Means of Ascent: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 2

Means of Ascent: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 2

by Robert A. Caro

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Overview

In Means of Ascent, Book Two of The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Robert A. Caro brings alive Lyndon Johnson in his wilderness years.
 
Here, Johnson’s almost mythic personality—part genius, part behemoth, at once hotly emotional and icily calculating—is seen at its most nakedly ambitious. This multifaceted book carries the President-to-be from the aftermath of his devastating defeat in his 1941 campaign for the Senate-the despair it engendered in him, and the grueling test of his spirit that followed as political doors slammed shut-through his service in World War II (and his artful embellishment of his record) to the foundation of his fortune (and the actual facts behind the myth he created about it).
 
The culminating drama—the explosive heart of the book—is Caro’s illumination, based on extraordinarily detailed investigation, of one of the great political mysteries of the century. Having immersed himself in Johnson’s life and world, Caro is able to reveal the true story of the fiercely contested 1948 senatorial election, for years shrouded in rumor, which Johnson was not believed capable of winning, which he “had to” win or face certain political death, and which he did win-by 87 votes, the “87 votes that changed history.”
 
Telling that epic story “in riveting and eye-opening detail,” Caro returns to the American consciousness a magnificent lost hero. He focuses closely not only on Johnson, whom we see harnessing every last particle of his strategic brilliance and energy, but on Johnson’s “unbeatable” opponent, the beloved former Texas Governor Coke Stevenson, who embodied in his own life the myth of the cowboy knight and was himself a legend for his unfaltering integrity. And ultimately, as the political duel between the two men quickens—carrying with it all the confrontational and moral drama of the perfect Western—Caro makes us witness to a momentous turning point in American politics: the tragic last stand of the old politics versus the new—the politics of issue versus the politics of image, mass manipulation, money and electronic dazzle.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780394528359
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/07/1990
Series: Years of Lyndon Johnson Series , #2
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 560
Sales rank: 306,810
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.49(d)
Age Range: 15 - 18 Years

About the Author

For his biographies of Robert Moses and Lyndon Johnson, Robert A. Caro has twice won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography, has three times won the National Book Critics Circle Award, and has also won virtually every other major literary honor, including the National Book Award, the Gold Medal in Biography from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Francis Parkman Prize, awarded by the Society of American Historians to the book that best “exemplifies the union of the historian and the artist.” In 2010 President Barack Obama awarded Caro the National Humanities Medal, stating at the time: “I think about Robert Caro and reading The Power Broker back when I was twenty-two years old and just being mesmerized, and I’m sure it helped to shape how I think about politics.” In 2016 he received the National Book Award for Lifetime Achievement. The London Sunday Times has said that Caro is “The greatest political biographer of our times.”  
 
Caro’s first book, The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, everywhere acclaimed as a modern classic, was chosen by the Modern Library as one of the hundred greatest nonfiction books of the twentieth century. It is, according to David Halberstam, “Surely the greatest book ever written about a city.” And The New York Times Book Review said: “In the future, the scholar who writes the history of American cities in the twentieth century will doubtless begin with this extraordinary effort.” 

The first volume of The Years of Lyndon Johnson, The Path to Power, was cited by The Washington Post as “proof that we live in a great age of biography . . . [a book] of radiant excellence . . . Caro’s evocation of the Texas Hill Country, his elaboration of Johnson’s unsleeping ambition, his understanding of how politics actually work, are—let it be said flat out—at the summit of American historical writing.” Professor Henry F. Graff of Columbia University called the second volume, Means of Ascent, “brilliant. No review does justice to the drama of the story Caro is telling, which is nothing less than how present-day politics was born.” The London Times hailed volume three, Master of the Senate, as “a masterpiece . . . Robert Caro has written one of the truly great political biographies of the modern age.” The Passage of Power, volume four, has been called “Shakespearean . . . A breathtakingly dramatic story [told] with consummate artistry and ardor” (The New York Times) and “as absorbing as a political thriller . . . By writing the best presidential biography the country has ever seen, Caro has forever changed the way we think about, and read, American history” (NPR). On the cover of The New York Times Book Review, President Bill Clinton praised it as “Brilliant . . . Important . . . Remarkable. With this fascinating and meticulous account Robert Caro has once again done America a great service.” 
 
“Caro has a unique place among American political biographers,” The Boston Globe said . . . “He has become, in many ways, the standard by which his fellows are measured.” And Nicholas von Hoffman wrote: “Caro has changed the art of political biography.”

Born and raised in New York City, Caro graduated from Princeton University, was later a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, and worked for six years as an investigative reporter for Newsday. He lives in New York City with his wife, Ina, the historian and writer.

Hometown:

New York, New York

Date of Birth:

October 30, 1935

Place of Birth:

New York, New York

Education:

