biography, LBJ, Robert A. Caro, The Passage of Power, The Transition, The Years of Lyndon Johnson
I just finished Robert A. Caro’s The Transition, an excerpt* (April 2 The New Yorker ) from his soon to be published fourth volume, The Years of Lyndon Johnson biography.
This excerpt describes the day LBJ took over the Presidency, and, like everything else in Caro’s LBJ biography, it’s a page turner.
If you know the three previous volumes, you know what to to expect from Caro. And he doesn’t disappoint.
If you don’t know Caro or haven’t read any of the LBJ biography, you have a treat in store, a long one. His first volume, The Path to Power came out in 1982 and was about 900 pages. It was a page turner.
The second volume, Means of Ascent, was published in 1990 and was a mere 500 pages. That one too was fascinating, and a ‘quick’ read.
Then 12 years later, 2002, Caro published his mammoth Master of the Senate, a 1200 page work that probably will never be equaled in its understanding of the Senate and of the man who ran it. That one was also hard to put down.
Now he is about to publish his fourth volume, due out May 1, 2012, The Passage of Power, and if the excerpt mentioned above is any indication, Caro, now 76 years of age, hasn’t lost any of his mastery of understanding LBJ, the times he lived, and the details of what he did.
Apparently there is one more volume to come, which will cover the final years of his Presidency.
Please stay healthy Robert Caro. You are a national treasure.
In addition to reading The New Yorker excerpt* while you await the publication of The Passage of Power, here are two recent, lengthy articles about Caro and his work on LBJ.
Robert Caro’s Big Dig, The NY Times Magazine, April 12, 2012
The Big Book, Esquire, May, 2012. (You may have to scroll down to “News & Politics” on the Esquire website and then click on “Chris Jones on Robert Caro and the fourth volume.”)
(* – The New Yorker excerpt requires a subscription to the magazine or its iPad app, tho you can read the Abstract here.)
Bob Thurston said:
I also read and enjoyed that piece on the day LBJ took office. Lots of good insights and new information even for those of us who feel like we’ve rehashed that day ad nauseum. Especially impressive is the sense of an almost magical change in his whole demeanor during this day, how he really took charge physically, seemed to even look different, how he orchestrated things in a rather detailed fashion, etc.
It’s puzzling to me how this stays so fascinating to so many of us– something that happened almost 50 years ago, and we are still hungry for some new way to try to understand it.
My feelings precisely.
Plus, I keep wondering how Caro can get so specific and so detailed in his depictions, etc., especially since he only met LBJ once. The Esquire article (link above) answers some of that — old fashion good reporting, talking to everyone and anyone who was around at the time. If you haven’t read that article, it gives you good insight to how Caro works.
I suspect the fascination we have with something from 50+ years ago is more than ‘it happened’ in our lifetime. Great writing has a way of hooking and holding readers on subjects they may never have even realized they were interested in.