MASTER OF THE SENATE: The Years of Lyndon Johnson

Robert A. Caro, Author
Robert A. Caro, Author , read by Stephen Lang. Random House Audio $32.95 (, abridged, six cassettes, 9 hrs., $32.95 ISBN ) ISBN 0-553-71291-8
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Lang delivers a crisp, nuanced reading of this account of Johnson's years in the Senate that, like all great biographies, provides information, insight and no small amount of entertainment. The writing is far from dry: Caro portrays Johnson warts and all, whether cutting a commanding figure on the Senate floor or hurling a glass at a wall when his secretary accidentally brought sherry in lieu of the requested bourbon. Lang invests the descriptions with a steady dramatic urgency and narrative rhythm that one would expect of a seasoned Broadway and film actor. His foremost accomplishment, though, is in his performance of Johnson himself. He opts for a firm, baritone voice that emphasizes Johnson's Texas origins less than it does the stark, sometimes aggressive authority that allowed him to hold the Senate in his clutches as tightly as the lapels of a colleague bent on voting against his wishes. He won many more confrontations than he lost, and his crowning achievement was steering the Civil Rights Act of 1957 to passage in an institution that, as Caro cites one historian as writing, was "the South's unending revenge upon the North for Gettysburg." The material hardly seems to require much adornment, and the production is accordingly kept to a few bars of music at the beginning and end. Listeners will find that there is already plenty here that will please. Simultaneous release with the Knopf hardcover (Forecasts, Apr. 1). (Apr.)

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