MASTER OF THE SENATE

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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.

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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.

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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.

2 thoughts on “MASTER OF THE SENATE

  1. I love it that you love this series. I read excerpts from what must have been the first volume, in The Atlantic Monthly – or was it Harpers? – in the mid-80’s. In ’99 when I had a kidney stone I remembered Caro’s account of the gallstone-stricken Johnson refusing to come off the campaign trail. Gallstones are supposed to hurt even more than kidney stones. The man had . . .er, stones.

    Democracy In America is a book I feel sheepish about having picked up once or twice but never finished. I may need a non-fiction book club.

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