“One of the great reporters of our time and probably the greatest biographer.” —The Sunday Times (London)
From the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Power Broker and The Years of Lyndon Johnson: an unprecedented gathering of vivid, candid, deeply moving recollections about his experiences researching and writing his acclaimed books.
Now in paperback, Robert Caro gives us a glimpse into his own life and work in these evocatively written, personal pieces. He describes what it was like to interview the mighty Robert Moses and to begin discovering the extent of the political power Moses wielded; the combination of discouragement and exhilaration he felt confronting the vast holdings of the Lyndon B. Johnson Library in Austin, Texas; his encounters with witnesses, including longtime residents wrenchingly displaced by the construction of Moses' Cross-Bronx Expressway and Lady Bird Johnson acknowledging the beauty and influence of one of LBJ's mistresses. He gratefully remembers how, after years of working in solitude, he found a writers' community at the New York Public Library, and details the ways he goes about planning and composing his books.
Caro recalls the moments at which he came to understand that he wanted to write not just about the men who wielded power but about the people and the politics that were shaped by that power. And he talks about the importance to him of the writing itself, of how he tries to infuse it with a sense of place and mood to bring characters and situations to life on the page. Taken together, these reminiscences--some previously published, some written expressly for this book--bring into focus the passion, the wry self-deprecation, and the integrity with which this brilliant historian has always approached his work.
In this superb collection of original and previously published pieces, Pulitzer winner Caro (The Passage of Power) offers a glimpse into the process behind his epic biographies of Robert Moses and Lyndon Johnson. Writing with customary humor, grace, and vigor, Caro wryly acknowledges the question of "Why does it take so long" to produce each book. Caro provides both the short answer intensive research and a longer, illuminating explication of just what that entails. For example, he tracked down individual people displaced by Moses's building projects; he followed the trail of money to uncover how Johnson attained influence in Congress while still a relative unknown; he moved to Johnson's hometown in rural Texas and gained the trust and of its residents, who shared untold stories with him. Caro began his career in journalism and credits his Newsday editor for two crucial pieces of investigative advice: "Turn every page" and find a way to get the information one needs. The results may take longer, but, as readers of Caro's work know, it is always worth the wait. For the impatient, however, this lively combination of memoir and non-fiction writing will help sate their appetite for new writing from Caro until the arrival of his final, still-in-progress Johnson biography.
This book worked and I would highly recommend it.
In a world of superficial ephemeral nonsense, Robert Caro’s existence, persistence and intelligence are hopeful indicators that all is not lost. His books, including this one, and the author are cherished treasures.
Great, but ...
It felt like I had read it all before, ironically enough from Caro’s own web site. Look under articles and you have about 2/3 of this book.
On the bright side, at least it can’t have delayed Book 5 too much ... but the same reason he issued this makes me worried about Book 5.