Book Talk: Working by Robert A. Caro
" 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 revealing recollections about his experiences researching and writing his acclaimed books.”
About the book
For the first time in book form, 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; what it felt like 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.
Reviews and What Readers Say
“A short book that packs a big wallop . . . Stunningly incisive . . . James Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson is generally considered to be the finest biography in the English language . . . Robert Caro’s monumental works . . . are every bit as impressive as what Boswell achieved. Even more so, actually. . . Caro’s unrelenting pursuit of facts and his insights will leave you in awe . . . After reading this brief, brilliant book, one can only say, ‘Wow!’”
―Steve Forbes, Forbes Magazine
“Caro brings [Johnson] and his time to life with a set of literary strengths that are very different from each other but closely interlinked: the depth and quality of his research, his narrative gift, and his compassion . . . Compassion drives the research. The analysis, always rigorous, is also human . . . Caro is both historian and creative writer; like Tolstoy, relating his narrative to a single central vision while at the same time, in the words of Isaiah Berlin, pursuing ‘many ends, often unrelated and even contradictory.’ He creates character as a novelist does . . . And the roundness of character extends to a large cast, not just Johnson’s huge, domineering personality but other towering figures as well as ordinary American citizens . . . The result is a great biography that has both historical sweep and a feeling of being of the time . . . Long live Robert Caro.”
―Kevin Stevens, Dublin Review of Books
“ Iridescent, so many brilliant refractions of light from his hard slog of discovering what life has really meant for the people in his narratives, the powerful and the powerless . . . Caro wanted the reader to feel for them, empathize with their ambitions and their torments. At 83, in book after book and now in this semi-memoir, he has succeeded to a breathtaking degree . . . How Caro finds what he needs to know . . . is par for the author’s tenacity, his charm and his investigative genius, no other word for it . . . Nearly 200 years ago, James Madison commanded that a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power that knowledge gives. Robert Caro . . . has performed great deeds in that cause, but he has also measurably enriched our lives with his intellectual rigor, his compassion, his openness, his wit and grace.”
―Harold Evans, The New York Times Book Review
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For his biographies of Robert Moses and Lyndon Johnson, ROBERT A. CARO has twice won the Pulitzer Prize, twice won the National Book Award, three times won the National Book Critics Circle Award, and has also won virtually every other major literary honor, including the Gold Medal in Biography from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Francis Parkman Prize. In 2010, President Barack Obama awarded Caro the National Humanities Medal. Caro graduated from Princeton, was later a Nieman Fellow at Harvard, and worked for six years as an investigative reporter for Newsday. He lives with his wife, the writer Ina Caro, in New York City, where he is at work on the fifth and final volume of The Years of Lyndon Johnson.