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Thursday, August 04, 2016

I've read the Ring Cycle of political biographies. Do I get a badge?

Robert Caro started writing 'The Years Of Lyndon Johnson" in the early 80s. His plan was to be able to cover the President's whole life and times in three volumes. Then he decided that wasn't enough. He's now published four volumes and is working on a fifth. I first tried reading it in the early 90s and gave up. In fact I even took one volume to the charity shop in one of my periodic attempts to thin out my books.

Earlier this year, encouraged by having read a few other presidential biographies, I bought the volumes I didn't have and on holiday I just finished reading the fourth, "The Passage Of Power". The third volume, "Master of The Senate", was so heavy that I bought a book stand to hold it as I read it. And guess what? It's an extraordinary piece of work. I can't wait for volume five, but I'm clearly going to have to.

I'm not going to recommend you should read it because I wouldn't want anyone to make that kind of commitment on my recommendation. I was discussing this with a friend while on holiday. My spirit increasingly rebels when people say "you must read this" or "you have to watch that." You should read or listen to or watch whatever gives you most pleasure. However, if you are in the market for 3,000 plus pages about the life and times of a man who was not all that pleasant but achieved a lot more than most of his better-known peers, here it is.