Magazine article Book

Mastering Johnson: Lyndon Johnson Has Consumed More Than a Quarter-Century of Robert Caro's Life. So What's a Few More Years? (Biography).(Brief Article)(Critical Essay)

Magazine article Book

Mastering Johnson: Lyndon Johnson Has Consumed More Than a Quarter-Century of Robert Caro's Life. So What's a Few More Years? (Biography).(Brief Article)(Critical Essay)

Article excerpt

ROBERT CARO HAS BEEN RUNNING behind schedule for the last thirty ears. It may just be the secret to his success. The story started back in the 1960s, when Caro assured friends it would take him just nine months to write his first book. The author even swore to his wife, Ina, that they'd finally have a chance to visit Paris after he was finished.

That book, the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, took Caro seven years to complete. Now that the author has written three volumes of his epic biography of Lyndon Baines Johnson, which began with 1982's The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power, he's no longer surprised when he misses a deadline. He expects it.

"Each book has required me to learn another world," explains Caro, who once predicted that Master of the Senate, the forthcoming installment, would hit the presses a couple of years after 1990's Means of Ascent. Adds Caro's editor Robert Gottlieb, "Caro just works harder and longer and gets it right."

Whether Caro "gets it right" has been a matter of debate among Johnson loyalists, who have accused the author of harboring a bias against his subject. "Reviewers have said that my work is more balanced and judicious," explains Robert Dallek, author of a two-volume LBJ biography, "but Caro's clearly a brilliant writer. He engages his reader in a way that I don't have the talent or the inclination to do."

To get a better sense of his subject, Caro repeatedly traveled to Washington, where he mingled with those who had played behind-the-scenes roles during Johnson's ascent. …

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