People are abuzz about the New York Times Magazine profile of Robert Caro, biographer of Lyndon Johnson, which somehow makes exciting the details of the exhaustive research Caro undertook to better understand his subject through the five volume, decades-long project. In a paragraph of prose that reads a bit like Caro's own, The Times' Charles McGrath writes:
Caro has learned about Johnson’s rages, his ruthlessness, his lies, his bribes, his insecurities, his wheedling, his groveling, his bluster, his sycophancy, his charm, his kindness, his streak of compassion, his friends, his enemies, his girlfriends, his gofers and bagmen, his table manners, his drinking habits, even his nickname for his penis: not Johnson, but Jumbo.
Jumbo? That bizarre little fact (which we'd forgotten from the first volume, which appeared in 1982) really is a testament to the insane amount of colorful details that Caro gets into his books, and this profile helps feed the hunger we feel for more bits of Caro-gossip, (nerd alert!) what with our appetite re-whetted by the excerpt that appeared in The New Yorker from the upcoming volume on Johnson's vice presidency. You really ought to get your hands on that excerpt, about the day Kennedy was shot, because it's absolutely riveting.
But first, read McGrath's take on Caro, if only because he somehow made engaging the profile of a guy who spends most of his hours sitting in an office writing on a legal pad. That's hard work!
Updated note: It's also worth drawing attention to Esquire's similarly long, similarly detailed profile of Caro which has come out on the very same day as McGrath's, but has so far, gotten a bit less attention. So much Caro! In fact, a lot of the details, down to the quotes Caro and his associates give the writers, are similar, but this one is written a bit more breathlessly. If you're really in the mood, read both, but you can't really go wrong reading either of them alone.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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