The liberal arts are out of fashion at the University of Arkanas-Walton Branch, but some notable professors still slog on, doing good work though it doesn't necessarily translate to jobs, charter schools or cheaper ways for Wal-Mart to control inventory.
One is Randall Woods, the distinguished history professor at the University, who has a new biography out on LBJ. It gets a rave in this Sunday's NY Times book section from Alan Brinkley, a professor of history at Columbia.
Some might question whether there is any need for another substantial biography, and Randall B. Woods, a historian at the University of Arkansas, must have asked himself the same question at times as he worked on his own book while so many others were being published around him.
But in writing “LBJ: Architect of American Ambition,” Woods has produced an excellent biography that fully deserves a place alongside the best of the Johnson studies yet to appear. He is more sympathetic and nuanced than Caro, more fluid and (despite the significant length of his book) more concise than Dallek — and equally scrupulous in his use of archives and existing scholarship. Even readers familiar with the many other fine books on Johnson will learn a great deal from Woods.
Unlike all but a few Johnson biographers, Woods is himself a Southerner, and has a particularly good understanding of the nexus of race, class, family and religion that shaped Johnson’s life.
Warwick Sabin reviewed the book in our book section Aug. 3.