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Monday, October 30, 2023

Writing literature 'In the deepest and highest sense'

 “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 and as winner of the National Book Award for Lifetime Achievement.  Over his lifetime, Caro has won nearly every major nonfiction writing award.

A native of New York City, Caro 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.

While there, he wrote The Power Broker, a biography of Robert Moses, the New York metropolitan area urban planner.  It was the first of many award-winning books for Caro.   The book not only won a Pulitzer Prize and rose to the top of most best-seller lists, it also was chosen by the Modern Library as one of the hundred greatest nonfiction books of the 20th Century.   Among his other books since then are four of a planned five volumes of The Years of Lyndon Johnson (1982, 1990, 2002, 2012).
While the Johnson books also have received numerous                  
 accolades, 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.  

  “I never wanted to do biography just to tell the life of a famous man.," Caro said.  "I always wanted to use the life of a man to examine political power, because democracy shapes our lives.”

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