Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Determined Biographer

Many years ago, I read the first hundred pages or so of Robert Caro's mammoth The Power Broker (the equivalent of reading the dedication page of most books), about the "public-works titan" Robert Moses and his impact on New York City. One day, I'll read the whole thing.

Caro, of course, is even better known for his three-volumes-and-counting biography of Lyndon Johnson. He's 73 now, and hard at work on the fourth and final installment. I can't say LBJ interests me enough to make it through four lengthy books, but I do own the first one, which I may get to before too long. We'll see if it sends me along to the second, and so on. This Newsweek profile details, among other things, Caro's strict discipline, which manifests itself in his office and his apartment:
Even Caro's home is governed by a code he created to keep himself productive and sane. The Caros' Upper West Side apartment is filled with books, his collection and hers, but none sit in the dining or living rooms. "When he's at home, he doesn't want to think about his work," Ina explains. Indeed, though they have each devoted their lives to him for more than three decades, the Caros have a policy of not discussing Lyndon Johnson, at dinner or anywhere else. Ina presents her research to Bob in typed reports, which her husband then marks up. "I know what he's looking for without him telling me," she explains. She rarely reads his work until it is in manuscript form.
(Via The Browser)


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