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Edison-By Edmund Morris


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While my wife complains about the phonographs that I have scattered all over the house, she is always on the look for something to get me that relates to my interests. While we all probably have a few books about Edison, most of us will normally pick the books that relate about him to our interest in photographs. This book touches on them but is really an overlook at his entire life centering most heavily on his middle years. I have a number of books about Edison, but if I was going to have just one, this would be it. 

 

First off,  it has, what has become my favorite picture of Edison. Secondly it was written by Pulitzer Prize winner Edmund Morris who also wrote the Theodore Roosevelt Trilogy which I also have which is a great read. This book was published after Edmund passed away. This book is an easy read (in most cases) and has an amazing amount of information. The bibliography and notes are over 100 pages and have many links and website address's to video's and photo's.

 

I am not a book reviewer, and found only two negatives in my read. Edmund starts at the end of Edison's life and ends when he is a child which made the process of the read strange to me, and a few times he gets bogged down trying to impress the reader with all the technical details of a specific item. But what he does do well to is make aa American icon human by introducing the members of his family, flaws and all and how he deals with them and his own shortcomings.

 

This is a big book, well over 700 pages with notes but a really good read, I am on my second trip through it.

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Tinfoilphono

I agree that it's a very impressive and worthwhile read. There's an incredible amount of detail -- I read things I have never seen anywhere before (but which are well documented here). 

 

I did find a couple of phonograph-related errors (which, alas, I can't now recall), which makes me question some of the other interesting facts.

 

The reverse chronology is my one big complaint. It's jarring, and the decade-by-decade narration is confusing. Next time I read it, I will start at the last chapter and work my way forward.

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I agree with Rene - - it's an important book, but unfortunately (for me anyway), the reverse chronology is a deal-breaker.  My lovely wife got the book at our local library before Christmas (possibly thinking that if I liked it, her shopping list could be shortened).  I read it cover-to-cover, and was pleased when I was finished.  To me it's almost tragic that a potentially monumental book was ruined by what I regard as a useless novelty.  Admittedly, my brain is highly chronological in its storage, and the backward presentation of Edison's life clearly doesn't grate on most others as it does on me.  But it does seem a waste to alienate a portion of the audience for no appreciable reason.

 

I too found a number of surprising errors related to phonographic history, but like Rene, I cannot remember them - other than the consistent misspelling of the word "disk."  This occurred even when discussing the Edison Disc Phonograph.   This of course is minor compared to errors in fact, of which there were several.  I does make one wonder how accurate the rest of the book is.

 

My favorite Edison biography remains A Streak of Luck, by Robert Conot. 

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Mainspring

Such a great book, ruined by the chronology. I recommend it but start at the back, one can only take so much effect and cause.

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I work part time (in my retirement) at a small bookstore in my small town. When the Morris Edison book came out I had to buy it. I was eager to read it, but it took me awhile to get into it. I have to agree that the reverse chronology is a bit jarring but it did not really bother me once I understood what was going on (kind of like King Arthur's Merlin or Benjamin Button).

 

I have had issues with every biography I have ever read about Edison. I find them a bit dry and always have to make myself finish them. This one was no exception. It took me weeks to get through it. But, I would have to say it is a worthwhile book. Some great information by a really great writer. But, there are issues. I think when anyone that is not an expert is a person like Edison and his life and work is going to make mistakes. But, this one does a pretty good job overall and is well researched and documented .  I think anyone that is interested in Edison will find it a worthwhile read.

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Neilvanstem

Wondering if I am only one of very few who do not need to read about Edison! Now band leaders yes. History of different labels yes. Vaudeville encyclopedias too yes. All kinds of books I have but not one on Edison. Never say never. Maybe some day. Not this day though. Neil

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