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The best-selling author of Charles and Diana offers a provocative study of the Kennedy men, describing how the fiercely ambitious, dictatorial patriarch Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., shaped the destinies of his four sons. 50,000 first printing. $20,000 ad/promo.
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"A day without a lay," Joseph P. Kennedy once said, "is a day wasted." Apparently his sons took him literally, as Martin (Jennie: The Life of Lady Randolph Churchill) points out repeatedly in this gossipy, well-documented anecdotal biography of Kennedy and his sons, Joe Jr., Jack, Bobby and Ted. We see the dynamic senior Kennedy as the mythical moneymaker, as SEC chairman, as the seducer of Gloria Swanson and as the anti-Semitic, Nazi-appeasing ambassador to England. His wife, Rose, is portrayed as a frigid, self-absorbed religious fanatic who would rather attend a Paris fashion show than look after her family. The rivalry between Joe Jr. and Jack is detailed, with the contention that Joe died trying to emulate Jack's heroism on PT 109. Much of the book centers on the President and his humongous sex drive?which prompted actress Angie Dickinson to comment that it was "the most memorable 15 seconds of my life"?and his affair with Marilyn ("What an ass!") Monroe. The President's illnesses, amphetamine addiction and pot smoking in the White House are also related. Ted is pictured as a ne'er-do-well and Bobby as the moralistic "sexual policeman" of the administration. Love the Kennedys or hate them, readers will be captivated by this juicy read. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Is there anything left to say about the Kennedys? Not really, especially after such definitive works as Doris Kearns Goodwin's The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys (1988). Given the overabundance of material on the topic, it's more than a little surprising to discover that this latest biography has genuine appeal. Even veteran Kennedy-watchers who think they know the whole story will come away satisfied. It's not that Martin (who has chronicled the family, especially Jack, for years) offers us much that's new. Rather, it's his engaging writing style and his ability to synthesize that make the book work. By focusing on just the male Kennedys, he narrows his topic enough to let the story really flow, and his insights into the Kennedy psyche lack the familiar air of psychobabble. Unlike, say, Joe McGinniss in The Last Brother (1993), Martin uses real-life incidents, not insinuation, to fuel his psychological interpretations. If his book is finally more Goodwin-lite than it is a truly new beverage, that's not to say that it wouldn't be just right for library patrons who want to read about the glory and the tragedy of the Kennedys but don't want to get filled up on all the weighty details. Ilene Cooper
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