Tuesday, August 6, 2019

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

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

Part of the problem, I came to realize, was that they had talked to too many people like me. During Lyndon Johnson’s presidency, journalists from all over the United States, from every major magazine and newspaper and a lot of minor ones, too, had come to the Hill Country, had spent three or four days there (or even a week), and had gone home to explain this remote place to the rest of America. Hill Country people had a name for them: “portable journalists.” They basically thought I was a portable journalist too.

I said to Ina, “I’m not understanding these people and therefore I’m not understanding Lyndon Johnson. We’re going to have to move to the Hill Country and live there.” Ina said, “Why can’t you do a biography of Napoleon?” But Ina is always Ina: loyal and true. She said, as she always says: “Sure.” We rented a house on the edge of the Hill Country, where we were to live for most of the next three years.

That changed everything. As soon as we had moved there, as soon as the people of the Hill Country realized we were there to stay, their attitude towards us softened; they started to talk to me in a different way. I began to hear the details they had not included in the anecdotes they had previously told me—and they told me other anecdotes and longer stories, anecdotes and stories that no one had even mentioned to me before—stories about a Lyndon Johnson very different from the young man who had previously been portrayed: stories about a very unusual young man, a very brilliant young man, a very ambitious, unscrupulous and quite ruthless person, disliked and even despised, and, by people who knew him especially well, even beginning to be feared.

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