Monday, September 30, 2013

"Wilson" by A. Scott Berg

This book should be entitled, "Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Woodrow Wilson"*

Author A. Scott Berg leaves no stone unturned in the voluminous work covering the entire life of the former president. You'll know what the New Jersey legislature was up to behind closed doors when the hero was governor of that state, and you'll learn that Wilson had two biscuits and earl gray tea before singing George M. Cohan tunes to his daughters in the sitting room.

This is one of those big books where the author reaches back into history and dusts off a worthy figure fallen into something of a national forgetfulness.

Wilson brought you the Federal Reserve Bank, progressive taxation, the precursor to the United Nations, the state of the union speech before both houses of Congress, Princeton University, college football, American political science and so on and and so on.

Our modern polity, if this account is correct, has been much shaped by the guiding hand of Wilson. He comes across as a kind of second-wave founding father, acting most selflessly for the good of the Republic, skillfully assuring the country takes the medicine Good Doctor Woodrow has prescribed.

Berg's detailed portrait is of a person whose intellectual capabilities and moral rectitude really put him heads above the American men of his time. There's no point saying anything more about this remarkable fellow if you consider what Mr. Berg has in store for those who choose to read "Wilson."

What can be said is that, for all its historical accuracy and research bona fides, the author tells Wilson's life as a story.

And though some sections will command a greater degree of patience and attention than normal, readers can still follow an engaging narrative about a Herculean man brought skillfully to life, with a strong background of the times surrounding.

(*But didn't even know you were supposed to ask.)

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