One of the interesting things I learned from reading about the book is that it was originally one-third longer. Robert Gottlieb, Caro's editor, cut 300,000 words. I can't even imagine. As it was, reading the book was challenging, not so much because it demanded tremendous concentration (which it did), but because it was heavy--literally. Taking it with me to read on buses or subways was courting a hernia. Reading in bed was out. Try resting this book on your lap as you read and you'll end up in the ER with internal injuries. Reading in a chair was a challenge--you can't hold it up, and you have to put a pillow in your lap to rest the book on.
I read most of this book sitting at a table or counter, which is not the most comfortable reading spot. But I did it. And, thankfully, the book was fascinating. For anyone who loves New York City and its history, this book is an important read. Robert Moses held power in this city longer than pretty much anyone else in the 20th century, and he not only held it longer, he held more of it. He was the actual person running the city during the mayoral administrations of La Guardia, O'Dwyer, Impelliteri, and Wagner. He had the money, thanks to his control of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, which was rolling in surplus millions while the city and the state were bordering on bankruptcy, and he had, more importantly, the power. He controlled people, he controlled projects, and, most frighteningly, he controlled the future. He is far and away the person who has had the greatest impact on the city of today. The list of projects that he created and built is truly mind-boggling: pretty much every major parkway and expressway in the New York City area, from the LIE to the Southern and Northern States, the Saw Mill, the Major Deegan, the West Side Highway, the FDR, the Wantaugh, the Meadowbrook, the Cross-Bronx, the BQE...the list goes on and on. Massive public works like the United Nations, Lincoln Center, the Forham University campus, the World's Fair of 1964-65. Literally dozens of state parks from Jones Beach to Niagara. Most of the ways the city's boroughs link together, from the Triborough Bridge to the Verrazano, the Whitestone, the Throgs Neck, the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, the Henry Hudson Bridge... You can see why the book needed to be so long.
By then he had turned the city into his toy, and twisted and turned it the way he wanted. He built the city but he also corrupted it. He destroyed neighborhoods and people in the process of "getting things done." The amount of good he did and the amount of bad are both enormous, and one of the things I appreciated about the book is that it doesn't try to present a final tally. It simply shows us the story of what is, in the final analysis, the man who made New York.