'Truman' book captures the nation's imagination

July 24, 1992|By Knight-Ridder News Service

Journalist-historian David McCullough can't explain why "Truman" (Simon & Schuster), his 1,000-page biography of President Harry Truman, has ignited such attention in summer when the usual fare is light beach reading.

"I think it says something about the country's need to remember and reach out for the solidity and lack of artifice that Truman represented," he said.

The book was nine years in the making and not due out until 1993 when Mr. McCullough went into "white heat, 10 to 12 hours a day, seven days a week" to finish before the 1992 political conventions. "Accomplishing the unexpected by ordinary people has been the underlying theme of the American life from the beginning," he said. "Truman is a metaphor for that kind of experience."

A history teacher, Mr. McCullough, 59, says he's not a fan of historical textbooks. "They take the life out of a subject," he said.

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