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Sunday, October 30, 2016

Thought-provoking views of power

 “I am trying to make clear through my writing something which I believe: that biography- history in general- can be literature in the deepest and highest sense of that term.” – Robert Caro

Caro, born on this date in 1935, is best known for his celebrated biographies of United States political figures Robert Moses and Lyndon B. Johnson.  In a few days (Nov. 6th) he will receive the National Book Award medal for lifetime achievement.

A native of New York City, Caro started in journalism while studying at Princeton University.  He began his professional career as a reporter with the New Brunswick (N.J.) Daily Home News, and from there he went on to six years as an investigative reporter with the Long Island newspaper Newsday.

After working for many years as a reporter, Caro came in contact with urban planner Moses and the influence he had on numerous projects in New York City and the state of New York.  Fascinated by Moses’ power, he wrote The Power Broker in 1974.   The book not only rose to the top of most best-seller lists, but also was chosen by the Modern Library as one of the hundred greatest nonfiction books of the 20th Century.    He has since written four of a planned five volumes of The Years of Lyndon Johnson (1982, 1990, 2002, 2012), a biography of the former president.   For his biographies, he has won almost every possible literary award including two Pulitzer Prizes in Biography and the National Book Award for The Power Broker.
While the Johnson books have received numerous                  
 accolades too, it is The Power Broker that is widely viewed as a seminal work because it combined painstaking historical research with a smoothly flowing narrative writing style.  

 Lauded for his exploration of how power both shapes lives and shapes decisions, he noted, “I never wanted to do biography just to tell the life of a famous man.  I always wanted to use the life of a man to examine political power, because democracy shapes our lives.”

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