From Publishers Weekly
During the last two decades of her life, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis worked on nearly 100 books with varying degrees of responsibility as an editor, first at Viking--she resigned after being castigated by the New York Times about a Viking thriller with a Ted Kennedy–like protagonist as an assassination target--and then at Doubleday, which promised to avoid any similar embarrassments. Her love of dance led to Onassis publishing a biography of Fred Astaire and autobiographies of Martha Graham, Judith Jamison, and Gelsey Kirkland. Kuhn (The Politics of Pleasure: A Portrait of Benjamin Disraeli) is particularly dismissive of Kirkland and her then-husband/collaborator Greg Lawrence's bestselling tell-all accusing George Balanchine of cruelties; not coincidentally, Lawrence is the author of a competing book, Jackie as Editor. With biographies of Clara Bow and Jean Harlow, the quietly feminist Onassis insisted on getting beyond publicity photo images to tell a woman's true story, says Kuhn. Being seen as royalty herself as the widow of JFK, the often imperious Onassis commissioned more than a dozen books on the royalty of India, ancient Egypt, Versailles, and Romanov Russia. Although this lucid, amply detailed catalogue of Onassis's publishing projects offers a window into her passions and opaque personality, it is far from what Kuhn dubs "the only autobiography she ever wrote"--most readers will not find it revelatory. (Dec.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
In his prologue, Kuhn quotes John F. Kennedy, Jr.’s statement that his mother, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, was at the time of her death “surrounded by her friends and her family and her books.” Building on the theme that Jackie’s love of books and words helped define who this intensely private woman really was, he provides a biography of Jackie via the books she read and loved during the course of her richly complex personal life, and, more important, the books and authors she championed and nurtured as an editor in her professional life. The theme is an interesting one, though Kuhn perhaps takes it a bit too far, asserting that “her books are the autobiography she never wrote.” Hyperbole aside, analyzing Jackie’s editorial choices does provide a fascinating—albeit limited—glimpse into what moved her soul and motivated her choices. Voracious readers will relate to Jackie’s love of literature and appreciate this quasibiographical booklist. --Margaret Flanagan