I guess it's considered marginally okay, but I've never read anyone who refers to two or more elk as elks. It's like referring to two or more moose as mooses. Weird when you think of it.

  124. I've started Ch. 16. At this point, I'm thinking that while some of the writing has been entertaining and some of it gives me information about TR and his love of wildlife, the environment and HUNTING...and HUNTING...HUNTING, this book seems very, very long for what it is. I am still going to continue for now with it. I've been reading a chapter or two and then read from something else. I'm in the middle of the southern bear hunt. I do recall this one from another bio of TR (can't remember which one). They set up the bear for TR to shoot and then he can't shoot it. Pathetic scene with one of the dogs killed by the bear.

    Avrds, did you say there is yet another bear hunting scene after this one?

  125. Yes, Marti, since TR wasn't able to shoot that "teddy" bear because it had been captured and tied up for him to shoot (it was knifed to death instead) he later goes back down to the South to kill another one (successfully this time).

    I found his political conflict with the South interesting since he befriended Washington and had him in the White House. Makes you realize that we haven't come all that far when you think about Wilson et al.

    After the big bear hunt in LA, TR gets busy setting aside bird reserves and forests and historic sites so as I recall that's the last big hunt of his presidency.

    The conservation efforts he accomplished are indeed impressive which take up the last chapters of the book, as was his ability to circumvent Congress to get things done. But other than be impressed by the sheer volume of them, Brinkley doesn't contextualize many of these sites. After awhile the list becomes just a list.

    I'm glad I read the book -- lots of good information for me. But last night I started reading Cutright's Theodore Roosevelt the Naturalist -- I think it's going to be a much better book overall. And believe it or not, only two passing mentions of Darwin according to the index, and those were references to leading thinkers, not as any kind of influence on TR. He wanted to be like Coues et al, not Darwin, as even Brinkley noted.

  126. There's a great scene, too, when TR invites Burroughs to spend the week at the rustic Virginia cabin his wife purchased for him. I think TR just about talked the silent naturalist's head off. Plus, he moved the flying squirrels back into the house after Burroughs moved their nests out. I think we've probably all met a TR once or twice in our lives.

  127. Sorry to have bottomed out on this book, but I just can't get back into it. I would like to read something on Burroughs or Grinnell or one of the other leading naturalists of the time, or a book that takes them all into account. My feeling is that Brinkley overplayed TR's hand in this.

  128. Last night I read in the book about Hornaday having the pygmy on exhibit at the Bronx Zoo. Brinkley didn't explain why this was in the book, since Roosevelt was not involved. I think Brinkley likes to add a little sensation to the mix. I'd never heard about this before, and I was shocked.

    Now I'm part way through Ch. 23. Want to finish, even if only 1 ch. a day. Have just started reading True Compass, which is Ted Kennedy's memoire.

  129. The Ota Benga story is a tragic one, and another one of those stories that I will probably have to deal with as I write this up.

    Hornaday was a total ass when it came to keeping him in the monkey cage as a way of demonstrating evolution. And he wouldn't back down at first. Then they put him in an orphanage for black children as I recall -- it's all very strange -- before he was employed and eventually killed himself. Another Ishi-like story.

    Hornaday also tied an elephant by the leg leaving it to pace back and forth endlessly which led to endless letters of protest.

    Lot of ugly history in those places.

  130. No problem, Gintaras. It's not a very good book, although I'm glad I read it.

    I did get an assignment to review it for Western History, so I'm off and running on that!

  131. Sorry about that av and marti. Also enmeshed in a couple of projects and when I go to bed at night (the only time I have to read) I usually fall asleep after 5 pages or so.

    Marti, Interesting title for Ted's memoir. I have to wonder how "true" his compass was over the years. It wasn't that long ago (1990's anyway) that he was involved in some seedy affair with a young cousin in West Palm Beach, Florida, that became front page headlines. But, I guess he was able to reclaim himself after that as he assumed the mantel of Democratic elder statesman in the Senate.

    It would be interesting to glean your thoughts on the book. Why don't you set up a post on the title?

  132. Even if you weren't busy, this book would put most to sleep. Maybe I should put that in my review....

  133. Just say it was a slog, or words to that affect, but worth it in the end for the information gleaned from it. As you said early on, the book's redeeming value is that it provides quite a bit of information on the nascient naturalist movement of the late 19th century.

    Any thoughts on Egan's new book, The Burn? I believe you guys had mentioned it earlier. I will put up a new post for it.

  134. Finished Wilderness Warrior early Friday morning. I'd read the penultimate chapter during the wee hours and was nodding off. Went to bed and couldn't sleep for first time in weeks. At 7am, I read the last chapter, wasn't nodding off, but finally fell asleep afterwards. Had to get up 3 hours later for a dentist appointment. Now I'm really anxious about how I will manage sleep if my next job will be days rather than 2nd shift that I did for 6 years until the layoff in January.

    Since I haven't read any other books about naturalists in this period, I think that I have gotten some good background from this book for watching the Ken Burns series that starts on Sunday about the national parks.

  135. Gintaras, not sure how to set up a new post with the Kennedy book, but I'll see if there are instructions here, or you can tell me how. I'd be interested in others' viewpoints about this book too.

    I do recall the rape scandal in West Palm a while back. His cousin, a Gargan, went on trial for rape. I think that he was acquitted but I don't remember for sure. He was considerably younger than Ted Kennedy, but TK was staying at the same house at the time, so there was a lot of gossip as to his possible involvement.

    After Kennedy's death last month, right-wingers online were stuck on Chappaquiddick in their assessments (if you could even call them assessments) and comments about him.

    I'm not that far along in the book, but I'd heard that TK wrote about Chappaquiddick.

    I like that we finally have an opportunity to read about the Kennedy family from the perspective of a Kennedy.

  136. I saw Douglas Brinkley on Book TV Saturday in its coverage of the National Book Fair in DC. He was not pushing his book but participating in two-person presentation about the WPA writers with David A. Taylor, who wrote Soul of a People: The WPA Writers' Project Uncovers Depression America.


    When asked about what he's working on now, Brinkley said that he's writing about the Bull Moose Party and the conservationist movement until 1933. A sequel!

  137. Gintaras, I just made a new topic post about the Kennedy book but I messed with the date and time, since it didn't correspond with what it is -- didn't realize that that is the time that it will post. Anyway, it's not up yet, so it may appear some time and I don't know how to get to it. Not a big deal, but I wrote something that I should have saved to a notepad, since I wouldn't want to recreate it if it doesn't turn up.

  138. Found it and it's scheduled to post 9/27 at 3am. It's past that time here, but I think that at least for me, this blog is on Pacific Time.

  139. Marti or Gintaras, would you be willing to take a quick look at my review of Brinkley? It's only 500 words so it's quick and dirty, but want to be sure it's not too dirty.

    Many thanks!