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Waiting (Impatiently) On Robert Caro To Finish Beloved Series

February 23, 2019


I made room on my bookshelves, in the appropriate place, for the fifth volume in the Robert Caro series about the life and times of Lyndon Baines Johnson.  The fourth volume came out in 2012.  The first book in the series was published in 1981.  The space allotted is wide enough for another 800 page treasure.   And treasures, they are!  Millions of readers can attest to that fact.

I was just entering broadcasting school when Caro alerted the world to his research talents and powerful skills narrating the LBJ story.  I then worked in radio broadcasting, a decade in the Wisconsin State Capitol, met the the love of my life now in its 19th year, and still there is no final volume of the must-read series.

I understand the extent to which Caro makes every effort to get his conclusions correct.  He lived for months at a time in the Texas Hill Country so to better explain and feel the climate and geographic features which impacted Johnson.  Each step along the way Caro dives deep so to convey the very essence of what made Johnson, and in turn what Johnson made of his life.   I do appreciate the all-out manner which Caro goes to in order to present the multi-faceted Johnson to his readers.

But I do wonder about the final volume.

This morning on the bottom half of The Wall Street Journal the headline read, Robert Caro Has Chronicled LBJ For Decades.  Fans Fret He Will Never Finish.  

Caro at age 83 allows us room to ponder that headline.  Another book by Caro, Working, is slated for release this spring.  That book is about the way he researched, reported, and wrote his Johnson books.  I am thrilled to read background having often commented about the depth of research that makes the LBJ books the most impressive biography series ever published.  As soon as the news of Working was made available James pre-ordered the book from Amazon.

That is all fine and dandy, as the saying goes.  But what about the fifth volume of the series, that in 1981, rocked the publishing world on the one hand, and readers of history and politics on the other?  As the Journal quoted Paul Bogaards, a Knopf spokesman, “This is the literary equivalent of the Sistine Chapel, although Michelangelo was probably a faster painter than Caro is a writer”. 

I love Caro, and Lord knows what a conversation could be had were he to stop by for a cup of coffee!  But if that were to limit his efforts at making sure the LBJ Vietnam War years were to finish ‘on time’ then I  would do the following.   Still have him over and chat–but just give him a smaller mug so to move him along for the task that needs completing. 

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