Profiles of Robert A. Caro
I never had the slightest interest in writing a book just to tell the story of the life of a great man. What I'm interested in is using those lives to show how political power works. Not the textbook variety — the textbook things we learn in high school and college — but how power really works, the raw, naked reality of political power
BY DAVID MARCHESE
As far as titles go, Robert A. Caro’s “Working” is both humbly straightforward and almost comically understated. Yes, the 83-year-old’s book is a precise and detailed set of recollections about his painstaking, near-mythically thorough job of researching, interviewing, and writing about political figures. But the fruits of that labor aren’t exactly ho-hum. Caro, of course, is responsible for two totems of American political biography: “The Power Broker,” about the New York public servant Robert Moses, responsible for nearly 50 years of sweeping development projects, and “The Years of Lyndon Johnson,” a multivolume account of the life of the 36th president. “Working” isn’t meant to be a career capstone for Caro — he’s still plugging away on a final, feverishly anticipated Johnson book — but it is, he explains, a kind of summation. “I feel that I’ve learned about researching power, about how power is obtained, about power is used and how it’s abused,” Caro says, “and I wanted to share some things.”
BY JAMES SANTEL
Since 1976, Robert Caro has devoted himself to The Years of Lyndon Johnson, a landmark study of the thirty-sixth president of the United States. The fifth and final volume, now underway, will presumably cover the 1964 election, the passage of the Voting Rights Act and the launch of the Great Society, the deepening of America’s involvement in Vietnam, the unrest in the cities and on college campuses, Johnson’s decision not to seek reelection, and his retirement and death—enough material, it would seem, for four additional volumes. If there is a question that annoys Caro more than “Do you like Lyndon Johnson?” it is “When will the next book be published?”
BY JOHN RENTOUL
Robert Caro, author of The Years of Lyndon Johnson, came to the Parliamentary Press Gallery for lunch yesterday. He was greeted with more respect than any visiting politician, with the possible exception of Tony Blair when he addressed Westminster's journalists three years ago.
Robert Caro has spent thirty-eight years writing the biography of one man. The fourth volume of that work, like its three predecessors a giant achievement and certain best seller, is about to be published. But Caro is not done. The world and all that's in it has changed, and still Caro is not done. Time has eaten everything around him, and still he is not done. But until he is done, one part of the world that we will never see again will not die.
BY NICHOLAS VON HOFFMAN
The first volume of Robert Caro’s epic life of Lyndon Johnson was both a definitive act of scholarship and a journalistic sensation. The long-awaited publication this month of volume two, Means of Ascent, proves once again that Caro is a newsmaker and a history breaker. NICHOLAS VON HOFFMAN reports on the man who’s going all the way with L.B.J.
BY STEPHEN HARRIGAN
It was during the 1964 presidential campaign that Caro saw with his own eyes the smothering, grasping, gigantic figure who would ultimately, from beyond the grave, commandeer decades of Caro’s life and thought. Lyndon Johnson was campaigning in New England, and Robert Caro, a young Newsday reporter on urban politics, had been reassigned to cover him.
Robert Caro probably knows more about power, political power especially, than anyone who has never had some. He has never run for any sort of office himself and would probably have lost if he had. He’s a shy, soft-spoken man with old–fashioned manners and an old-fashioned New York accent (he says “toime” instead of “time” and “foine” instead of fine), so self-conscious that talking about himself makes him squint a little. The idea of power, or of powerful people, seems to repel him as much as it fascinates. And yet Caro has spent virtually his whole adult life studying power and what can be done with it