Master of the Senate

Caro, Robert. The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Master of the Senate. New York: Knopf Doubleday, 2009.

Reason read: to finish (finally, finally!) the series started in February in honor of Presidents Day.

This was a chore for me. For one, I have never been a huge history buff. Secondly, Caro painted Johnson to be such a lying and bullying politician in the first book that I didn’t think I wanted to know anything more about him, as master of the senate, future president, or not. To say that Master of the Senate is well researched is an understatement. This biography goes well beyond Lyndon’s life. Like Path to Power and Means of Ascent before it, Master of the Senate broad in its scope and extremely thorough.

Book trivia: Master of the Senate won a National Book Award and a Pulitzer.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Presidential Biographies (p 192).


A Fresh Start for June

May is ending with disappointment. The caboose of the story (instead of the whole train) is that due to work obligations Kisa & I were not able to make it to Maine for a long weekend over the holiday. As a result I had to burn two vacation days at home. June will be a better month. But, to be fair – May wasn’t so shabby for books:

  • Brilliant Orange by David Winner
  • Bold Spirit by Linda Hunt
  • Jordan by E. Borgia
  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandre Solzhenitsyn
  • Coroner’s Lunch by Colin Cotterill
  • The Chosen by Chaim Potok
  • Map of Another Town by MFK Fisher
  • All the Rage by Martin Moran (ER)

ADDED:

  • Arab and Jew by David Shipler
  • Perks of Being a Wallflower by  David Chbosky

DNF:

  • Master of the Senate by Robert Caro

For JUNE, here are the books & why:

  1. Yocandra in the Paradise of Nada by Zoe Valdes in honor of Caribbean Heritage Month
  2. Thirty-Three Teeth by Colin Cotterill to continue the series started in May
  3. Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich in honor of her birth month
  4. The Millstone by Margaret Drabble in honor of family month
  5. A Bridge Too Far by Cornelius Ryan in honor of World War II (D-Day)

June is National Short Story Month:

  • from Birds of America by Lorrie Moore:
    • Four Calling Birds, Three French Hens
    • People Like That are the Only People Here: Canonical Babbling in Peed Onk
  • from Lucky Girls by Nell Freudenberger:
    • The Orphan
    • Outside the Eastern Gate
  • from Nine Stories by JD Salinger:
    • A Perfect Day for a Bananafish
    • For Esme: with Love & Squalor

April Comes Quickly

I don’t know where March went. I’ve looked under calendars and in date books and I still can’t figure it out. The month went by so fast! Here are the books finished for March:

  • Naked Lunch by William Burroughs
  • The Assistant by Bernard Malamud
  • Family Man by Jayne Krentz
  • Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (AB)
  • The Brontes by Juliet Barker (DNF)
  • Means of Ascent by Robert Caro (DNF)
  • Center of the World by Jacqueline Sheehan (Fun)
  • In the Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil White (would have been an Early Review book a long time ago)

On tap for April (besides a little Noodle 5k run):

  • A Considerable Town by MFK Fisher ~ in honor of April being the best time to visit France
  • The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman ~ for fun
  • Green Thoughts by Eleanor Perenyi ~ in honor of gardening month
  • Alice in Sunderland by Bryan Talbot ~ in honor of April Fools
  • Don’t Eat This Book by Morgan Spurlock ~ in honor of April being Food Month (AB)
  • The Grand Tour by Tim Moore ~ in honor of Harvey Ball passing in April

Means of Ascent

Caro, Robert. Means of Ascent: the Years of Lyndon Johnson. New York: Vintage Books, 1991.

Reason read: to continue the series started in February for Presidents Day.

The year is 1941 and Lyndon Johnson is now 32 years old. Caro starts off this second section of the President’s biography by singing the praises of all that Johnson had accomplished at such an early age. The list is impressive, but be forewarned, there is a great deal of word for word repetition from the first book, Path to Power. To name some: Lyndon’s physical appearance as a towering young man with jet black hair; his father as the laughingstock of his town; Lyndon’s scheme to marry for money; Alice Glass teaching him which side of his face was more photogenic; even the “carrying water” note Johnson wrote to Roosevelt is repeated. Confessional: I found myself skimming the word for word parts, looking for the “new” material.
Here are the “new” parts of Lyndon Johnson’s biography. World War II brings Lyndon’s “wartime efforts” which, true to form, are grossly exaggerated. It was almost shameful how this future President of our nation lied about his active duty in combat. It left me with feelings of revulsion. At the same time, Caro’s depiction of Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson holding down the fort in Washington during this time is poignant. His interview with her is touching.
Although Caro is tighter and more focused in his narrative of Means of Ascent, as with Path to Power, he includes a great deal more information than necessary. Case in point, there are over 30 pages dedicated to LBJ’s 1948 opponent, Coke Stevenson and his upbringing. While I appreciated the detail, if I want to read a biography on Coke Stevenson I would find a biography specifically on Coke Stevenson. I feel that the only way to make LBJ the ultimate villain is to exaggerate his competition and make him his opposite in every way.

