Over the Labor Day weekend I read two books. One was Bobby and Jackie: A Love Story by, C. David Heymann…the other: The Last Campaign, Thurston Clarke that I had read, in 2008, when it first came out.
What they both have in common is Bobby Kennedy.
The first one I’m a little embarrassed I picked up, it was that seedy. Written in 2009, it allegedly accuses Robert Kennedy of having a salacious affair with his renowned sister-in-law after the death of her husband and his brother in 1963.
When columnist Liz Smith wrote on the back, “A real page-turner,” she wasn’t kidding. I too inhaled it like cheap pizza.
Why cheap? Because if it’s the type of dirty laundry that, if indeed is that soiled and sordid, then it would have been much better off left in the hamper.
Do I think it’s true? Probably, but not necessarily in the sullied, mucky manner Mr. Heymann chose to display it in. Let’s do the math, shall we? They both lose someone they love more than anyone in the world under horrific circumstances. She sees her husband’s head fly off leaving its contents in her lap, and let us not forget she is merely thirty-four years old recently suffering from a miscarriage, a pregnancy that was brought to full term.
She’s scared, sad and more than a little vulnerable.
He is now the eldest son in a family tortured by tragedy who blames himself without mercy for his brother’s murder. They comfort one another. He rushes to meet the plane carrying her and Jack’s body at Andrews Air Force Base and never leaves her side. So we’ll ask the question again. Did Bobby and Jackie have an affair? I’m going to say yes. But I’m also going to say, so what. Yeah, I know he was married, but sometimes life expands into something much bigger than what we can see or empathically understand.
they are both dead, him since 1968, she 1994. Can we finally let them rest in peace? I’m just wondering since, like Elvis, they get as much publicity six feet under as they did when they were six feet above ground.
I felt slimed after finishing Bobby and Jackie and sorry I too thought it was a page-turner. Yes, I’m ashamed to admit, I have the gossip gene as well.
Adios C. David Heymann.
Hola Thurston Clarke.
I wanted to read a respectful book about Bobby who’s always been a hero of mine, to redeem and regain my self-respect.
The Last Campaign was that book – an amazing read even more riveting the second time.
It chronicles RFK’s eighty-two day and I’m just going to quote the book jacket…
definitive and exhilarating account of Robert Kennedy’s 1968 campaign for president.
Mr. Clarke is a first-class writer who clearly loved his subject, but could still write about him without veering only to one side. He doesn’t depict Bobby as an angel but, as Ted Kennedy said in his eulogy and I’ll paraphrase, someone that need not be idealized but remembered as a good and decent man. That’s the fellow you meet within Clarke’s own 282 page-turner that will leave you so sorry Bobby Kennedy didn’t make it to the White House.
My problem was, as long as I didn’t get to California in the first week of June, 1968, I could keep Bobby alive. I stalled reading the chapter: So This Is It knowing at forty-two years of age that good and decent man would be no longer.
There is something quite divine about a book that leaves your heart in such a state of apprehension, sorrow and rage it can only be viewed as a grace. So when Clarke describes Bobby’s final moments in the prosaic, cold kitchen of a Los Angeles hotel, you’re glad he may have had an affair with Jacqueline Kennedy whom he loved and admired, cherished and protected till the day he died. Yes, according to Heymann their alliance lasted that long.
John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr had been shot at long distance by high-powered rifles, like prize stags. Bobby’s assassination was less surprising than theirs, but more intimate and gruesome. He was slaughtered at close range, like a farm animal, in a claustrophobic and abbattoir-like room filled with metal tables and knives.
One of the last things Bobby Kennedy said before forever losing consciousness was, “Is everybody else alright?” I found this particularly haunting that a man who’s still perceived forty-five years later by many, as having been mean and ruthless, could care that much during the final moments of his life.
Though not a new book, it’s a great one that I’m recommending to anyone who loves, nor fears, history in the raw.
As for Heymann’s book…hey man, don’t you have anything better to write about?
Ted Kennedy, at the conclusion of his eulogy said:
As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him:
“Some men see things as they are and say why,
Robert F. Kennedy
1925 – 1968