An American Mind
edited by Mario R. DiNunzio, St. Martin’s Press, 359 pages, $24.95 . CODE: STM-2
Theodore Roosevelt wrote so much during his life that no two anthologies of his prose are likely to turn out the same. This new Roosevelt reader differs from the Roosevelt Cyclopedia of half a century ago in that its entries are much longer than the many quotable bits in that book. Here the inexhaustible TR is held to twelve general subjects but still has his say about his exploits with the Rough Riders and in the African bush, on “hysterics” promoting free silver, and on the “moral perversion” of Tolstoy; we follow up his election loss of 1912 with the mighty distraction of his Amazon expedition, and we hear the former President’s views on conservation and the proper role of women. Roosevelt’s writing comes most alive when he is expunging a political foe in a fervent speech (“For Mr. Bryan we can feel the contemptuous pity always felt for the small man unexpectedly thrust into a big place”) or recounting some deadly adventure, especially among the Rough Riders: “O’Neill took his cigarette out of his mouth, and blowing out a cloud of smoke laughed and said: ‘Sergeant, the Spanish bullet isn’t made that will kill me.’ … As he turned on his heel a bullet struck him in the mouth and came out the back of his head; so that even before he fell his wild and gallant soul had gone out into the darkness.”
The editor has not tried to whittle Roosevelt into a model American for the nineties. Passages on the white race’s triumph in settling the continent and on “the Negro Problem” help present the whole man.