Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

image of book: Truman by David McCullough

I finished it! It’s been about three weeks and almost a thousand pages after I started, and I am honestly sorry it’s over. I think I can say this is the best biography of anybody by anybody I’ve ever read. Maybe I’m biased a bit by the fact that I’m a huge fan of David McCullough fan, but in my mind it’s like this: When a historian can write a thousand-page book about Truman and make every single page a delight to read, that’s quite an accomplishment by almost any standard.

If you still would never read a book this thick just because you couldn’t commit yourself to reading anything that large – and that’s no small consideration; my only gripe about this book is that it’s almost too big and heavy to hold open in two hands – I would beg you to reconsider, if only to read Chapter 14, “Fighting Chance,” devoted to Truman’s whistle-stop campaign for re-election in 1948. Chapter 13, “The Heat In The Kitchen,” is a terrific lead-in to the campaign, but if you read nothing else, read Chapter 14. I couldn’t tear myself away from it.

I’ve always thought of Truman as my favorite modern president. I haven’t decided yet if my very favorite of them all is John Adams or his son, John Quincy Adams; there’s plenty to like about them both. (McCullough wrote a cracking good bio of John Adams, by the way.) But this book has cemented my opinion of Truman as the best of the presidents who walked the earth while I was alive. (I was shocked to learn that Truman passed away in December, 1972. I was two weeks past my twelfth birthday at the time. It must have been a huge event, and yet I have no memory of it.)

Born in the Gilded age, the age of steam and gingerbread Gothic, Truman had lived to see a time of lost certainties and rocket trips to the moon. The arc of his life spanned more change in the world than in any prior period in history. A man of nineteenth-century background, he had had to face many of the most difficult decisions of the unimaginably different twentieth century. A son of rural, inland America, raised only a generation removed from the frontier and imbued with the old Jeffersonian ideal of a rural democracy, he had had to assume command of the most powerful industrial nation on earth at the very moment when that power, in combination with stunning advances in science and technology, had become an unparalleled force in the world. The responsibilities he bore were like those of no other president before him, and he more than met the test.

Ambitious by nature, he was never torn by ambition, never tried to appear as something he was not. He stood for common sense, common decency. He spoke the common tongue. As much as any president since Lincoln, he brought to the highest office the language and values of the common American people. He held to the old guidelines; work hard, do your best, speak the truth, assume no airs, trust in God, have no fear. Yet he was not and had never been a simple, ordinary man. The homely attributes, the Missouri wit, the warmth of his friendship, the genuineness of Harry Truman, however appealing, were outweighed by the larger qualities that made him a figure of world stature, both a great and good man, and a great American president.

Truman – Finished! | 6:38 pm CST
Category: Big Book of Quotations, books, daily drivel, entertainment, hobby, play
Comments Off on Truman – Finished!

Comments are closed.