On Our Shelves Now
From the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Power Broker and The Years of Lyndon Johnson: an unprecedented gathering of vivid, candid, deeply revealing recollections about his experiences researching and writing his acclaimed books
For the first time in book form, Robert Caro gives us a glimpse into his own life and work in these evocatively written, personal pieces. He describes what it was like to interview the mighty Robert Moses; what it felt like to begin discovering the extent of the political power Moses wielded; the combination of discouragement and exhilaration he felt confronting the vast holdings of the Lyndon B. Johnson Library in Austin, Texas; his encounters with witnesses, including longtime residents wrenchingly displaced by the construction of Moses' Cross-Bronx Expressway and Lady Bird Johnson acknowledging the beauty and influence of one of LBJ's mistresses. He gratefully remembers how, after years of working in solitude, he found a writers' community at the New York Public Library, and details the ways he goes about planning and composing his books.
Caro recalls the moments at which he came to understand that he wanted to write not just about the men who wielded power but about the people and the politics that were shaped by that power. And he talks about the importance to him of the writing itself, of how he tries to infuse it with a sense of place and mood to bring characters and situations to life on the page. Taken together, these reminiscences--some previously published, some written expressly for this book--bring into focus the passion, the wry self-deprecation, and the integrity with which this brilliant historian has always approached his work.
About the Author
For his biographies of Robert Moses and Lyndon Johnson, ROBERT A. CARO has twice won the Pulitzer Prize, twice won the National Book Award, three times won the National Book Critics Circle Award, and has also won virtually every other major literary honor, including the Gold Medal in Biography from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Francis Parkman Prize. In 2010, President Barack Obama awarded Caro the National Humanities Medal. Caro graduated from Princeton, was later a Nieman Fellow at Harvard, and worked for six years as an investigative reporter for Newsday. He lives with his wife, the writer Ina Caro, in New York City, where he is at work on the fifth and final volume of The Years of Lyndon Johnson.
“Iridescent, so many brilliant refractions of light from his hard slog of discovering what life has really meant for the people in his narratives, the powerful and the powerless . . . Caro wanted the reader to feel for them, empathize with their ambitions and their torments. At 83, in book after book and now in this semi-memoir, he has succeeded to a breathtaking degree . . . How Caro finds what he needs to know . . . is par for the author’s tenacity, his charm and his investigative genius, no other word for it . . . Nearly 200 years ago, James Madison commanded that a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power that knowledge gives. Robert Caro . . . has performed great deeds in that cause, but he has also measurably enriched our lives with his intellectual rigor, his compassion, his openness, his wit and grace.” —Harold Evans, The New York Times Book Review (cover)
“Riveting . . . Working complements and enriches our understanding of Caro’s life’s work . . . Endless research is only the start. What makes his books so remarkable is Caro’s polished and repolished literary style. Writing was easy. What mattered was thinking carefully about every phrase, every word. ” —Richard Lambert, Financial Times
“America’s biographer-in-chief . . . charts his own extraordinary life . . . The most delicious parts are behind-the-scenes snippets from interviews . . . Fellow journalists will delight in intrepid shoe-leather escapades.” —Aryn Braun, The Economist
“Insightful . . . A look at the writing craft from a true master of the form.” —Mackenzie Dawson, The New York Post
“Priceless. Legendary for his relentless research and bloodhound-like tracking of elusive facts, Caro explains how he does it . . . Fascinating and inspiring . . . A master class in research, reporting, and writing.” —Dennis J. McGrath, Minneapolis Star Tribune
“An inspiring window into the seemingly superhuman reporting, researching, writing, patience, and above all, will-power that have empowered Caro’s reinvention of the political biography and history genre . . . Working weaves through Caro’s career and provides the backstory of some of his best chapters . . . A reporter, author, or researcher will come away from this book armed with several new approaches to fact-finding and writing.” —Scott Detrow, NPR
“Robert Caro is one of the most respected historians of our time. His memoir is a masterclass in how great books are built, and is peppered with great anecdotes about people of power.” —Town & Country
“America’s most honored biographer . . . has paused in the work of the final volume [of The Years of Lyndon Johnson] to publish a conversational, behind-the-scenes compendium addressing the questions he hears most often, starting with, Why do your books take so long to write?” —Karl Vick, Time
“An invaluable how-to for aspiring nonfiction writers and journalists. It’s an intimate glimpse into the anxieties and painstaking sacrifices that go into the ridiculously in-depth reporting Caro has made his name on.” —Quinn Myers, Chicago Review of Books
“Robert Caro is brimming with wonderful advice about researching, interviewing, and writing . . . I was thrilled to devour Working in one sitting.” —Devon Ivie, Vulture
“This engrossing and unexpectedly moving essay collection fully illuminates why and how Caro has spent so many years working on his massive, contextually intricate, and courageous biographies . . . masterpieces of fact-gathering, analysis, and artistry. In humorous, rueful, often flat-out astonishing anecdotes, he recounts his early newspaper days and the sense of mission that drove him, with the unshakable support of his historian wife and investigative partner, Ina, to devote his life to the daunting task of illuminating the nature and impact of political power. As he elucidates his commitment to creating biographical history of conscience and resonance, Caro affirms the larger significance of factual precision, empathy, and expressive verve.”
“Superb . . . Writing with customary humor, grace, and vigor, Caro wryly acknowledges the question ‘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 . . . 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 . . . ”
—Publishers Weekly (starred and boxed)
“The iconic biographer . . . offers wisdom about researching and writing . . . In sparkling prose, Caro . . . 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 . . . The author shares fascinating insights into his research process in archives; his information-gathering in the field, such as the Texas Hill Country; his interviewing techniques; his practice of writing the first draft longhand; and his ability to think deeply about his material. Caro also offers numerous memorable anecdotes . . . Caro’s skill as a biographer, master of compelling prose, appealing self-deprecation, and overall generous spirit shine through on every page.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred)