Books in Brief

Theodore Roosevelt: A Literary Life, by Thomas Bailey and Katherine Joslin (Lebanon, NH: ForeEdge; 368 pp., $35.00).  Theodore Roosevelt always considered himself a man of letters, and indeed he was one.  He began reading widely and writing at an early age, and a day never seems to have passed when he did not read and write, even in circumstances fiercely dissuasive of both activities, including an exploratory trek into the wilds of the Brazilian jungle.  A contemporary critic, Charles W. Ferguson, wrote eight years after TR’s death that, had Roosevelt become a writer instead of a politician, “he would have gained for himself a position in American literature equaled by few other men.”  He wrote history, autobiography, accounts of his explorations and discoveries, essays, and reviews.  A naturalist as well as an adventurer, he excelled at bringing the two roles together.  And he was a superb stylist, more direct and elegant as a narrator and descriptive writer than in his discursive prose, which reflected something of the literary rotundity of the period.  In the former genre he was a modernist in advance of his time.  There are many passages, for example, in his book Ranch Life and the Hunting-Trail (1888) that anticipate Hemingway in their taut, clean sentences and vivid, impressionist descriptions.  Indeed, they match him. ...

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