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Search tags: John-F-Kennedy
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review 2018-04-06 17:06
A perceptive account of Kennedy’s life and career
John F. Kennedy - Alan Brinkley,Sean Wilentz

For the past decade, “The American Presidents” series has churned out a series of biographies of our nation’s leaders written by a diverse range of authors, from historians who draw upon their expertise to inform their interpretation of their subject, to more eclectic writers who inform their efforts with a sometimes refreshingly new perspective. Alan Brinkley fits squarely into the first category: a longtime scholar of 20th century America, he brings the skills and knowledge gained a lifetime of study to this sprightly book on John F. Kennedy. His perspective is critical but not unfavorable; while acknowledging Kennedy’s many gifts, he describes how they served to sustain his popularity through the numerous setbacks he suffered as president. In this respect, the power of his image rested less on his actual accomplishments, but on what he represented, both as a leader and the “transformative moment” during which he served as president.

 

Such analysis explains Kennedy’s enduring hold on our historical imagination and points to the value of the book as a study of his life. While hardly the first short biography of Kennedy, Brinkley’s book surpasses previous works of its type such as   and   thanks to its author’s analysis and incorporation of recent revelations about Kennedy’s poor health. For anyone seeking an perceptive and readable introduction to the life and career of America’s 35th president, this is the book to read.

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text 2018-03-25 08:16
Another rediscovery
John F. Kennedy and PT-109 - Richard Tregaskis

A couple of months back, I wrote a post about discovering a book that I had read in my childhood, which I added promptly to my reading history. After I wrote it, I was doing some librarian work on Goodreads about both the series to which it belonged, World Landmarks, and a related one about American historical figures and events. In the process I came across this book by a former war correspondent, which looked dimly familiar. Had I read this one, too?

 

So I requested a copy through our Inter-library Loan, and while I may be fooling myself I think I may very well have. Rereading it today was quite an experience, especially in light of everything I've read since about JFK; Tregaskis gets more right than wrong (such as with his back condition) about this period of the 35th president's life, though some of this may have been because he had to tread lightly in writing a book about an incumbent president whose circle was famously conscious of his image. This may help explain why the majority of the book isn't about Kennedy but the PT boats; titling the book "PT boats and JFK's service on them" would have been more accurate. Still, I'm glad to have identified another part of my reading past, one that helps me to better understand a little more about how I came to hold so many of my views as a youth.

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review 2018-01-05 05:09
WHAT THE WORLD MIGHT HAVE BEEN LIKE IF JFK HAD LIVED -
The Memoirs of John F. Kennedy - Donald James Lawn

When I first became aware of the novel, "THE MEMOIRS OF JOHN F. KENNEDY", and its premise, I was highly skeptical. Alternative history novels are hardly my cup of tea. Many of the practitioners of the genre - from my perspective - tend to get carried away with their story ideas and concoct novels that take far too many liberties with established historical timelines and personalities, reshaping them in ways that hardly seem plausible or feasible. 

Yet, in the case of this novel by Donald James Lawn, I was intrigued. Its premise is based on President Kennedy having survived the assassination attempt against him in Dallas, TX, on November 22, 1963. JFK makes a slow, painful recovery, runs for re-election (against Barry Goldwater) and decisively wins a second term in 1964. Given a two-term Kennedy presidency, the courses of a host of issues that shaped and defined the 1960s - e.g. Vietnam, Civil Rights, and U.S.-Soviet relations - were altered in some rather intriguing ways. I confess that, as President Kennedy is one of my heroes, I wanted so much to believe in what this novel was about. Which is why I read it with a highly critical eye. 

Lawn has crafted a novel that realizes a credible scenario that might have come to pass had JFK not been assassinated and juxtaposes it brilliantly with the relationship Kennedy forms with a Washington Post journalist (by the name of Patrick Hennessey) who came to his attention both through Hennessey's book (an exposé of the McCarthy trials, which JFK much admired) and from the time he briefly covered JFK's re-election campaign on Air Force One during the late summer of 1964. Four years later, as JFK's tenure in the White House draws to a close, Hennessey is enlisted by the President to help in writing his memoirs. This is done discreetly because JFK doesn't want to be seen (by some members of his administration) as tipping his hand towards the type of story he wants told of his Presidency, as well as the legacy he wishes to leave the country and the world at large. 

In this novel, Lawn takes the reader both through the first crucial weeks after the assassination attempt, and also through the developing personal relationship between both JFK and Hennessey during September and October of 1968. To keep these 2 interconnecting stories both in one novel in this way, isn't easy. But the way JFK, Jackie Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, LBJ, and several of President Kennedy's closest aides (Dave Powers, Pierre Salinger, and Kenny O'Donnell) are fleshed out, lend considerable credibility to this novel. I really felt that Lawn had captured through several of the JFK - Hennessey conversations (in the White House, on the golf links at Glen Ora, or at Hyannisport), the essence and spirit of JFK the man. Lawn could easily have made a mess of this novel. But I salute him for making a novel that made me want so much to experience the world as it might have been had President Kennedy not been so cruelly taken away from us. 

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text 2017-09-07 04:27
Reading progress update: I've read 45 out of 112 pages.
Camelot at Dawn: Jacqueline and John Kennedy in Georgetown, May 1954 - Institute Peabody Institute,Orlando Suero,Anne Garside
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review 2017-06-28 19:50
Podcast #55 is up!
The Afterlife of John Fitzgerald Kennedy: A Biography - Michael J. Hogan

My fifty-fifth podcast is up on the New Books Network website! In it I interview Michael Hogan about his new book (which I reviewed here) on the development of JFK's posthumous image. Enjoy!

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