Excerpt from Dutch by Edmund Morris, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Dutch

A Memoir of Ronald Reagan

by Edmund Morris

Dutch
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Sep 1999, 874 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2000, 896 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


I didn't. I was at work on another volume of the life of Theodore Roosevelt, and had reason enough to keep my distance. Ironia ironorum, that I of all people should be charged with rescuing the old Lifeguard from the chill current of history!



Nine years later, however, I found myself literally escorting him back to his origins in Tampico, Illinois. He was President no longer, and had been seized by a sudden, senescent desire to visit, for the first time since 1911, what was now grandly called the Ronald Reagan Birthplace Museum. I walked down Main Street with him and Nancy, feeling transcendentally strange. An odd, Dantesque reversal of roles had occurred, as if I were now the leader rather than the led.

"Mr. President," I said, "you don't have to pretend you remember this place. You were only three months old when your parents checked out of number 111."

"Yes. We went to live over the store where my father worked. H. C. Pitney's General Store."

"No, that was in 1919, when you returned here from Monmouth. In May 1911, the Tampico Tornado reported that your parents had moved with their new baby to the Burden house, south of the depot."

I pointed down the one-block street, beyond the little crowd restrained by a police car, and across the tracks. "You can't see it because of the wheat elevator, but it's the house of your first memories."

"Are we going to visit?"

"I think they want us to go to church first, sir, and then go through the museum here."

Docile as ever, he nodded. I did not add that the current occupants of the white, double-story house had no desire to welcome him. Judging by the number of major appliances on the stoop, they were not Reagan Republicans.

Sunday-morning sunbeams streamed through the windows of the Christian Church. He sat immediately in front of me while the organ fluted "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," and Whiteside County's Disciples of Christ--a corn-fed lot--squeezed themselves into adjoining pews. I leaned forward and said, "Just think, Mr. President, if your father had gotten you baptized in Saint Mary's, we'd be attending eleven o'clock mass."

He chuckled and whispered conspiratorially, "Bells and smells."

We sang number 270 in the hymnal. It occurred to me that I had never heard him sing, apart from his execrable rendering of "They Fly Through the Air with the Greatest of Ease" in International Squadron (1942). So I leaned forward and was surprised by the sweetness of his breathy light baritone. Unlike most public worshipers, he sang without a trace of self-consciousness, quietly, almost to himself.

There is a place of full release

A place full of joy and peace . . .

As so often before, I marveled at the dense lie of his hair, thick and shining as an otter's. Why is it old men and small boys always look so vulnerable from behind? Today, he seemed to belong to both categories. There was something engagingly innocent about the way he clutched his wife's hand throughout the prayers and sermon, and about his glance at her for approval when the preacher asked him to speak. Innocent, yet also strange: I had not seen him so dependent before. For the first time, I wondered if there was something wrong with him.

He spoke well enough, in his patented hesitant husk: "My brother and I were started off in the Christian Church by our mother, here in Tampico. I'm afraid I can't . . . uh, tell if this was the same building we--"

I nodded violently at him, over Nancy's coiffure, but he did not see me.

"Reason is, that was about seventy years ago. But I can't describe the feeling of being back here in my birthplace. Really, there are no words."

These were his standard clichés to express emotion required of him, but I looked around and saw many eyes fill with tears. Reagan checked too: the old actor counting the house. Satisfied, he ambled back to his pew, and we sang "That Old Rugged Cross."

Excerpted from Dutch by Edmund Morris. Copyright© 1999 by Edmund Morris. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

One-Month Free Membership

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Harmony
    Harmony
    by Carolyn Parkhurst
    In previous novels such as The Dogs of Babel and Lost and Found, Carolyn Parkhurst has shown herself...
  • Book Jacket: Commonwealth
    Commonwealth
    by Ann Patchett
    Opening Ann Patchett's novel Commonwealth about two semi-functional mid-late 20th Century ...
  • Book Jacket: A Gentleman in Moscow
    A Gentleman in Moscow
    by Amor Towles
    It is June 21, 1922, and 33-year-old Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is convicted of being a class ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Darling Days
    by iO Tillett Wright

    A devastatingly powerful memoir of one young woman's extraordinary coming of age.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Tea Planter's Wife
    by Dinah Jefferies

    An utterly engrossing, compulsive page-turner set in 1920s Ceylon.

    Read Member Reviews

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
This Must Be the Place
by Maggie O'Farrell

An irresistible love story for fans of Beautiful Ruins and Where'd You Go, Bernadette?

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Blood at the Root

Blood at the Root

"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

D C Y C Before T A H

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!



Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.