Robert Dallek's brilliant two-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson has received an avalanche of praise. Michael Beschloss, in The Los Angeles Times, said that it "succeeds brilliantly." The New York Times called it "rock solid" and The Washington Post hailed it as "invaluable." And Sidney Blumenthal in The Boston Globe wrote that it was "dense with astonishing incidents."
Now Dallek has condensed his two-volume masterpiece into what is surely the finest one-volume biography of Johnson available. Based on years of research in over 450 manuscript collections and oral histories, as well as numerous personal interviews, this biography follows Johnson, the "human dynamo," from the Texas hill country to the White House. We see LBJ, in the House and the Senate, whirl his way through sixteen- and eighteen-hour days, talking, urging, demanding, reaching for influence and power, in an uncommonly successful congressional career. Then, in the White House, we see Johnson as the visionary leader who worked his will on Congress like no president before or since, enacting a range of crucial legislation, from Medicare and environmental protection to the most significant advances in civil rights for black Americans ever achieved. And we see the depth of Johnson's private anguish as he became increasingly ensnared in Vietnam.
In these pages Johnson emerges as a man of towering intensity and anguished insecurity, of grandiose ambition and grave self-doubt, a man who was brilliant, crude, intimidating, compassionate, overbearing, driven: "A tornado in pants." Gracefully written and delicately balanced, this singular biography reveals both the greatness and the tangled complexities of one of the most extravagant characters ever to step onto the presidential stage.
Few modern presidents have been the subject of as many excellent biographies as Lyndon Johnson, and this abridgment of Dallek's masterly two-volume biography, Lone Star Rising and Flawed Giant, is a welcome addition to the literature. Dallek (An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963) offers a rarity-a brief but thorough life of Johnson, now 30 years after his death. This abridgment is aimed at students who may be daunted by Dallek's lengthy two volumes or Robert Caro's projected four-volume investigation. (Caro's third volume, Master of the Senate, received the Pulitzer Prize.) This book is also excellent for all readers who want a refresher or introduction to Lyndon Johnson. Dallek skillfully discusses Johnson's political triumphs (civil and voting rights, Medicare and Medicaid, federal aid to education) and failures (Vietnam, the promise to end poverty) and portrays his complex, larger-than-life personality. He concludes that Lyndon Johnson will be remembered as a President who mirrored the best and the worst of his memorable times. See also Irwin and Debi Unger's LBJ: A Life, another worthy one-volume treatment. Dallek's abridgement is no replacement for his two-volumes, based on 14 years of research, but it is a fine addition for all public libraries.-Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.