Sunday, August 11, 2019

the last book I ever read (Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert A. Caro, excerpt eleven)

from Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert A. Caro:

Now I’m working on the final volume of the Johnson biography. I was thinking about Winston Churchill recently, because Churchill wrote a biography of his great ancestor, Lord Marlborough, and someone once asked Churchill how it was coming along, and he said, “I’m working on the fourth of a projected three volumes.” I’m not comparing myself to Winston Churchill, of course, but in this one way we’re sort of in the same boat. I’m working on the fifth of a projected three volumes.

The fifth book, in a way, is a coming together of everything I’ve been trying to do, because never has there been a clearer example of the enormous impact—both for good and for ill—that political power has on people’s lives than during the presidency of Lyndon Johnson. On one side, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, a liberal immigration bill, some seventy different education bills—they’re all passed during the 1960s by President Lyndon Johnson. At the same time, Vietnam: that’s a story that comes to swallow up so much else. Vietnam is 58,000 American dead, and more than 288,000 seriously wounded Americans. Thousands have to live without a leg or an arm for the rest of their lives. And we weren’t even focused on post-traumatic stress disorder back then. Thousands—probably tens of thousands—of other men lived all their lives with PTSD. Vietnam—that’s political power too.

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