A Copy of “The Power Broker” Is the Must-Have Quarantine Accessory for Media Elite

Sourdough is out. Owning a giant book is in.

Author Robert Caro with his book "The Power Broker"
Robert Caro's "The Power Broker" is on trend.
Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for East Hampton Library
By Kayla Kibbe / May 29, 2020 7:00 am

We’ve all developed our share of collective quarantine quirks over the past few months. Among a certain circle of media types, the latest COVID-era trend appears to be owning a giant book.

The New York Times‘ Dana Rubinstein highlighted the trend involving Robert Caro’s 1,246-page biography The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, which has been popping up in the background of TV interviews with journalists and politicians working from home amid the pandemic. “The ultimate signifier of New York political sophistication,” as Rubinstein put it, a copy of the book has become a must-have accessory for quarantine TV appearances.

While many of the book’s televised owners have insisted that the tome’s presence in the background of their interviews is coincidental, U.S. Representative Max Rose admitted to intentionally making the book visible to viewers, positioning it along with only five other books in the background.

The phenomenon first caught the attention of the anonymous New York journalist behind the Twitter account @CaroOnRoomRater, which documents many of the book’s recent appearances.

The trend has also come to the attention of the book’s 84-year-old author himself, who told the Times “watching television during the last few weeks has been quite a stunning and humbling experience.”

According to Risa Heller, a longtime New York public relations specialist, the book owes its current resurgence as a subtle status symbol to its ability to signal that its readers (or at least its owners who have taken it upon themselves to pose it in the background of their televised interviews) are “paying attention to the levers of power in New York.”

Like sourdough before it, The Power Broker has been thrust into the quarantine spotlight as we all cling to increasingly bizarre trends in some kind of desperate attempt to find a sense of community in isolation. Sourdough couldn’t save us, but maybe owning a giant book will.

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