I know, I know, the biblical saying is about new wine in old bottles, not old wine in news bottle, but I can’t help it. This is what came to me when I read that Robert Caro’s Pulitzer Prize-winning tome, The Power Broker, is being turned into a musical called Robert Moses Astride New York. The musical is a work in progress, but it does seem to have legs. It certainly sparked a long article in the New York Times.
No one is more surprised or excited about his book’s move onto the boards than the author himself. Robert C. loved the fact that almost 40 years after it was written, “we are talking about this book as if it’s a new book. All the time I was writing it, people were saying, ‘Who’s going to read a book about Robert Moses?’ because he was already forgotten. I said, ‘People will read this book, if I can do it right’ and it mattered to me that it went beyond a couple of years, I didn’t want just one generation to know it
“Now, here they are, singing about him. It’s transmuting itself into another form of art. You feel, in a way, you did it, what you set out to accomplish.”
Caro said something else fascinating. A simple dedication on a park bench inspired the last line in The Power Broker, which is “Why aren’t they grateful?” Finding the ending of his story somehow freed him to organize the huge amount of research he’d gathered over seven years and begin writing. “The bench was the great moment as a writer, an epiphany: I can do this. I have the last sentence.”
I love how one simple hook, one compelling idea, shifted everything into focus
for Caro. In an earlier post called Cleopatra Rules! I describe how another Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Stacy Schiff, experienced her own epiphany: she suddenly caught a glimpse of Cleopatra’s playful personality and realized that she could capture it. These are the magical moments we all long for! Have you ever had one like this?