Magazine November 25, 2019, Issue

Thomas Edison’s Strange Genius

Thomas Edison with the Edison Business Phonograph (Oscar White/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)
Edison, by Edmund Morris (Random House, 800 pp., $38)

Edmund Morris, who died in May at the age of 78, was a biographer highly praised for his 1979 book The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt (Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award). And he was pilloried for his 1999 biography Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan, because he (I quote from Morris’s New York Times obituary) “inserted himself as a fictional narrator.” Edison is Morris’s posthumous biography of one of American history’s most important and influential figures and, after the chastising he received for Dutch, what could go wrong? Surely he learned to leave the avant-garde tricks to fiction. Gentle reader, it

This article appears as “A Strange Genius” in the November 25, 2019, print edition of National Review.

Howard Schneider — Mr. Schneider reviews books for magazines and newspapers and is the former executive editor of Dimensions: A Journal of Holocaust Studies.

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