Okay, I confess, lots of times when I’m in the supermarket, and in the checkout line, I’ll read the gossip and celebrity tabloids. It’s like once in a while taking a bite out of a jelly donut, it tastes good, and with just a morsel you don’t suffer any ill effects.
Books like Bobby and Jackie, though, while they deal with celebrities and famous ones, provide more than the titillation of living vicariously in the moment. Plus, they’re books. So the process of taking in the message of the author is a longer and more deliberate task, requiring an active intellectual approach to get the most appreciation. Bobby and Jackie falls in the category of pleasure reading, for most of us: no particularly heavy concepts, nothing new ideologically, like bedtime stories for children or trying on a comfortable old pair of shoes.
“I did not know that.”
I decided to read the book when I saw it at a lady friend’s house, and she said she’d got it for a song from one of those cheap-book crates outside the local public library. [Libraries periodically refresh their stock by letting go of the old and bringing in the new.] The title piqued my interest: “Do you mean that Bobby Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy were hooked up romantically, had an affair or something?” She says, “Duh.” So I figured I owed it to myself to look into the J&B phenom, turn to the lighter side of life for a while in my book review business.
There’s a natural sympathy among most Americans for Jackie, and a quality of admiration, sometimes adoration.
[To me, JFK is a major symbol of resistance to the Anglo-American Financial Oligarchy, a pack of aggressors (the “Unspeakable” Ones) with way too much power and stolen wealth that leeches off the true humans… mainly through war. John F. was in the process of blowing the whistle on these would-be nuclear warmakers of the day, so they had to kill him. The coverup of that heinous crime has been largely effective due to a) the vastness of the perpetrators’ power and b) the peculiar psychological defects in a large group of educated people that resemble abject moral and intellectual cowardice.]
So even with a few warts, Jackie’s husband was a heroic, courageous man, a one of a kind real-human president, not playing an automaton to the strings of bankster puppetmasters behind the scenes. Jackie, who appeared to stand loyally by his side, did not deserve to have such a man taken from her any more than we did. She definitely had a way with words and she wrote most of her own stuff, e.g. her statement to Theodore White:
“Bitter old men write history. Jack’s life had more to do with myth and magic than political theory or political science. History belongs to heroes, so heroes must not be forgotten. If only for my children, I want Jack to be remembered as a hero. There will be great presidents again, but there will never be another Camelot.”
Jackie had an economy of expression, often accompanied by humor, that just either is or is not. Looking on the Web for a source of quotes, I did find this site. Let me provide a few gems from it:
An Editor becomes kind of your mother. You expect love and encouragement from an Editor.
Even though people may be well known, they hold in their hearts the emotions of a simple person for the moments that are the most important of those we know on earth: birth, marriage and death.
I want minimum information given with maximum politeness.
If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.
The one thing I do not want to be called is First Lady. It sounds like a saddle horse.
There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.
What is sad for women of my generation is that they weren’t supposed to work if they had families. What were they going to do when the children are grown – watch the raindrops coming down the window pane?
The author is very good at quoting Jackie in several contexts, which show that her thoughts are compelling and timeless. Bobby, too, but, trust me, while each had his/her petty side, Jackie had the depth of knowledge and culture to overcome it. [She’s definitely someone to fall in love with.]
Bobby and Jackie prefers to stay away from the Machiavellian side. We learn that JFK’s constant sex addiction—he was like a Wilt Chamberlain, having at least one sex partner (who wasn’t Jackie) every day—annoyed her. We learn that the old man, Joe Kennedy, made Jackie an offer of a million dollars to stay with the president, which she accepted. We learn that Teddy Kennedy was a sadistic, perpetually drunk slob, and that Bobby, also fulfilling the Kennedy indiscriminate-sex reputation, was a serial cheater in his own right… but that he was infinitely more discreet than his brothers and he handled his liquor better. And he actually loved Jackie.
One effect of this book on me is to firm up the assessment of the Kennedy clan as the ultimate dysfunctional family, far from the Camelot that Arthur Schlesinger, Theodore White, and others popularized. Also, the book humanizes Jackie, it’s very straight about her shortcomings as well as her virtues. She was something of a money grubber. Yet she had a special sense of humor. For example, the author points out, she—referring to President Kennedy’s sex addiction—would refer to his social welfare program, the New Frontier, as the “Nude Frontier.” In private.
Generally, in those days, people in public life who had extramarital affairs could count on discretion of the media. A media that had not yet descended to a “tell all they know about the seediest details to generate $millions in sales” level. Indeed, even though the whole family knew that Bobby and Jackie were carrying on for years, and most of their entourage were aware of it, the vast majority of Americans had no clue. I certainly didn’t realize it, and my parents who were contemporaries of the Kennedys didn’t know it either.
One gets a fairly good idea of what the President’s brother was like, too. Bobby, even in his more routine wanderings, still showed signs of affection or concern for the woman, as many women who were shtooped by both men attested. It was certainly natural for Bobby and Jackie to console each other following the assassination. And one thing led to another. Yet in their public lives they maintained decorum, with Bobby staying with Ethel and Jackie marrying Aristotle Onassis… who comes off as quite the major asshole.
So if you’re into lifestyles of the rich and famous, or simply want a little history lesson about an important family and their choices and actions, Heymann’s book is a decent slice of the pie. It takes you back, as well as showing the constants and variables of fame as time goes by.
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