Monday, July 20, 2009
Last week I finished The Power Broker, Robert Caro's 1974 biography of Robert Moses. I started reading it because there is a character in my forthcoming novel Boxer, Beetle loosely based on Moses, but of course I wouldn't have spent 18 months getting through a 1,200 page book just to research a minor character unless the book had been rewarding in its own right. In fact, it is not just one of the best books I've ever read, it's probably one of the most rewarding experiences of any kind I've ever had in my life. There are a tremendous number of things I would like to say about it, but for the moment I'm just going to link to this great, lengthy conversation between Caro and Kurt Vonnegut from 1999. It includes an anecdote about how, when Caro had trouble getting Lyndon Johnson's brother Sam Houston to be frank about his early life, he took him back to a precise replica of his boyhood home that was maintained by the National Park Service, sat him down in his accustomed seat at the dining room table, and got him talking! Now that is journalism. And also quite creepy.