Means of Ascent: The Years of Lyndon Johnson II

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Easy, now... - I have to disagree with the universal 5 stars this book gets from other reviewers here.First, readers not familiar with Caro should know that he uses LBJ as a springboard to do a larger social history. In the first book, this included fascinating insights into what daily life was like in rural Texas and rural America in the early part of the 20th Century.One weakness of this 2nd volume is that, despite an early go at Johnson's WWII service & early time in Washington, Caro largely narrows this focus down to Texas itself, a particular election, LBJ's opponent in that election, and finally even to one flunkie in the Texas political machine. This somewhat derails both the social history aspect and the LBJ-biographical aspect.(Readers who don't want to have some of the story given away shouldn't read the rest of this review.)Caro tips his hand with this book. In the first volume, Caro says Johnson stole all his early elections, even little ones...
Can volume 3 possibly top "Means of Ascent?" - I don't see how it can. I read "Means of Ascent" as soon as it was published. A co-worker and I were both reading it at the same time and we were, in a way relieved we had finished it. Caro's storytelling was so compelling, you couldn't wait to turn the next page, not to mention put it down, when you already know how it ends! My apettite was whetted a few weeks back when C-SPAN2 re-aire their interview with Caro. How can we find out anything about the next volume. I remember Caro saying in an interview (not on C-SPAN) that he had originally planned to write three volumes on LBJ, but after "Means of Ascent" was considering a fourth volume. The question many of us wonder is - when can we expect volume 3? Almost a decade is too long.
Brilliantly written, but.... - ...and this is a big "but." Caro verges on the hatchet job in volume two. He is a brilliant writer and his research methods are precise and methodical. But his take on LBJ here is overly negative, he always sees the worst case scenario and it winds up being hard to swallow, even if you detest Lyndon Johnson. He damns Johnson for stealing elections, when anyone else worth their salt in Texas in the 30's and 40's did the same thing. John Connelly ultimately refused further interviews with Caro because he felt this book was too brutally negative and I concur. So why the five stars?Because Caro is such an outstanding writer, he turns history into literature. His way with words is leagues ahead of other historical biographers, he writes with the flair of a novelist but he backs up his words with years of dilligent research. What other biographer pulls up stakes and lives for *five years* in the Texas hill country in order to better understand his subject? This...