A Pretty Brief Contribution to the Genre of People Blogging about The Power Broker

I finished The Power Broker a couple of days ago, which seemed at the time like something of an achievement. I am a little sorry to be finished with it, because it had become a sort of friendly presence, and it kept having exciting revelations about the political power flows of the recent past.

Caro is really good at building a story and a case in nicely layered pieces, and handles pacing extremely well, on several levels. You know from the beginning that Moses starts unsuccessful, will come to power under Al Smith, and then win and win for 44 years until Rockefeller finally brings him down, but the details are pretty exciting. And the portrait of Moses is ultimately very sympathetic, although it does not refrain from pointing out the various quirks, which, along with his genius, more or less ensured that he would turn into a terrible raging ogre once he had accumulated enough power to surf on.


  • Not very far into the book, after Moses had got a couple of things done and you get to see him responding to criticism, it occurred to me that he almost certainly would have had several things to say about the way he was portrayed, so I checked, and it turned out that he had produced a fascinating but I’d say pretty self-defeating note after the publication of the book.
  • The Caro tone is very distinct, and, to me, pretty endearing, but also lends itself a bit to parody.
  • As a general rule, anyone trying to revive Moses’s reputation without acknowledging that he should probably have been tried for crimes against humanity for some of his Title I shenanigans is either a bad person or an ignorant person.