The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York

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Vintage Books, 1975 - Biography & Autobiography - 1246 pages
21 Reviews
One of the most acclaimed books of our time, winner of both the Pulitzer and the Francis Parkman prizes, The Power Broker tells the hidden story behind the shaping (and mis-shaping) of twentieth-century New York (city and state) and makes public what few have known: that Robert Moses was, for almost half a century, the single most powerful man of our time in New York, the shaper not only of the city's politics but of its physical structure and the problems of urban decline that plague us today.

In revealing how Moses did it--how he developed his public authorities into a political machine that was virtually a fourth branch of government, one that could bring to their knees Governors and Mayors (from La Guardia to Lindsay) by mobilizing banks, contractors, labor unions, insurance firms, even the press and the Church, into an irresistible economic force--Robert Caro reveals how power works in all the cities of the United States. Moses built an empire and lived like an emperor. He personally conceived and completed public works costing 27 billion dollars--the greatest builder America (and probably the world) has ever known. Without ever having been elected to office, he dominated the men who were--even his most bitter enemy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, could not control him--until he finally encountered, in Nelson Rockefeller, the only man whose power (and ruthlessness in wielding it) equalled his own.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - ShadowBarbara - LibraryThing

Great book about how Robert Moses used power and then overstepped and overreached. Interesting history of New York city and state. Learned much. An abridged version would have been better. The author was way too wordy. Read full review

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User Review  - Whiskey3pa - LibraryThing

Totally absorbing book. The subject matter is riveting and the prose is top-shelf. Paints an at times depressing picture of how New York was (and likely is) governed. Read full review

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About the author (1975)

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 Brokerback when I was twenty-two years old and just being mesmerized, and I'm sure it helped to shape how I think about politics." 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.


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