Jorge Luis Borges once observed that ideally–given an omniscient observer–”an indefinite, and almost infinite” number of biographies could be written about a man, including “the genealogical biography, the economic biography, the psychiatric biography, the surgical biography, the topographical biography.” These and other types ( e.g., the sexual biography) depicting insignificant personalities roll from the presses at an in exorable rate, multiplying the amount of trivial refuse that threatens to blanket the land. The entrepreneurs who publish the books would probably explain this situation by saying, “There’s a market for biographies.” That may be so, but it isn’t a thorough explanation. For example, consider the story of a man who went around the world five times before airplanes were available, became an engineer, wrote about science and history, was involved in the Boxer Rebellion, helped Americans who found themselves in London when World War I began, and who was involved in many other activities, before age 40, that many of the biographical subjects of today never begin to approach. Curiously, until recently, there was no full-scale biography detailing the life of Herbert Hoover. Perhaps it is because Hoover was such a complex man, far more complicated than movie stars, rock singers, hackwriters, and other current favorites. There is another possibility: Hoover’s ideas about norms and values, and about economics and political philosophy, are too unlike those held by those who operate the locks controlling the flow of information. Dr. George Nash, who produced a book on another subject that many would like to ignore (The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945), has taken on the task of rectifying the situation with regard to Hoover. The volume at hand is the first of at least two, and perhaps three, books. It is scholarly but readable. Importantly, it shows the face of a Herbert Hoover unlike the one popularly described, that of the coldhearted engineer. Who would have ever imagined that that man “shed tears on seeing the beauty of Tintern Abbey”?
January 1984April 21, 2022By The Archive