Pulitzer : a life in politics, print, and power

by James McGrath Morris

Hardcover, 2010




New York : Harper, [2010]

Media reviews

6 more
No doubt I will not be the only one to remark upon the timing of this excellent book: a thorough, possibly definitive biography of the man who shaped the modern newspaper more than anyone else -- being published at the precise moment when the modern newspaper is staring into the abyss. ... There have been other biographies of Pulitzer, most notably W.A. Swanberg's published in 1967, but James McGrath Morris's is the best. It is authoritative, lucid and fair ...
Associated Press
The drama of Pulitzer's own life story rivals any that might appear in his news pages.
Booklist (starred review)
"Morris deftly outlines the transformations of this era by focusing on Pulitzer's own story...The most fascinating part of the biography, though, is Morris' depiction of the blindness that beset Pulitzer at the height of his fame...Morris gives a fascinating portrayal of the man, his era, and his long-ranging impact."
Library Journal (Starred Review)
"Morris presents a colorful and critical account of the life of Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911) and Pulitzer's transformative use of the press in his battles for reform...this book offers new insights derived in part from previously unpublished sources from Pulitzer's brother and wife (to her lover), both providing enriched context for Pulitzer's often turbulent family life...With breezy prose style and expository endnotes taking earlier secondary sources to account, this is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for both casual readers and students of the history of American journalism between the Civil War and World War I."
Kirkus Reviews
A substantial, balanced biography of a complicated, mesmerizing figure who embodied both the American Dram and the American Nightmare...Morris aptly depicts a volatile, irascible, impulsive, unscrupulous man who betrayed and subverted his brother, verbally abused his wife and children, preached democracy, practiced autocracy and believed fervently that he was never wrong. A Horatio Alger tale shaded with Shakespearean darkness."

User reviews

LibraryThing member NewsieQ
The name “Pulitzer” is familiar because of the journalism awards given annually in his name. James McGrath Morris fleshes out Joseph Pulitzer, whose own contributions to journalism might never have won one of his prizes. He started out as a penniless Hungarian immigrant, traveling to America as a mercenary soldier during the Civil War, and became one of the richest men in America – able to float a 300’ yacht with a crew in the dozens, a retinue of attendants to meet his personal needs and enough fuel to keep him on the high seas for weeks.

He spent much of his life having only one living relative from his birth family, a younger brother he pretty much ignored – plus a wife he took great pains to avoid (except to harangue her about money); and a passel of children (so we know he didn’t ignore his wife entirely) whom he alternately neglected and bullied.

And Pulitzer certainly wasn’t any more benevolent to the people who worked for him. He could, even by long distance, keep them under his thumb – he was one of the first great micromanagers – and terrify grown men with his capricious nastiness. His feuds with fellow media baron William Randolph Hearst (which brought the term “yellow journalism” to us) and President Theodore Roosevelt are the stuff of legends.

So, Joseph Pulitzer wasn’t a man we’d invite over for an evening of dinner and pinochle. Nevertheless, James McGrath Morris does a wonderful job of ferreting out details that make his subject come alive for readers. I’ve read a lot of biographies of media types, and Pulitzer is right up there with the best of them. How he parlayed his small pile of money into ownership of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (which turned out a tidy profit every year and benefited by being left alone by the boss) and the New York World and Evening World is fascinating stuff.
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LibraryThing member applemcg
this is the age my grandfather grew from; more later when i finish the book; initial reaction: good book, unpleasant man!
LibraryThing member Athenable
Update: one of the best books I've read in a long time. Pulitzer shaped this country with his sharp intelligence and insistence on journalistic independence. I highly recommend it to biography lovers and anyone who wants to understand that time in America's history.

I won a copy through First Reads and it arrived today! I've just started it, but so far it's an entertaining, informative read. Looking forward to more of the same.… (more)
LibraryThing member JBD1
An excellent biography of Pulitzer, whose life makes for totally engrossing reading (though he seemed like a total pill). The author's deep and thorough research is obvious, but the book remains thoroughly readable.



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