Robert A. Caro knows his final words and is eagerly awaiting the release of his long-awaited book.
Unfortunately, he hasn’t finished his Lyndon B. Johnson series yet, even though he knows them well. Caro also wrote “The Power Broker” and has published four volumes of the “The Years of Lyndon Johnson”, which spanned 40 years. Volume 4 “The Passage of Power” was published in 2012.
It is anticipated that the fifth volume will cover Johnson’s inaugural year as President, 1964. Then, it will continue to his final years of administration, 1969, and his death in four years.
Caro describes the size of the last book as “huge”.
It is difficult to measure his progress because he does not work chronologically. Caro mentioned two years ago that he wrote about 1967. This was a period of rising unrest among Black communities as well as opposition to Vietnam War. Interviewed recently for “Turn Every Page”, a documentary about Robert Gottlieb and Caro, Gottlieb said that he’s currently working on a section about health care for seniors before Johnson signed Medicare and Medicaid Acts in 1965.
Caro always considered his books to be more than a portrait of a person. They were primarily about political power and it’s effects. The Johnson volumes, which include “The Path to Power”, “Means of Ascent”, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning” “Master of the Senate”, total over 4,000 pages. They also feature extensive probes into every aspect of filibusters and the mechanics of stolen elections.
Caro, who is 87 years old, hopes to write about Vietnam War impact on Vietnamese villages for Volume 5. He also still intends to travel to Vietnam to document the trip. This was postponed due to the pandemic. One less well-known moment during Johnson’s presidency was 1965, when more than 22,000 troops were sent to Dominican Republic to stop a communist takeover.
Caro says, “I tell them he sent 23,000 Marines in the Dominican Republic. They say, ‘What?'”
This documentary focuses on Caro’s complicated and long-lasting relationship with Gottlieb. Gottlieb has also been the author of several Nobel laureates, including Doris Lessing and Toni Morrison. After enduring intense battles in the beginning 1970s, the Bobs worked together and created what Caro describes as a smooth editing process. This “shorthand,” Caro says, allows them to go through manuscripts faster.
When asked about why books aren’t out faster, he replied, “You cannot speed up research.”