Monday, December 5, 2011

Camalot reutrns with these great titles!

Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy by Jacqueline Kennedy and Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.

Kirkus Reviews –

The late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis speaks candidly about life in Camelot.

Just before publication of this collection of interviews with journalist/historian Arthur Schlesinger, conducted in 1964, a few leaked bits of conversation revealed that Jacqueline was content to leave the politics to her husband. This led to Kennedy’s being lambasted as a lightweight at best, a betrayer of feminism at worst. The interviews, gathered in transcribed form with elegant introductions by first daughter Caroline Kennedy and historian Michael Beschloss, indicate that she was anything but a lightweight, even if, as Beschloss wryly notes, “well-bred young women of Jacqueline’s generation were not encouraged to sound like intellectuals.” Jackie preceded the generation of feminists that would soon arise (and then became a role model, speaking frankly in Ms. and other movement publications). But the real defense comes through her words here, gathered only a few months after JFK’s assassination. They reveal a nimble if worried mind. Personally, JFK wasn’t the easiest man to live with, due in part to the sour stomach born of nerves and “those awful years campaigning…living on a milkshake and a hot dog,” as well as the terrible general health that he bore stoically in public but that caused him private agony. Jackie is shrewd in her assessments about people: Stewart Udall rose to head the Interior Department, she notes, because he delivered Arizona to JFK in the 1960 election—but then emerged as a real leader. She also provides on-the-spot commentary about unfolding world events, such as the ever-more-urgent specter of Vietnam and a divided Germany (the only ambassadors JFK “really disliked” were those from Germany and Pakistan).

All politics is local—and personal. These interviews are invaluable in providing a fly-on-the-wall view of life in the Kennedy White House—and there has never been so intimate a view from a First Lady’s perspective.





11/22/63 by Stephen King

Publishers Weekly –

High school English teacher Jake Epping has his work cut out for him in King’s entertaining SF romantic thriller. Al Templeton, the proprietor of Al’s Diner in Lisbon Falls, Maine, has discovered a temporal “rabbit hole” in the diner’s storage room that leads to a point in the past—11:58 a.m. September 9, 1958, to be precise. Each time you go through the rabbit hole, according to Al, only two minutes have elapsed when you return to 2011, no matter how long your stay; furthermore, history resets itself each time you return to that morning 53 years ago. Al persuades Jake to take a brief, exploratory trip through the rabbit hole into 1958 Lisbon Falls. After Jake’s return, a suddenly older and sick-looking Al confesses that he spent several years in this bygone world, in an effort to prevent President Kennedy’s assassination, but because he contracted lung cancer, he was unable to fulfill his history-changing mission. “You can go back, and you can stop” the assassination, he tells Jake. Jake, with only an alcoholic ex-wife by way of family, is inclined to honor his dying friend’s request to save JFK, but he also has a personal reason to venture into the past. A night school student of his, school janitor Harry Dunning, recently turned in an autobiographical essay describing how on Halloween night 1958 Dunning’s father took a hammer to Dunning’s mother and other family members with, in some cases, fatal results. An attempt to head off this smaller tragedy provides a test case for Jake, to see if he can alter the past for the better. Hundreds of pages later, once over the initial hurdles, Jake is working under a pseudonym as a high school teacher in Jodie, Tex., an idyllic community north of Dallas.