B.A., Princeton University, 1957; Nieman Fellow at Harvard University

Table of Contents

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Means of Ascent 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Lawrence_Von_Frederick More than 1 year ago
Caro continues his indepth study of Lyndon Johnson with this volume concentrating on the rise of Johnson to national power and eventually, in a later volume, the presidency. What makes the book so useful is the detail about the political process and how it changed with the rise of modern media. In Johnson's case the media was the radio and his remarkable use of it, and the raising the funds needed for the use of modern media, did change electoral politics. The change is well documented by comparing Johnson's opponent in the 1948 Senatorial race, a very honest politician indeed, whose campaign was a traditional political campaign of face-to-face interactions and local party insiders. More interesting is how American politics determines winners. To reach the presidency compromises of all types are necessary. Ironically, those most willing to make many of the compromises then govern in ways detrimental to public trust. Johnson, a most Shakespearean type personality, personifies how ambition breeds commitment to acquiring power and how ideals of social change, many of which he pushed in his presidency, are mixed with outright corruption and use of government for personal ends. The results are indeed mixed and sadly demean politics. All of this can only be understood through a thorough and carefully constructed biography. Caro has written just such a study. The study is recommended for anyone who wants to better understand politics, their evolution and to improve on his or her ability as a citizen to select the better choice.
robertmorrow on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the best political stories ever written. The 1948 election piece has to be read to be believed.
kbergfeld on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
INCREDIBLE! I love Coke Stevenson, and my how history would be different if the 87 votes that changed this election swayed the other way. The amazing thing about reading a Robert Caro book is that you are introduced to the oddest of characters, yet each and every one of them is based in history. He makes history a story worth hearing about, even when he goes on and on for chapters about the most minuscule of information. I can't wait to start Master of the Senate.
MatthewN on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This volume is significantly shorter than the other 2. Perhaps because almost the entire book focuses on LBJ's 1948 run for the senate against Coke Stevenson. There is minimal coverage to his tenure as a congressman and also his short stint in the Navy during WWII. The time in the Navy is rather interesting. I don't look at the Silver Star lapel that LBJ was fond of wearing in the same light anymore! Caro spends a fair amount of time on Coke Stevenson. I was not familiar with Coke Stevenson, and Caro presents him as a man with no skeletons in his closet. A man with no faults except that he was too nice, and in politics "nice" gets you beat. While I don't doubt he was a decent man, I find it hard to believe he was the saint that Caro portrayed him as. I plan on reading up on Coke from other sources to get a better idea of who he was. He is of great interest to me. For those of us who enjoy reading, you'll be interested in him too as he was a voracious reader.If there is one thing I took away from this book, it is that I have increased my dislike for LBJ. Granted, Caro is helping with that as he seems to share the same disdain. After the first volume in this series, I was on the fence leaning towards disdain. My disdain has shifted towards disgust after reading the second volume, but you still have to admire LBJ's tenacity. He was a master politician.
patience_crabstick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Volume two of the Lyndon Johnson biography covers the years from 1942-1948. Years in which Johnson, frustrated with his seat in the House of Representatives, lusted after a seat in the US senate, and got it, after stealing the election from Coke Stevenson. This is the book that makes you really hate LBJ.
jensenmk82 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Means of Ascent is not quite as compelling as The Path to Power, but this is an irresistible read nevertheless. It's hard not to feel that Coke Stevenson has been idealized as a foil to Johnson, and Johnson disappears a bit as a person toward the end of the volume (though he is very much present as a politician). As in the previous volume, Caro's craftsmanship as a biographer and research as an historian are superlative.
RodneyWelch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The weakest of the three, by a long shot. The story is shaped not so much by history but by Caro's desire for a struggle between good (Coke Stevenson) and evil (Johnson), sugarcoating and whitewashing the one and demonizing the other. No question Johnson was deeply corrupt, but Caro's animus toward his subject tips his hand.
JBD1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the best biographies out there, of anyone. Caro is a masterful craftsman.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow! It's taken me a couple of days after finishing this to collect my thoughts and I keep coming back to this: Lyndon Baines Johnson was a narcissist, sociopath, and a consumate liar of a world class variety! I've no doubt that had he not become a politician, he would have become a criminal! (Some say it's the same thing and after reading Caro's recountimg of the 1948 election for the Texas Senate seat, they may be right.) I've necer had a lot of faith or trust in politicians, but this has virtually destroyed what little I had left! Like Caro's first book, the writing is sometimes awkward and cumbersome. Most of the time, he's giving a narration, but he'll occasionally break into a more conversational tone. He loves to insert hyphens, semicolons, commas, etc. to make asides which frequently forces you to read around the aside to get the main point. All that notwithstanding, if you have any interest in modern political history whatsoever, this book is well worth the investment in time and energy. I'll be reading the 3rd book as soon as I clear my head a little with something else.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
watkd25 More than 1 year ago
Robert Caro has done it again. This book covers seven years of Lyndon Johnson's life from 1941, from the defeat of his first senate run up to his second run for senate in 1948. I have to admit that some of the first part of this book was not as exciting, as the first book as a whole, and justifiably, the author mentions that this book is about the dark side of Lyndon Johnson's life. Beyond the first part, the second part of this book picks up with suspense and was quite a pleasure to read. Means of Ascent is the second out of, so far, four volumes soon to be five total volumes. Means of Ascent came out 8 years after his first book in 1982 and the amount of time dedicated to it is reflected in the quality of writing in this beautiful piece of literature. On a side note, I recommend reading the "Note on Sources" section toward the end of this book. Apparently from the authors writing on Coke Stevenson, skepticism was caused by critics about the credibility of Coke Stevenson from the authors perspective. The author wrote a response as to why he feels his research and writing on Coke Stevenson is justified. (If your book is new enough, hardcover or paperback, the afterword will be in the Note on Sources section). On to Volume 3!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Volume 1 of Caro's biography of Lyndon Johnson was magnificent, this Volume 2 continues in its spirit if not scope (returned to in Volume 3). Caro clearly hates Johnson but gives him his due the '48 election campaign was in a sense a microcosm of Johnson's career and Caro tells the story brilliantly.
Guest More than 1 year ago
perfect for a vacation or long train or plane trip - vivid writing you will gorge on and never want to see end. no matter your feelings about L.B.J., this book is worth your time and money. i read it twice.