As an aside, this is an interesting time to be reading about a political campaign.

Book trivia: The photographs are extraordinary.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Presidential Biographies” (p 193).


March Musings

What can I say about March? Personally, it’s the St. Patrick’s Day 10k road race. I’ve been injured so it’s hard to anticipate how well I will or won’t do. I went for my first outdoor run this weekend and ran 7.5 with a steady sub-10 pace. That felt strong! Happy girl! And speaking of strong, here’s what’s on deck for the books:

  1. Naked Lunch by William Burroughs – in honor of Jack Kerouac’s birth month. Jack and William were friends…
  2. Family Man by Jayne Ann Krentz – in honor of Krentz’s birth month
  3. The Brontes by Juliet Barker – in honor of March being literature month (over 1,000 pages!)
  4. Means of Ascent by Robert Caro – to continue the series started in honor of Presidents Day being in February (EB)
  5. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson – in honor of Maine becoming a state in March
  6. The Assistant by Bernard Malamud – Malamud died in March.
  7. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Adichie – in honor of the Academy Awards being in February and March (HOAYS was made into a movie)

For Fun:

  1. Confessional: still reading Center of the World by Jacqueline Sheehan

For LibraryThing:

  1. I am supposed to receive Why the Grateful Dead Matter by Michael Benson as a January Early Review book sometime in the month of March…As an aside, there are a few other books I haven’t received and feel bad that I never read or reviewed them. I am sure they have all been published by now and so (I can’t believe I’m saying this) I’m going to see if a library has them. If they do, I will read and review as if I got them as Early Reviews from LibraryThing. The first non-early review I am going to tackle is a book I was supposed to received in 2009 – Sanctuary of Outcasts, a memoir by Neil White.

Remembering February

So, February was a weird month. Being sick and injured didn’t help except that both ailments gave me more time to read. Turning 47 turned out to be not a big deal. Just another number in the grand scheme of things. The groundhog didn’t see his shadow either so there are less numbers in winter… And speaking of numbers – here are the books:

  1. A.D.: After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld
  2. Beautiful Place to Die by Philip Craig
  3. If You Lived Here You’d Be Home By Now by Sandra Loh
  4. Rocksburg Railroad Murders by K.C. Constantine
  5. As She Crawled Across the Table by Jonathan Lethem (AB)
  6. Thirty Nine Steps by John Buchan
  7. Her First American by Lore Segal
  8. Down Where the Moon was Small or And I Shall Sleep…Down Where the Moon was Small by Richard Llewellyn
  9. Path to Power by Robert Caro – finishing TODAY!
  10. Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder (AB)
  11. Tom Brown’s School Days by Thomas Hughes (DNF)
  12. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie  (AB) – will finish in March
  13. The Art of Dying by Patricia Weenolsen

For Fun:

  1. Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano
  2. Center of the World by Jacqueline Sheehan
  3. The Ultimate Treadmill Workout by David Siik

For LibraryThing’s Early Review program:

  1. Liar by Rob Roberge

I also spent some time revisiting the Challenge list. Because of all the missed individual titles I wanted to redo the schedule. That took up a great deal of my time!


Path to Power

Caro, Robert A. The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power. New York: Vintage Books, 1982.

Reason read: Presidents Day is celebrated in February and Johnson was our 36th President of the United States.

Here’s what I knew about Johnson before reading Caro’s book: sworn in as President after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Came into office as the “Great Society” President because he carried Kennedy’s platform: he cared about social issues such as education, civil rights and anti-poverty. He left office as the “Baby Killer” President because he had led the United States further into the Vietnam war. Here’s what I learned about President Johnson after reading Caro’s first book: Johnson was a pathological liar about his childhood and personal life, was a genius for secrecy, and was a terrible kid growing up. He was constantly disobeying his parents, had no respect for his father, even disliked reading books…that didn’t change once he got to college, nor did it sit well with me. He continue to lie and manipulate like Othello’s Iago throughout his entire life. His hunger for power was displayed in odd ways (like forcing assistants to converse with him while he was on the toilet).

In the very beginning of Path to Power Caro introduces his readers to Hill Country Texas, setting the stage of poverty as the very first driving force behind Johnson’s ruthless ambition. Subsequently, every following chapter is scaffolded (my word) by the political and economic climate and influential people of the time. As a result, Path to Power appears to veer off topic from time to time. It also creates a wordiness and heft to the biography that some deem unnecessary.

Author fact: Caro has his own website here.

Book trivia: Path to Power is the first book in what was supposed to be the Years of Lyndon Johnson trilogy. Those three books are on my list. However, a fourth book, The Passage of Power covers years 1958 to 1964.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter obviously and logically called “Presidential Biographies” (p 193). Note: it would have been awesome to biographies of each president right up to publication date. I would have liked to have read Jimmy Carter, Rutherford B. Hayes or even William Harrison.