Ask a Book Question: The Twenty-fourth in a Series (A Plethora of Presidentiality)

September 2, 2004 | 3 books mentioned 1

Christian writes in with this question:

What is currently known about the next volume(s) of Robert Caro’s magnificent biography of LBJ?

The presidential biography is a major sub-genre of American literature, and it seems to be the constitutional right of every president to enter the annals of history by receiving the biographical treatment. The second half of the twentieth century is crowded with notable presidents, all of whom have garnered copious ink of varying quality and espousing a wide spectrum of opinions. Amidst the glut of Kennedy books and quality biographies of Truman, Reagan, and others, Robert Caro’s biography of Lyndon B. Johnson stands out both for its size and its quality. I remember hearing somewhere that the biography was originally intended to be a smaller, one volume affair, but that Caro found LBJ so compelling he just couldn’t stop, and the project ballooned its current astronomical page count, 2719 with one more volume on the way. Now, this isn’t a case of quantity over quality; Volumes One and Two won the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Volume Three won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer. Not too shabby. So, when can we expect volume four, the capstone of Caro’s stupendous achievement? Well, the short answer is that they don’t have a date yet, but we can at least hazard a guess. The first book, The Path to Power came out in 1982; the second, Means of Ascent, in 1990, and the third, Master of the Senate, in 2002. So, after doing some back of the envelope calculations, I would expect to see the fourth and final volume (tentatively titled The Presidency) some time between 2010 and 2014. Chances are it’ll be worth the wait. Thanks for the question Christian!

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created The Millions and is its publisher. He and his family live in New Jersey.

One comment:

  1. A fly in the ointment: Caro said that while writing Master of the Senate he completed all his interviews for the final, fourth, volume in light of the fact that many of the interviewees would soon be dead. He said this would reduce the length of time he needed for the fourth book. So we can probably expect the fourth volume in 2009-2010.

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