Neil Young would have enjoyed my digression here. I did not search for an index in Young’s memoir because it’s not that kind of book. In fact, the book meanders and wobbles back and forth, none of which I mind. What does disappoint is the language, which seems rushed and colloquial. I even found a mistake with “it’s” in the early pages. Slow and colloquial does work, as Keith Richards demonstrates so well in his memoir. Young admits that he hates slow, that he’d rather move ahead on a project, that he gets things done, all of which is fascinating, from helping to start a school for children with special needs to modifying the switches on Lionel train sets to devising his own portable sound system that preserves the quality of recorded music and that we may see on the market one day. But this books needs slow to allow the poetry to unfold, as Bob Dylan allowed a while back.
Young doesn’t mention an editor in his acknowledgments, which makes sense. He should have had someone to thank. A week or two would have sufficed. Yet despite the weaknesses, I can’t put this book down. He’s a fascinating guy.
Caro’s book, on the other hand, is meticulously researched. I haven’t read much about LBJ, but I feel as if I have because Caro either applauds specifics of what other researchers have found or clarifies or refutes what they had to say. He’s written so much about Johnson that sometimes he quotes himself! What stands out is how little it would have taken to alter history. Twice as a young man Jack Kennedy was administered his last rites, and this doesn’t even include the time he was stranded in the middle of the sea for days. Bobby Kennedy tried to talk LBJ out of taking the vice-presidency. And had Johnson simply begun campaigning sooner than he did for the presidency, he probably would have gotten the nomination or at least would have kept Kennedy from getting it.
I’m itching to read some fiction now. Next up: May We Be Forgiven by A. M. Homes. I bought the book at a local independent store and had a nice little chat about books with the cashier, who was more than a cashier. She was a reader. I can’t recall the last time this happened at any big chain book store. In fact, several years ago, in Yakima, Washington, Raymond Carver’s home town, I walked into a Borders and not a single person knew who he was.