Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan

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9780007102624: Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan

The authorized life of Ronald Reagan written by America's most innovative and Pulitzer Prize-winning political biographer. This unprecedented book breaks through all conventional definitions of biography.`Poor dear. There's nothing between his ears.' So Margaret Thatcher described Ronald Reagan. But the Iron Lady, when in the `poor dear's' presence, giggled like a schoolgirl. `One could not talk to him for more than a few minutes without being aware of the ordinariness of his mind,' says Helmut Schmidt. But Mikhail Gorbachev, deconstructor of communism, is now despised by his people, while the most popular boys' name in the former USSR is Ronald. Indisputably Ronald Reagan the everyday person was opaque, pedestrian, ignorant, a hollow man - now incapacitated by Alzheimers. Yet, as President-Governor-Actor-Announcer - Lifeguard Ronald Reagan became a creature of the American folk imagination with the power to tap into vast resources of nostalgia in the American people. He is a myth; the sum total of all American fantasies. It is this Reagan that is the subject of Edmund Morris's book. Morris has been working on the authorized biography of Ronald Reagan since 1985. He has become intimate with Reagan himself, Nancy and their children, and has had unrestricted access to all Reagan's private papers. This would be enough to ensure a significant and lasting biography of this extraordinary American. However, Morris combines these benefits with enormous powers of scholarship and a literary imagination beyond compare. The result is a book truly revolutionary in form. Reagan's biography is written with a biographical doppelganger following Reagan through each phase of his life, showing how the life of Reagan integrates with his times, and explaining the great and so-far elusive mystery of the extraordinarily potent link between Reagan and the American people. This book succeeds in making literature out of the life of America's Actor-President. There has been nothing like it before.

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Review:

In what must surely be one of the most unusual and critically scrutinized biographies ever written, Edmund Morris has created a difficult but fascinating chronicle nearly as enigmatic as his book's inscrutable subject. Read by the author himself, this audio version comes replete with a special acknowledgment of the controversial nature of the book and an especially poignant closing passage addressing Reagan's senescent slide into dementia. In the explanatory preface Morris describes the rationale behind his unconventional effort: "When the biographer sits talking with the still living subject, as I did so often with President Reagan ... the story of his journey becomes, in effect, an autobiography, that interrelates with the biography he's writing. In other words, this is the true story of a real person told by an imaginary narrator who eventually mutates into myself." A curious and debatable strategy. However, using this unprecedented approach, Morris has created an unarguably intimate, highly detailed, and powerfully moving memoir which reaches a level of emotional resonance rarely achieved in more traditional biographies. (Running time: 9 hours, 6 cassettes) --George Laney

From the Inside Flap:

The only biography ever authorized by a sitting President--yet written with complete interpretive freedom--Dutch is as revolutionary in method as it is formidable in scholarship. Thirteen years of exhaustive research in the archives of Washington and Hollywood, and thousands of hours of interviews with the President and his family, friends, allies, and enemies, equipped Morris with an unmatched knowledge of one of the twentieth century's greatest leaders. This monumental work offers the most insightful and elegant portrait to date of Ronald Reagan: the young "Dutch," the middle-aged Cold Warrior, and the septuagenarian Chief Executive. Written with imagination, yet always anchored by the weight of research and fact, Dutch stands as both a landmark in the form of biography and an unparalleled historical account of the rise and rule of Ronald Reagan.

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