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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Okay, be Honest

posted by on November 28 at 11:04 AM


Has anyone actually read this book…for real…cover to cover? It won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize in biography and the 2003 National Book Award, but I don’t believe anyone has actually ever read it.

I bought the hard cover when it came out and tried to read it. I stalled around page 100 (it’s 1100 pages.) Caro was laying out the history of the U.S. Senate and LBJ hadn’t been mentioned yet.

I picked it back up again last night and stalled yet again as, still no sign of LBJ, Caro was discussing the infirmities of aged Senators.

This book is impossible to read. No one has read it.

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Actually, yes, I have read that book from front to back. LBJ gets involved eventually. He does a lot of chest poking.

Posted by formerseattlite | November 28, 2006 11:11 AM

I read it. And I ain't so special.

Posted by Boomer | November 28, 2006 11:23 AM

The local library has it on CD. Next long road trip...

Posted by Some Jerk | November 28, 2006 11:59 AM

The local library has it on CD.

Not only does this mean someone's read it, it means someone's read it OUT LOUD.

(Or at least a still-substantial abridgement of it.)

Posted by David Schmader | November 28, 2006 12:10 PM

I am waiting for LBJ for Dummies.

Posted by elswinger | November 28, 2006 12:15 PM

I did read it. Best book on Congress, ever. Highly recommended.

Posted by Gizmofo | November 28, 2006 12:32 PM

Michael Shilling has read it.

Posted by SEAN NELSON, EMERITUS | November 28, 2006 1:11 PM

try again Josh. It's awesome. But maybe you should take on Vols. 1 and 2 first. Also awesome. Then, in 2008, report back to us on how it all went.

Posted by fixo | November 28, 2006 1:22 PM

Yep, I've read it, too. Thought it read like a novel once LBJ hit the pages. Once he reached his power zenith, it did become more of a weighty tome. Still think Caro is brilliant writer and worth the effort.

Posted by tanned, rested and ready | November 28, 2006 2:34 PM

This is one of my favorite books of all time. Read all of it three times.

Posted by Whitney | November 28, 2006 2:40 PM

Caro is a good writer and LBJ was a giant the likes of which we haven't seen since. But Caro also writes with a fairly conservative political agenda that minimizes LBJ's real contributions to American society as we know it today. Which weakens his utility.

Frankly, few books should be 1100 pages long. Life is too short.

Posted by surf logs kill | November 28, 2006 3:10 PM

I've read half of it and intend to read the second half. I've read the first two and they are the best introduction to american electoral and legislative politics, at least as practiced mid-century, that I know of. They are best approached in the summer or during an extended break, though. Caro is so painstaking in showing the full context of LBJ's machinations that you have to get up to speed on the picture he is drawing. I stopped reading MoS because a part of me--the part that never took an AfAm course in college--thought I should read Taylor Branch on MLK and civil rights before I finished this.

Posted by RobCrowe | November 28, 2006 3:32 PM

"The Path to Power" and "Means of Ascent" read like novels, fascinatingly full of detail and dish. One can scarcely imagine that Lady Bird put up with LBJ's outrageous shit all of those years. As Jackie once said of Lady Bird: if Lyndon had asked her, she'd have run naked down the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue. However, I've just looked at my "Master of the Senate" and find my bookmark on page xx of the Introduction. A fourth book is in the works and will detail why he finally accepted JFK's veep bid, ignominious as it seemed at the time. Caro also wrote a brilliant biography of Robert Moses, the architect of New York City.

Posted by LBJ: LYNDON'S BIG JOHNSON | November 28, 2006 3:37 PM

4000+ pages on the life of LBJ is ridiculous....God doesn't deserve that long of biography....

and the Robert Moses book was a slog (ha!) too....too many words and too much detail is just as bad as too few words and too little detail..

Posted by michael strangeways | November 28, 2006 4:31 PM

and of course, I left out the 'a' before 'biography' so the ironing is delicious...

Posted by michael strangeways | November 28, 2006 4:33 PM

Yep. Read it. Though I thought you were going to pick on Caro's annoying habit of making his point over and over.

Still, the book eventually gets around to the passing of the first civil rights bill and makes for some interesting reading.

I can see skipping "Master Of The Senate" book but "Means of Ascent" is one of the best books on a campaign I have ever read.

Posted by John Wyble | November 28, 2006 5:14 PM

It's an incredible book and a first-rate introduction to American politics. Yeah, it's long but the subject is worth it. The payoff is a detailed portrait of a master American politician at work.

Yes, LBJ was a shitbag, but he was also a genius at running and exploiting the political system (The first lesson of politics, he said, was that you have to know how to count ... Nancy Pelosi take note).

He did a lot of bad stuff but he also did much good. Only Johnson could have passed civil rights legislation, something he did in the late 1950s (that's the ultimate focus of this book) and again in the 1960s. No one had been able to get civil rights legislation past the Southern senators who controled the Senate since Reconstruction, but Johnson did it.

Read it and learn.

Posted by Prospero | November 28, 2006 6:23 PM

I read this book cover to cover about 2 years ago during the dead of winter, dead broke, no heat, no hot water heater and scrounging for change in my house to buy six packs of 16 ounce Keystone Ice's. Good times.


Posted by Carl | November 28, 2006 7:54 PM

OMG Prospero. "Read it and learn" ?? Duh.
Stop lecturing us, please.
The reason I bought the book ($35) is cuz I wanted the ins and outs of the 1957 civil rights bill. Whatever, flavor flave condescension.

Posted by josh Feit | November 28, 2006 8:06 PM

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