Thursday, September 3, 2009

TR’s Wild Side

I see Brinkley has a piece in the American Heritage magazine on how TR spent his idle time in Tampa before heading onward to Cuba,

ON JUNE 3, 1898, 39 days into the Spanish-American War, Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders arrived in Florida by train, assigned to the U.S. transport Yucatan. But the departure date from Tampa Bay for Cuba kept changing. Just a month earlier, the 39-year-old Teddy had quit his job as assistant secretary of the Navy, taken command of the 1,250-man 1st Volunteer Cavalry Regiment along with Leonard Wood, and began a mobilization to dislodge the Spanish from Cuba.

Roosevelt worried that if the ship didn’t leave soon, his men’s livers weren’t going to withstand all the booze they were consuming. The first day was incredibly humid, with a hot, glassy atmosphere and scant wind. Anxious for war, Teddy was unperturbed by the omnipresent swarms of chiggers and sandflies. To kill time he studied Florida’s botany, learning to distinguish lignum-vitae (holywood) trees from blue beech and ironwood at a glance.

12 comments:

  1. This is a representative piece of Brinkley's writing. As you can see the first part of the second paragraph bears no relation to the latter part.

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  2. There was one paragraph in the early section of the book that made my head swim, it contained so much disparate information. It was so bad that it seemed like it would be a great paragraph to use in a writing class. I should have marked it.

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  3. That said, I hope you're finding it more readable as you get into it. I'm not sure if I've just become immune to the style or am more interested in the content or what, but I do seem to be reading along at a fairly quick pace now. I'm at Devil's Tower and Wyoming's virulent anti-government resistance to any regulations or interference (with a bizarre aside on Rockefeller).

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  4. I had a pretty good opinion of Brinkley after reading his book on Carter's Unfinished Presidency. I thought it was well researched and written. I also thought Rise to Globalism, which he co-authored with Ambrose, was pretty good. So, it comes as a surprise to me that he has struggled so mightily with Roosevelt. I think nature and conservation simply isn't his area of expertise. He struck me more as a policy wonk in reading those two books. But reading his list of publications, I see he is all over the place. I have his book on Katrina, The Great Deluge, which I haven't been able to bring myself to read.

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  5. This is my first Brinkley so I'm not a good critic. I got the impression from the email that my friend has met him _and_ read his book on Kerouac, both of which left a bad impression.

    H.W. Brands for some reason seems able to move around and still maintain some level of authority in his writing. But then seeing him interviewed awhile back on c-span, he's a bit like Roosevelt -- definitely borderline if not all out manic. Plus, I don't think Brands uses research assistants which can sometimes muddy the process I think.

    That said, I'm soldiering on. I am learning some new things -- even when I don't agree with Brinkley's take on them -- and getting some good leads to resources.

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  6. I mentioned The Great Deluge in my last post on the WW thread. Just wondered if anyone had read it (didn't have the title of the book in my head).

    Brinkley has become a media darling with many appearances on talk shows. This is not necessarily bad. Maybe we can find out more specifically how he puts his books together. If he were on one of those in depth interviews on Book TV, it would be revealed. Perhaps someone would email him.

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  7. He has a list of his research assistants etc. in the acknowledgments at the end.

    I have seen him on msnbc -- he is very cute

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  8. I read the story of Teddy and his men in Tampa someplace before years ago but I can't for the life of me recall what mag it was in.In fact I'm 70 -30 that it was a mag piece and not something on PBS.

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  9. My guess by the way would be The Atlantic Mag which I subscribed to in those days.

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  10. Read some more in Cutright's TR The Naturalist last night but it definitely covers the same ground so I skipped ahead to TR in Yellowstone and Yosemite. After Brinkley, the book is thin -- just covering a couple anecdotes per chapter, but it's pretty much the same book as Brinkley wrote, only less so. And it does include a chapter on his River of Doubt trip. Guess Brinkley wasn't "the first" after all. Maybe people should read these books before reviewing them.

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  11. I'm thinking I might write a review of this book -- not sure for where yet, but probably the Magazine of Western History.

    Years ago, I reviewed books for the paper here -- good way to get free books and a little dough -- but I never wanted to review books by writers I disliked. Who am I to criticize someone who is a famous writer?

    But I'm thinking I'm now in the position to actually review this one. If I do, I need to think of some positive things to say -- can't just tear it all down. That may be the hardest part.

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  12. You should, av, but do it quickly while there is still interest in the book.

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