WHY: “In sparkling prose, Robert Caro — the iconic biographer who has won two Pulitzer Prizes, two National Book Awards, and three National Book Critics Circle Awards, among countless other honors — recounts his path from growing up sheltered in New York City to studying at Princeton, Harvard, and Columbia to unexpectedly becoming a newspaper reporter and deciding to devote his life to writing books…His skill as a biographer, master of compelling prose, appealing self-deprecation, and overall generous spirit shine through on every page.” —KIRKUS, a starred review
“A superb collection of original and previously published pieces.
“Caro offers a glimpse into the process behind his epic biographies of Robert Moses and Lyndon Johnson. Writing with customary humor, grace, and vigor, Caro wryly acknowledges the question of ‘Why does it take so long’ to produce each book. Caro provides both the short answer — intensive research — and a longer, illuminating explication of just what that entails. For example, he tracked down individual people displaced by Moses’s building projects; he followed the trail of money to uncover how Johnson attained influence in Congress while still a relative unknown; he moved to Johnson’s hometown in rural Texas and gained the trust and of its residents, who shared untold stories with him.
“Caro began his career in journalism and credits his Newsday editor for two crucial pieces of investigative advice: ‘Turn every page’ and find a way to get the information one needs. The results may take longer, but, as readers of Caro’s work know, it is always worth the wait. For the impatient, however, this lively combination of memoir and non-fiction writing will help sate their appetite for new writing from Caro until the arrival of his final, still-in-progress Johnson biography.” —PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, a starred and boxed review
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FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE BOOK:
Here’s a book very unlike the others I’ve written — very much shorter, for one thing, as some readers may notice. Its intention is to share some experiences I’ve had while doing the others, and some thoughts I’ve had about what I’ve been trying to do with those books.
It’s not a full-scale memoir. I am, in fact, planning to write such a memoir and readers who prefer longer books will not be unhappy with its length. It will describe in some detail my experiences in researching and writing my books about Robert Moses and Lyndon Johnson; my experiences in learning about these two men and their methods of acquiring and using power; and the efforts that were made to keep me from learning about these men (or their methods). In writing those books, I’ve tried to keep myself out of their narratives, and seem to have done so with such success that over and over again I get asked what it was like to do them. Here we have instead some scattered, almost random glimpses of a few encounters I’ve had while doing the research on the Moses and Johnson books, encounters both with documents and with witnesses. It includes also a few things I’ve learned or discovered, or think I’ve learned or discovered, about the writing of biography and indeed nonfiction in general which I’d like to share or pass along for whatever they’re worth to other writers and to readers interested in nonfiction.