When Robert A. Caro published “Master of the Senate” (2002), the third volume of his voluminous multi-part life of Lyndon B. Johnson, he said he would finish his labors with just one more installment. But clearly he wasn’t being realistic.
“Master of the Senate” concluded in 1958. It left untouched the 1960 campaign, the vice presidential years and the whole of Johnson’s presidency — the Civil Rights Act, the Great Society, Vietnam. Moreover, Caro is not exactly partial to verbal economy. His books are famous, or infamous, for running on profusely — not just because of the sheer mass of his research but also because of his overflowing literary style.
Caro strives for the epic. He will make a book, or chapter, or anecdote as long as it has to be to achieve his desired effect — elongating even a single sentence, if necessary, and then stitching it together with a passel of colons, semicolons and dashes, as if scooped by the handful from his handyman’s belt. (No wonder he and his longtime editor are known to fight over punctuation.) Given all this, if the 1957 civil rights bill consumed more than 150 pages of Volume 3, how could the historic 1964 bill weigh in at anything less?