Using Bees To Effect Vengeance

I get to be as self-indulgent as I want without wasting anyone's time. Guilt-free solipsism -- excellent!

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Friday, August 26, 2005
My blog juices are flowing thanks to Ranh-Ranh, so I thought I would come clean on my newest celebrity crush. Say hello to Robert Caro:

Robert Caro is the author of a truly enormous three-volume biography of Lyndon Baines Johnson (The Path To Power, Means of Ascent, Master Of The Senate), and I have spent the last few months making my way through this torrent of words. I am currently bedded down about 400 pages into Vol. 3 and LBJ has just been elected to the Senate (Vol.4 has yet to be completed, but will pick up with his election to the Vice-Presidency...surely there will need to be a Vol. 5 as well?). It is easily the most remarkable biography I have ever read.

LBJ is a fascinating subject, to be sure, but the biography also encompasses a history of modern political campaigning, a history of Central Texas (as a resident of Central Texas, not a day goes by that I'm not confronted by an example of his handiwork, even it's just walking down Congress Avenue and spotting the building from which he conducted his Austin affairs), a study of the United States Senate, a profile of how power is gathered in 20th century America, a history of the New Deal and, I am assured, a history of the civil rights movement. I find myself applying lessons and insights from this book in my work, in the way I think about current events...shoot, in my whole durn weltaunschaung.

The level of research involved is simply breathtaking -- Caro knows what color shirts people wore, the placement on the page of key post-it notes, telling details of conversations that surely no-one could have heard...and best of all (SWOON! goes my amateur historian heart) it's all footnoted. He's a virtuoso, and I am humbled by his achievement.

Long may you live, Robert Caro! You are in my prayers each night, as I will not be able to deal if you die before completing this project. You keep publishing 'em, we'll keep awarding them Pulitzer Prizes.


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