"Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan" by Edmund Morris is the only biography ever authorized by a sitting President, yet was written with complete interpretive freedom. Its unconventional style --Morris includes a fictive character in the narrative, who retells long-ago events as if an eyewitness-- has caused heated debates over both its factual accuracy and its legitimacy as a biography.
When Ronald Reagan moved into the White House in 1981, one of his first literary guests was Edmund Morris, the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt." Morris developed a fascination for the genial yet inscrutable President and, after Reagan's landslide reelection in 1984, put aside the second volume of his life of Roosevelt to become an observing eye and ear at the White House.
During thirteen years of obsessive archival research and interviews with Reagan and his family, friends, admirers and enemies (such varied characters as Mikhail Gorbachev, Elie Wiesel, Frangois Mitterrand, Grant Wood, and Zippy the Pinhead), Morris lived what amounted to a doppelgdnger life, studying the young "Dutch," the middle-aged "Ronnie," and the septuagenarian Chief Executive with a closeness and dispassion, not to mention alternations of amusement, horror,and amazed respect, unmatched by any other presidential biographer.
In the following excerpts Edmund Morris reads from "Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan" (Random House) and answers questions about his method and the general reception of the book in an interview.