I’ve just concluded Jack and Jackie…Portrait of an American Marriage by Christopher Andersen. Published in 1996, it’s a biographical reflection of an iconic couple.
Why the love affair with individuals born into affluence and power, so far removed from those of us relegated to society’s lower stratosphere? Perhaps it’s through the celebrated we’re able to live out our fantasies, without having to deal with the inevitable pitfalls that accompany fame.
This particular biography, unlike others I’ve read about the Kennedys, puts a lot of meat on the bones of what others might have portrayed as mannequins in display windows.
The author’s concluding words summarize his adoit handling of two lives intricately intertwined. He gives us insight into a man and a woman, not unlike you or me. Only circumstances of birth and the resulting evolution of events, catapulted them into the spotlight.
Did Jack ever love Jackie? Patrick’s tragic death only a few months before the assassination was a pivotal event in the lives of the Kennedys, one that redefined the nature of their relationship. For the first time, Jack was able to reach out to his wife in ways he never could before. Did Jackie love Jack? There is no evidence that she ever stopped loving him.
Now that both Jack and Jackie are gone, perhaps the hysteria that enveloped them in life will be replaced with reason and understanding. Conceivably, we will be able to strip away the layers of hype and mystique to reveal the often vulnerable, tentative human beings underneath.
He was unquestionably a brilliant man whose vision of a better world continues to inspire millions. By virtue of her beauty, grace, and dignity, she is no less admired here and abroad. But to canonize them does us no less a disservice than to demonize them. For all their Olympian traits, Jack and Jackie argued over money, clothes, furniture, and in-laws. They grappled with infidelity, disease, and drug dependence. They fretted about infertility and childbearing, and both worried about and delighted in the children they had. They shared the death of one parent, the debilitating stroke of another, a miscarriage, a stillbirth, and the most crushing blow of all–the loss of a child.
They were nothing like us and everything like us. Theirs was an American marriage.
…thank goodness for writers…and the stories they tell…