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The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York Paperback – July 12, 1975
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"Surely the greatest book ever written about a city." --David Halberstam
"A masterpiece of American reporting. It's more than the story of a tragic figure or the exploration of the unknown politics of our time. It's an elegantly written and enthralling work of art." --Theodore H. White
"The most absorbing, detailed, instructive, provocative book ever published about the making and raping of modern New York City and environs and the man who did it, about the hidden plumbing of New York City and State politics over the last half-century, about the force of personality and the nature of political power in a democracy. A monumental work, a political biography and political history of the first magnitude." --Eliot Fremont-Smith, New York
"One of the most exciting, un-put-downable books I have ever read. This is definitive biography, urban history, and investigative journalism. This is a study of the corruption which power exerts on those who wield it to set beside Tacitus and his emperors, Shakespeare and his kings." --Daniel Berger, Baltimore Evening Sun
"Fascinating, every oversize page of it." --Peter S. Prescott, Newsweek
"A study of municipal power that will change the way any reader of the book hereafter peruses his newspaper." --Philip Herrera, Time
"A triumph, brilliant and totally fascinating. A majestic, even Shakespearean, drama about the interplay of power and personality." --Justin Kaplan
"In the future, the scholar who writes the history of American cities in the twentieth century will doubtless begin with this extraordinary effort." --Richard C. Wade, The New York Times Book Review
"The feverish hype that dominates the merchandising of arts and letters in America has so debased the language that, when a truly exceptional achievement comes along, there are no words left to praise it. Important, awesome, compelling--these no longer summon the full flourish of trumpets this book deserves. It is extraordinary on many levels and certain to endure." --William Greider, The Washington Post Book World
"Apart from the book's being so good as biography, as city history, as sheer good reading, The Power Broker is an immense public service." --Jane Jacobs
"Required reading for all those who hope to make their way in urban politics; for the reformer, the planner, the politician and even the ward heeler." --Jules L. Wagman, Cleveland Press
"An extraordinary study of the workings of power, individually, institutionally, politically, and economically in our republic." --Edmund Fuller, The Wall Street Journal
"Caro has written one of the finest, best-researched and most analytically informative descriptions of our political and governmental processes to appear in a generation." --Nicholas Von Hoffman, The Washington Post
"Caro's achievement is staggering. The most unlikely subjects--banking, ward politics, construction, traffic management, state financing, insurance companies, labor unions, bridge building--become alive and contemporary. It is cheap at the price and too short by half. A milestone in literary and publishing history." --Donald R. Morris, The Houston Post
"Irresistible reading. It is like one of the great Russian novels, overflowing with characters and incidents that all fit into a vast mosaic of plot and counterplot. Only this is no novel. This is a college education in power corruption." --George McCue, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
From the Inside Flap
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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This was a tip from New York Magazine on "How to read 'The Power Broker'": Buy a cheap paperback version, tear it into thirds, read one third at a time. When you finish you will love this book so much that you will probably want to buy a hardcover version to have on your shelf.
What I found fascinating was Moses’ expert manipulation of the system of government in NY which gave him a stranglehold on power for years. His accomplishments cannot be denied. It is clear no one else had the capacity to build as many freeways, bridges and public works as he did in 44 years.
Ok, now to the book. Clearly Caro deserved a Pulitzer for this. The research and detail is masterful. Others may disagree but I found the book riveting and felt it only bogged down once in over 1000 pages. I would have liked more information about Moses’s family but it may have been trimmed since the book was whittled down considerably before publishing.
I now understand how our politicians can become so wealthy while in office. It’s all about the deals. A great look into power within the halls of government.
Happily, the book is available in audiobook form, and that's how I'm reading it. Despite some of the flaws identified in the 3 Star ratings below (which contain helpful reviews - worth reading despite the ratings) in my opinion this is a five star book. A five star book, to me, is one that I hesitate to put down and can't wait to take up again.
The audio version takes up nearly 60 hours. The narrator does a terrific job. But most people's normal reading speed is much greater than his narration speed, and in my view, a book this size should be read, not heard. If only as a public service, the publisher should Kindle this book.
If that was not enough, Robert Caro is a gifted and skilled writer and biographer. Moses is an interesting and important figure in New York history, but Caro's writing elevates him to an almost Machiavellian character. The sentences, pages, and chapters are beautifully written and are immensely gripping. This is both an academic study of a man
Caro has admitted that he wishes he made this book longer. His editors at the time thought no body would read such a long book so they cut several chapters, including Moses's battles with Jane Jacobs. Despite that, the book is great. For the battle with Jacobs, turn to the many other books and documentaries about her. She is worth your time.
I cannot recommend this book enough.