Knowing who’s going to win sporting events like the World Series comes in handy when he’s short of funds, though this ability to foretell the future turns out to have a downside. Indeed, the past, as Jake discovers to his peril, has an uncanny, sometimes violent way of resisting change, of putting obstacles in the way of anyone who dares fiddle with it. The author of Carrie knows well how to spice the action with horrific shivers. In Jodie, Jake meets a fellow teacher, Sadie Dunhill, who’s estranged from her husband, a religious fanatic with serious sexual hangups. Jake and Sadie fall in love, but their relationship has its difficulties, not least because Jake is reluctant to tell Sadie his real identity or reason for being in Texas. Clearly inspired by Jack Finney’s classic Time and Again, King smoothly blends their romance into the main story line, setting up the bittersweet ending that’s as apt as it is surprising. He also does a fine job evoking the sights, sounds, and smells of the late ’50s and early ’60s. The root beer even tastes better back then. By early 1963, Jake is zeroing in on a certain former U.S. Marine who defected to the Soviet Union and has recently returned to the U.S. with his Russian wife. Relying on Al’s judgment, Jake is only about 75% sure that Lee Harvey Oswald alone shot JFK, so he spends much time trying to ascertain whether Oswald is part of a conspiracy. Jake admits to not having researched the Kennedy assassination while still in 2011 Maine. If he had, he might’ve given up after concluding that it would be hopeless to try to stop, say, the Mafia, or the CIA, or Vice President Johnson from killing Kennedy. On the other hand, the plot would’ve been a lot less interesting if Jake, convinced on entering the past that Oswald was the sole gunman, felt compelled to eliminate Oswald long before that pathetic loser settled into his sniper’s nest in the Texas School Book Depository, toward which Jake winds up racing on the morning of November 22, 1963. In an afterword, King puts the probability that Oswald acted alone at “ninety-eight percent, maybe even ninety-nine.” “It is very, very difficult for a reasonable person to believe otherwise,” he adds. King cites several major books he consulted, but omits what I consider the definitive tome on the subject, Vincent Bugliosi’s Edgar-winning Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy (Norton, 2007). Bugliosi, who makes an overwhelming case in my view that the Warren Commission essentially got it right, covers the same ground as a book King does mention, Gerald Posner’s Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK (Random, 2003), then goes on to destroy the arguments of the conspiracy theorists, with wit and ridicule as weapons. Of course, there will always be intelligent and otherwise reasonable people, like PW’s anonymous reviewer of Reclaiming History and King’s wife, novelist Tabitha King (a life-long “contrarian,” King tells us), who side with the host of cranks emotionally invested in believing Oswald was the patsy he claimed. Those folks may have a problem with this suspenseful time-travel epic, but the rest of us will happily follow well-meaning, good-hearted Jake Epping, the anti-Oswald if you will, on his quixotic quest. Peter Cannon is PW’s Mystery/Thriller reviews editor.





Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero by Chris Matthews

Kirkus Reviews –

Hardballhost Matthews (Life's a Campaign: What Politics Has Taught Me About Friendship, Rivalry, Reputation, and Success, 2007, etc.) blends tributes and chastisement in this highly personal account of John F. Kennedy's career.

The author begins with his earliest memory of JFK—his failed 1956 attempt to gain the vice-president spot with Adlai Stevenson. From a Republican family, Matthews gradually moved the other way, and JFK was a major factor. Throughout the narrative, the author combines political biography with personal reflection. Repeatedly, he narrates a key event in JFK's career (e.g., the Bay of Pigs debacle), and then raises questions about why the president behaved as he did. Matthews praises Kennedy's heroism during World War II, his determination to excel despite his medical conditions and his recognition of the moral aspects of politics. The excerpt Matthews includes from a JFK civil-rights speech delivered after the crisis at the University of Alabama remains stirring today. The author also lauds JFK for his ability to turn from his strong-willed father, his devotion to old friends, his speaking and debating skills and his resolution in the face of the dire threats issued by the Soviets. Despite his obvious emotional attachment to JFK, Matthews does not neglect his negative character traits. He reminds us that Kennedy was not a devoted husband—not just because of his serial infidelities but also in his casual, even cruel, treatment of his wife—and he questions JFK's support of Sen. Joseph McCarthy and his appointment of his own brother Robert as Attorney General—"sheer, unadulterated nepotism," writes the author. Matthews also recognizes that the Kennedy charm lay on a hard foundation of political savvy, even ruthlessness.

Matthews' admiration and gratitude for JFK trump his disapprobation.

No comments:

Archive

Find in a library

Search for an item in libraries near you: