The narrator and his son, it turns out, aren't the only things that Edmund Morris faked.
If things weren’t already bad enough for Edmund Morris, author of “Dutch,” the new biography of Ronald Reagan that has been much criticized for Morris’ inserting a fictionalized version of himself into the narrative, he’s now being implicated in … well, it’s hard to say what, exactly, but it ain’t pretty.
In the Nov. 15 New Republic, assistant editor Ryan Lizza points out that Morris used a device — the revelation at the book’s end that his fictionalized self had been rescued from drowning by Reagan in 1928 — that was also used by a writer named Daniel Voll in the Spring 1994 issue of Story magazine. In Voll’s short story, “Dear Mr. President,” the narrator, a transvestite named Roosevelt Haynes, is obsessed with Reagan because, as he reveals at the story’s conclusion, he was also saved by Reagan (albeit in 1932).
Morris told Lizza that he’d never read Voll’s story, and Lizza himself concedes, after some ominous rumblings, “Perhaps it is not strange to find such similarities in two works about the same person,” especially when both writers credit Garry Wills’ 1987 book “Reagan’s America,” in which Reagan’s six-summer stint as a lifeguard (during which he saved 77 lives) is described, as their inspiration for the device.
Having established that the similarities between Morris’ semi-fictionalized biography and Voll’s story are remarkable but not, when you get right down to it, all that suspect, Lizza goes on to observe “more serious problems” — that Morris has played fast and loose with certain facts about a real-life rescue recounted in a newspaper clipping mentioned in the Wills book.
Morris, it turns out, is guilty of a “slightly inaccurate” description of the article, which sported a mere one-column headline instead of an “eighteen-point banner.” Morris also messed around with the truth by having his fake narrator give the fake name of Jim Raider to the Dixon Evening Telegraph reporter who covered the rescue — even though Jim Raider was in fact an actual person rescued by Reagan. Instead, Morris (who told Lizza that he’d tried in vain to track down the real Jim Raider) has the fake Edmund Morris falsely call himself by the name of a fake character (“Jim Raider, Rocketeer”) in a fake novel by himself, the fake narrator of “Dutch.” Whew! It’s a scenario that would’ve done Philip K. Dick proud.
What all this adds up to, Lizza concludes, is that despite the assertion in “Dutch” that the “thoughts and acts” of “every historical character in the text” are “matters of fact and of record,” in the case of the elusive if not especially significant Raider, they’re not. To the widespread critical perception that “Dutch” looks kind of fishy in general, Lizza makes the contribution that it also looks kind of fishy up close. And anyone reputed to have received a $3 million advance for the book in question can expect to have that pointed out over and over again.
More Related Stories
- Cannes: Ryan Gosling's new movie draws the boo-birds
- Radio host tweets rape joke, blames journalists for reporting on it
- Juror responds to Joe Francis' insults with thoughtful email
- New track from the Lonely Island features Solange Knowles, semicolons
- Amazon introduces fan fiction publishing platform
- Naomi Watts, "Argo," "Wonderstone" among bizarre Teen Choice Awards nominees
- Imprisoned Pussy Riot member declares hunger strike
- The camp-free "Behind the Candelabra"
- Justin Bieber will destroy you if you live-tweet his parties
- Marc Maron on Twitter feud with Michael Ian Black: "We have an understanding"
- "Girls Gone Wild" creator Joe Francis to jury: "You should be euthanized"
- Ai Weiwei releases heavy metal music video
- Actually, Beyoncé is a feminist
- Marc Maron and Michael Ian Black's epic Twitter battle
- Cannes: Directing 101 with James Franco
- Welcome to the jungle: The definitive oral history of '80s metal
- Burt Bacharach opens up on daughter's suicide
- Steven Spielberg to produce "Halo" television series
- Amazon set to launch fine-art gallery
- Twitter torches Dan Brown's "Inferno"
- Brad Pitt keeps breaking his silence on how boring marriage to Jennifer Aniston was
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11