TIME

In the land of steady habits, biographer Robert Caro prepares the final LBJ volume

THE DESK IN ROBERT CARO’S OFFICE HAS A rounded notch, a clean little half circle that lets him snug his wooden chair into his custom-made workstation. Instead of legs, the top rests on a pair of sawhorses. Shims raise the surface to where his elbows naturally rest when Caro’s pen rolls across the white legal pads on which he writes the first drafts of his epic biographies.

The height was calibrated by President John F. Kennedy’s personal physician, Janet G. Travell, M.D., a specialist in back pain whom Caro sought out after hurting himself playing basketball. Travell decided to assess his condition by watching him work. “So she sat on the floor in my office, and she said to me, ‘Do you know you sat at your desk for three hours without moving?’” Caro recalled.

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