I just finished this third volume of Robert Caro’s multi-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson. The fourth volume, The Passage Of Power, is now on its way to me. I’ve tried to make my way through the work slowly, to prolong the pleasure, and so I won’t have such a long wait for the fifth and final volume, which won’t be out for several years, but it’s not working out that way. Caro is just too compulsively readable.
The Years Of Lyndon Johnson is like a vast Victorian novel, on a scale that would have daunted even Dickens (though perhaps not Tolstoy). It bristles with life, with amazing characters and amazing incidents and amazing revelations that compel attention. Indeed, if we didn’t have evidence of Caro’s prodigious and meticulous research, we might easily dismiss his work as fiction.
It’s the most important work about the nation since de Tocqueville‘s Democracy In America — a comprehensive education in American institutions, American aspirations, American delusions, American idealism, American skulduggery. Reading it ought to be considered a civic duty — a thoroughly pleasurable civic duty, like watching fireworks on the 4th Of July.