Friday, April 20, 2012

On Robert Caro

On May 1 the fourth volume of Robert Caro's massive and enthralling biography of Lyndon Johnson is scheduled to be released. This was to be the last volume, but as many of us suspected, there was simply no way the prolix Caro was going to cover LBJ's entire Vice Presidency, Presidency, and the few remaining years of his life in one volume given the depth of scope he devoted to LBJ's pre-presidential career. Recently Esquire and The New York Times Magazine both devoted extensive features to Caro and his work (which perhaps inevitably led to some significant overlap in both themes but also in anecdotes).

I would suspect that most writers will respond as I did, with considerable awe about his process and his painstaking dedication to getting it all just right. But I suspect there will also be considerable envy (and admiration) for the way that he has been able to impose his will on a major publishing house even in an era where the bounded book seems besieged from all sides.

I'll be lined up on May 1 to pick up the latest volume. I would also push anyone interested in big (but perhaps not quite so ambitious) biographies of LBJ to consider Randall Woods' substantial one-volume biography of Johnson. One of the more interesting, and perhaps controversial, subplots in Woods' creation is that he refused to engage with Caro's work, something he explains in the introduction of a book that casts LBJ in a far more positive light than Caro does, especially in his first two volumes.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

A Prodigal Returns

I keep promising I'm going to write more at dcat. And then I don't. So here's something I wrote at the FPA Africa Blog on the Senegalese elections.

I am going to be returning as a prodigal son to Ohio University this weekend. I am on the program for a conference on Sports and Community Building in Africa and the Global South. Here are the conference details -- track me down and we'll get a drink or grab a bite.