Monday, February 4, 2013

The Kennedys: An American Drama

1984, 1985 Warner edition
Peter Collier & David Horowitz
The Kennedys: An American Drama
Original price $4.95, purchase price unknown
Very worn paperback

Of the nine children of Joe and Rose Kennedy, only youngest daughter Jean remains, which is ironic since she's probably the one whom I feel I know least after reading this book.  The authors definitely pay more attention to the men in the family, as suggested by the titles of the four parts: "Architect of Their Lives" (father Joe), "The Stand-In" (Jack after Young Joe's death), "Brothers Within" (Jack and Bobby), and "The Lost Boys" (five of the male grandchildren).  None of the Kennedys come off particularly well though, although their family saga is still interesting.  Many of the third generation (really the fifth, since the book begins with Joe's grandparents arriving in America) seem to have gotten their act together in the three decades since this book came out, with the confusingly named Joseph P. Kennedy II having served the same Congressional district as his Uncle Jack.

Like the Rosalynn Carter book, this has some interesting stories of how politics works.  (There are also, as with that book, some glaring typos.)  It's good to see another side to the 1980 presidential campaign, since Rosalynn resented Teddy staying in the race so long, and it appears that he only did so because he didn't want to disappoint expectations for a Kennedy.  When I first read this book in my early 20s, it was a useful corrective to the common idea that JFK was a liberal.  He was in fact moderate, and his remarks about the minimum wage and civil rights, both of which he regarded as trivial compared to the grandeur of war, offend me as much as his sexism and homophobia.  RFK comes off better in some ways, although he did a lot of his elder brother's dirty work. 

Oddly enough, the authors spend more time on the gossip about Bobby's alleged affair with Marilyn Monroe than Jack's.  Not that they by any means ignore Jack's affairs, and rereading this book helped me better understand Jackie's viewpoint, that she tolerated Jack's adultery because of her father's.

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