Sorry for the blurry picture. Once again, GoogleImages has let me down.
Ok, sometimes I’m really interested in the way things actually went down, and sometimes I just want to rest in my delusions, you know? Like, sometimes I just want to believe that the Kennedys were this beautiful, intelligent, tragic couple and that, aside from the whole assassination thing, I would have enjoyed being them. I don’t want to know that JFK was a marauding womanizer and that Jackie was moody and could be kind of a bitch and that they were both (unknowingly) taking heavy doses of amphetamines (Jackie while she was pregnant with Phillip, who was born premature and lived only a few days).
Ok, enough of my personal feelings about history. Let’s talk about this book. It’s hard for me to say ‘It’s good’ or ‘It sucks’ because I’m still sort of in the shallow end of non-fic, and for all I know this could be the best biography has to offer. Jack and Jackie is fairly comprehensive and, seeing as how almost a third of the book is a direct quote from somebody or other, pretty factual, I guess. Problem is, just because someone said something about the President or First Lady, and you have a hard copy of it, doesn’t mean it’s good reading. People aren’t eloquent. For the most part, they’re mumbly bastards who don’t say much worth hearing. It’s like Andersen was writing a history paper and didn’t have enough sources to cite, so he started quoting articles just because they touched on his topic, not because they added anything new or profound to the mix.
Jack and Jackie, being a Portrait of an American Marriage, touches very little on Kennedy era politics. Mostly, this is why I picked it. I hate politics and I love people and people are most interesting when they’re facing challenge and marriage is challenging. Again, I wanted an ill-fated love story, and instead got a fairly unflattering portrayal of two very independent, very cold, very calculating individuals. Which can be exciting, except that he kept going on about how independent, how cold, how calculating they were. For almost 400 pages.
What surprised me most, I think, about this story of the Kennedys was how very much the press left them alone. It was the antithesis of Princess Di. I mean, Jackie keeps complaining about people taking pictures of her kids on the White House lawn without her permission. Fine, that would probably bother me too. But then the press complies and stops running the photos! AND the press hushed up stories of JFK’s perpetual illnesses, neglecting to run pictures of him using crutches, AND it seems that very few people knew about his almost-daily dalliances until well after his assassination. The President of the United States was sleeping around (no surprises here) AND NO ONE KNEW ABOUT IT! It’s hard, in today’s age of incessant papparazzi, to imagine how that could even be feasible.
In the end, I shed a single tear for the six or so pages that talk about the assassination. It was incredibly moving, even though I kind of hated both of them by this point. I kind of hated the book, too. The Great Non-Fiction Project of 2008 isn’t getting off to a real great start.