Lyndon speaks

The editors of a new book purport to transcribe phone conversations recorded by Lyndon Baines Johnson in the ten weeks following his ascent to the presidency after John F. Kennedy’s assassination. But a reviewer contends that the transcriptions make “no attempt to convey Johnson’s Texas accent, which he turned on and off depending on the listener.”

That’s too bad, because in my favorite Johnson conversation — not within the scope of this volume — he places an unusually graphic, Texas-inflected order for pants. Here’s an excerpt:

LBJ: So leave me at least two and a half, three inches in the back where I can let them out or take them up. And make these a half an inch bigger in the waist. And make the pockets at least an inch longer, my money, my knife, everything falls out — wait just a minute.

Operator: Would you hold on a minute please?

[conversation on hold for two minutes]

LBJ: Now the pockets, when you sit down, everything falls out, your money, your knife, everything, so I need at least another inch in the pockets. And another thing — the crotch, down where your nuts hang — is always a little too tight, so when you make them up, give me an inch that I can let out there, uh because they cut me, it’s just like riding a wire fence. These are almost, these are the best I’ve had anywhere in the United States,

JH: Fine

LBJ: But, uh when I gain a little weight they cut me under there. So, leave me , you never do have much of margin there. See if you can’t leave me an inch from where the zipper (burps) ends, round, under my, back to my bunghole, so I can let it out there if I need to.

I don’t mean to suggest it was all fun and games with LBJ, though. You can sample some of his more troubling conversations (second item on right) for yourself. And if you’re determined to see how David Foster Wallace’s portrayal of the former president (in “Lyndon”) holds up, you can hear many more of the conversations here.

An event at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas, next Friday night will mark the release of the book.


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