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Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnsonby Robert A. Caro
Synopses & Reviews
"The main emotion that the reader, or at least one reader, comes away with is anger: anger at a government that for so long could tolerate a body of leaders who succeeded at stalling the cause of reform in this country, and anger at a citizenry that also would allow such a government to rule them. If nothing else, Caro has given concrete illustrations of how democracy can go awry in the hands of selfish, power-hungry men." D. K. Holm, Powells.com (read the entire Powells.com review)
The political biography of our time, now available in a four-volume hardcover set. Robert A. Caro’s life of Lyndon Johnson is one of the richest, most intensive and most revealing examinations ever undertaken of an American president. It is the magnum opus of a writer perfectly suited to his task: the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer-historian, chronicler also of Robert Moses in The Power Broker, whose inspired research and profound understanding of the nature of ambition and the dynamics of power have made him a peerless explicator of political lives.
“Taken together the installments of Mr. Caro’s monumental life of Johnson . . . form a revealing prism by which to view the better part of a century in American life and politics during which the country experienced tumultuous and divisive social change. . .Gripping.” --Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“By writing the best presidential biography the country has ever seen, Caro has forever changed the way we think, and read, American history . . . It’s his immense talent as a writer that has made his biography of Johnson one of America’s most amazing literary achievements . . . As absorbing as a political thriller . . .A masterpiece, unlike any other work of American history published in the past. It’s true that there will never be another Lyndon B. Johnson, but there will never be another Robert A. Caro, either.” –NPR
“One of the truly great political biographies of the modern age. A masterpiece” --The Times (London)
The Path to Power reveals the genesis of the almost superhuman drive, energy, and urge to power that set LBJ apart. Chronicling the startling early emergence of Johnson’s political genius, it follows him from his Texas boyhood through the years of the Depression in the Texas Hill Country to the triumph of his congressional debut in New Deal Washington, to his heartbreaking defeat in his first race for the Senate, and his attainment, nonetheless of the national power for which he hungered.
National Book Critics Circle Award in Nonfiction
Means of Ascent follows Johnson through his service in World War II to the foundation of his long-concealed fortune and the facts behind the myth he created about it. The explosive heart of the book is Caro’s revelation of the true story of the fiercely contested 1948 senatorial election, which Johnson had to win or face certain political death, and which he did win--by “87 votes that changed history.” Caro makes us witness to a momentous turning point in American politics; the tragic last stand of the old politics versus the new—the politics of issue versus the politics of image, mass manipulation, money and electronic dazzle.
National Book Critics Circle Award in Biography
Master of the Senate carries Johnson’s story through his twelve remarkable years in the Senate. It is an unprecedented revelation of how legislative power works in America, how the Senate works, and how Johnson, in his ascent to the presidency, mastered the Senate as no political leader before him had ever done. In a breathtaking tour de force, Caro details Johnson’s amazing triumph in maneuvering to passage the first civil rights legislation since 1875.
Pulitzer Prize in Biography
Los Angeles Times Book Award in Biography
National Book Award in Nonfiction
The Passage of Power is an unparalleled account of the battle between Johnson and John Kennedy for the 1960 presidential nomination, of the machinations behind Kennedy’s decision to offer Johnson the vice presidency, of Johnson’s powerlessness and humiliation in that role, and of the savage animosity between Johnson and Robert Kennedy. In Caro’s description of the Kennedy assassination, which The New York Times called “the most riveting ever,” we see the events of November 22, 1963, for the first time through Lyndon Johnson’s eyes. And we watch as his political genius enables him to grasp the reins of the presidency with total command and, within weeks, make it wholly his own, surmounting unprecedented obstacles in order to fulfill the highest purpose of the office.
National Book Critics Circle Award in Biography
“Brilliant . . . Important . . . Remarkable … In sparkling detail, Caro shows Johnson’s genius for getting to people—friends, foes, and everyone in between—and how he used it to achieve his goals…With this fascinating and meticulous account, Robert Caro has once again done America a great service.”— President Bill Clinton, The New York Times Book Review (front cover)
“The politicians’ political book of choice…An encyclopedia of dirty tricks that would make Machiavelli seem naïve.” London Literary Review
“Making ordinary politics and policymaking riveting and revealing is what makes Caro a genius. Combined with his penetrating insight and fanatical research, Caro’s Churchill-like prose elevates the life of a fairly influential president to stuff worthy of Shakespeare. . .Robert Caro stands alone as the unquestioned master of the contemporary American political biography.” The Boston Globe
"Although Caro grudgingly acknowledges Johnson's achievements, the real juice of this book lies in his tales of Johnson's underhanded and self-serving behavior. Unlike some biographers (David McCullough, for example, who seems to fall in love with the presidents he chronicles), Caro is fatally attracted to the kind of man he can hate. Nothing gets his Oedipal adrenaline going like a successful, powerful man of great accomplishment and impure heart. Especially if that man is a liberal. Character flaws are Caro's specialty." Ronald Steele, Atlantic Monthly (read the entire Atlantic review)
Book News Annotation:
Those who caught the first two volumes of Caro's massive work on Lyndon Johnson won't wait long before devouring the third; those who wish to begin with the third volume can do so. Drawing on meticulous research and writing with a fine smooth style, Caro covers events and activities between 1949 and 1960, the 12 years Johnson was a Senator.
Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Book Three of Robert A. Caros monumental work, The Years of Lyndon Johnson—the most admired and riveting political biography of our era—which began with the best-selling and prizewinning The Path to Power and Means of Ascent.
Master of the Senate carries Lyndon Johnsons story through one of its most remarkable periods: his twelve years, from 1949 to 1960, in the United States Senate. At the heart of the book is its unprecedented revelation of how legislative power works in America, how the Senate works, and how Johnson, in his ascent to the presidency, mastered the Senate as no political leader before him had ever done.
It was during these years that all Johnsons experience—from his Texas Hill Country boyhood to his passionate representation in Congress of his hardscrabble constituents to his tireless construction of a political machine—came to fruition. Caro introduces the story with a dramatic account of the Senate itself: how Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, and John C. Calhoun had made it the center of governmental energy, the forum in which the great issues of the country were thrashed out. And how, by the time Johnson arrived, it had dwindled into a body that merely responded to executive initiatives, all but impervious to the forces of change. Caro anatomizes the genius for political strategy and tactics by which, in an institution that had made the seniority system all-powerful for a century and more, Johnson became Majority Leader after only a single term—the youngest and greatest Senate Leader in our history; how he manipulated the Senates hallowed rules and customs and the weaknesses and strengths of his colleagues to change the “unchangeable” Senate from a loose confederation of sovereign senators to a whirring legislative machine under his own iron-fisted control.
Caro demonstrates how Johnsons political genius enabled him to reconcile the unreconcilable: to retain the support of the southerners who controlled the Senate while earning the trust—or at least the cooperation—of the liberals, led by Paul Douglas and Hubert Humphrey, without whom he could not achieve his goal of winning the presidency. He shows the dark side of Johnsons ambition: how he proved his loyalty to the great oil barons who had financed his rise to power by ruthlessly destroying the career of the New Dealer who was in charge of regulating them, Federal Power Commission Chairman Leland Olds. And we watch him achieve the impossible: convincing southerners that although he was firmly in their camp as the anointed successor to their leader, Richard Russell, it was essential that they allow him to make some progress toward civil rights. In a breathtaking tour de force, Caro details Johnsons amazing triumph in maneuvering to passage the first civil rights legislation since 1875.
Master of the Senate is told with an abundance of rich detail that could only have come from Caros peerless research—years immersed in the worlds of Johnson and the United States Senate, examining thousands of documents and talking to hundreds of people, from pages and cloakroom clerks to senators and administrative aides. The result is both a galvanizing portrait of the man himself—the titan of Capitol Hill, volcanic, mesmerizing—and a definitive and revelatory study of the workings of personal and legislative power. It is a work that displays all the acuteness of understanding and narrative brilliance that led the New York Times to call Caros The Path to Power “a monumental political saga . . . powerful and stirring.”
About the Author
Robert A. Caro, who has won two Pulitzer Prizes, was graduated from Princeton University, was for six years an award-winning investigative reporter for Newsday, and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University.
To create The Power Broker, Caro spent seven years tracing and talking with hundreds of men and women who had worked with, for or against Robert Moses, and examining mountains of files never before opened to the public. The Power Broker won both the Pulitzer Prize for Biography and the Francis Parkman Prize, awarded by the Society of American Historians for the book that “exemplifies the union of the historian and the artist.” It was chosen by the Modern Library as one of the hundred greatest nonfiction books of the twentieth century.
To research The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Caro and his wife, Ina, moved from his native New York City to the Texas Hill Country and then to Washington, D.C., to live in the locales in which Johnson grew up and in which he built, while still young, his first political machines. He has spent years examining documents at the Johnson Library in Austin and interviewing men and women connected with Johnson’s life, many of whom had never before been interviewed. The first volume of the Johnson work, The Path to Power, won the National Book Critics Circle Award as the best nonfiction work of 1982. The second volume, Means of Ascent, won the National Book Critics Circle Award for 1990. In preparation for writing Master of the Senate, the third volume, Caro immersed himself in the world of the United States Senate, spending week after week in the gallery, in committee rooms, in the Senate Office Building, and interviewing hundreds of people, from pages and cloakroom clerks to senators and administrative aides. Master of the Senate won the 2002 National Book Award for Nonfiction and the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Biography.
Among the numerous other awards Caro has won are the H. L. Mencken Award, the Carr P. Collins Award from the Texas Institute of Letters and an Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.
Visit his website at http://www.robertacaro.com/
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