Sunday, March 3, 2013

And now for Killing Kennedy

Book lovers typically make recommendations to each other in the course of normal conversation. So, I wonder if Bill O'Reilly was being clever or coy in the naming of his recent best sellers. Because when my reader-friends have recently asked for suggestions on current books, the words that have rolled off my tongue are: "I really loved Killing Kennedy. And I quite enjoyed Killing Lincoln as well." My recommendation makes me feel a bit homicidal.

I've been fairly preoccupied with Killing Kennedy (subtitled "The End of Camelot") ever since I finished reading the last page–always a sign of a good book. Undoubtedly, a few of the personal details of JFK's life appalled me. And so did a few of his political maneuvers. But then, the Cuban Missile Crisis came along. And wave of great admiration overtook me as I witnessed his unrelenting leadership.

There are many compelling characters in this book. The glamorous, but sad events Jackie Kennedy had to endure make her the most tragic figure in the book. I can see why the nation was drawn to her. (Heck, I think the nation is drawn to most of our First Ladies, but she certainly stands out.) Martin Luther King, Jr. is characterized as an interesting parallel to JFK–an imperfect, charismatic and obvious game-changing leader. And while Bobby Kennedy and Lyndon B Johnson are players in "Camelot", the book really depicts their adversarial relationship in a politically charged White House. Marilyn Monroe makes an intriguing appearance, as the bombshell always did. And while O'Reilly/Dugard stay true to the facts, and there is no overt mention of conspiracy, it's difficult not to wonder about some of the coincidences at her death. And of course, the book follows the strange path of Lee Harvey Oswald–a man who didn't even hate Kennedy, a man who simply sought notoriety. (For anyone who read Lincoln, this will sound eerily familiar.)

Needless to say, by the time I reached the day of the assassination, I had grown respectful for JFK and his ability to lead our nation. And despite his personal indiscretions, he clearly loved his family. So by the time I read through the awful assassination, I was bawling. The End of Camelot had become very real and tragic event for me.

The only complaint I would have about the book would be this: I wished for more pictures. I realize  this probably sounds juvenile. But I became so intrigued by the first family of 1960, I wanted to see much more of them. (I actually YouTubed Jackie's "Tour of the White House.")

Anyway, thanks to the writing styles of Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard, I believe many more Americans are relishing in histories that should be relished. I hear their next project is going to be "Killing Jesus." Wow. That's a big undertaking. So. I'm definitely going to change how I recommend that book.

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