Working by Robert Caro [9/10]

Robert Caro has written arguably the most magnificent biography of all time, though when I say “written,” he’s produced four volumes of his “Year of Lyndon Johnson Series,” and we’re eagerly awaiting the next one set during LBJ’s presidency. He also claims to want to write a full autobiography but, aged 83, has in the meantime produced a spellbinding collection of memoir-type essays called “Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing.” Perhaps you need to be interested in how history can be written to appreciate this. I like to think anyone will sink into it like I did and simply marvel at his tales of an obsessive, perfectionist craftsman. He describes breakthrough interviews with LBJ’s irascible brother, his secret backer, his vote fraud bagman, his driver, his widow. He mesmerises by describing how he learned about the two places LBJ inhabited most, the original Texan Hill Country, and the Capitol. If Caro seems to imply LBJ was a villain, just read the chapter on how he fooled the southern politicians to bring in the most far-reaching civil rights legislation ever achieved in the United States, i.e. he was also a hero. Caro’s modest discourse on the hardships he endured over nearly half a century of bio writing is also wonderful. Reading “Working” is inspiring and revelatory.

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