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Edward Kennedy: An Intimate Biography Paperback – Bargain Price, September 6, 2011

3.7 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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From Publishers Weekly

A vivid protagonist who never quite escapes the pull of family and fate anchors this novelistic portrait of the late Massachusetts senator. Journalist Hersh (Bobby and J. Edgar) makes Kennedy his own statesman--a born politician and authentic liberal who combined a capacity for conciliation with a talent for ruthless maneuvering. But Kennedy never entirely shook off the hold of Kennedyness: the shadow of his domineering father, who he feared might have him lobotomized like his sister Rosemary if he didn't measure up; the ghosts of his dead brothers; the dread of assassination; the predatory sense of entitlement, especially to booze and women; the clan's epic bad luck. The author meticulously recounts Kennedy's political wrangles and legislative initiatives, but his approach is literary rather than wonkish; drawing on Hersh's decades-long acquaintance with the family, the prose brims with sardonic humor and indelible sketches of, say, Bobby's misery-wrinkled little hawk's face or Jackie's uncomfortable campaign appearances as a remote Vogue cutout before... seemingly endless files of scrubwomen. The result is an entertaining, psychologically acute rendition of a man and a mystique.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* For readers exhausted at the thought of another Ted Kennedy biography, this one is beautifully written and exquisitely detailed with plenty of new material drawn from investigation and interviews with Kennedy and his family, friends, and colleagues, as well as some impressions by historian Hersh, a friend of Kennedy’s since childhood. There’s the family history: driven Joe Kennedy, about whose philosophy of cutthroat competition, Hersh writes: “Nothing here the Corleones wouldn’t rubber-stamp.” Ted was born last in a large brood of overambitious, outsize personalities, so he developed the skills for gregariousness and conciliation that would serve him well in politics. All the usual history is here: the dirty politics of each Kennedy’s career climb, the assassinations of John and Robert, Ted’s stoic taking up of the Kennedy mantle, Chappaquiddick, the drinking, the affairs, and redemption, but it is fleshed out with previously undisclosed ruminations by Kennedy and the people who knew him well. Hersh also offers new insights on the accident that nearly destroyed Kennedy’s political life, the drowning of Mary Jo Kopechne. Part 1 contains mesmerizing analysis of the personal dynamics between the famous Kennedy brothers and Ted’s self-doubts and eventual mastery of the political game. Part 2 focuses on Kennedy’s growth in the powerful position of “shadow president,” the man who, though he failed to achieve what at one time had been considered inevitable, nevertheless wielded enormous political power and influence. Totally riveting. --Vanessa Bush --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint (September 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582437610
  • ASIN: B0096EPKTM
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.6 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,182,161 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"Despite" might well have served as Senator Ted Kennedy's middle name: with an eerie persistence that bespeaks the towering willpower of both his formidable parents, the pressure-cooker of his peripatetic upbringing, and his own flawed moral fibre, he succeeded, in the main, warts and, despite himself. Burton Hersh's biography is a wrestling match of a book, an excavation of personal anguish and loss, epic torment, curiously ambivalent ambition, breathtaking lubriciousness, an Irish Sea of booze, and, finally, a kind of personal redemption of Shakespearean scale. It's perhaps the best insight we'll ever have into a political life, like Churchill's equally sprawling, outsize career, that we shall never see the like of again.

The subtitle speaks truth: Burton Hersh's exceptional anatomy of the life of Senator Edward Kennedy is far more than the biography of a political princeling. Hersh makes a convincing case that hindmost brother of the trio whose lives so marked 1960s America was in fact the most subtly successful politician of the lot. This despite a life of seismic ups and downs, from cosseted childhood as an ambassador/speculator's youngest to an horrific air crash, the assassinations of both brothers and the near-career-ender of an automobile accident that killed one of his late brother's brightest young staffers at Chappaquiddick and the brain cancer that finally felled the "lion of the Senate" in August 2009.

Hersh is a rarity: an investigative journalist of real literary power, a power alloyed with an almost feline sense of the man whose life he interpreted and documented for nearly fifty years, from an early magazine profile of Kennedy in 1968 until Hersh's blunt 2007 dual political biography of RFK and J.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
So many books have already been written on Sen. Edward Kennedy. This one could have been just one more. It is not. The author succeeded in taking the full perspective of Kennedy's life and public career, pinpointing the moments of glory and those of failure, re-assessing these moments in the light of the actual external circumstances and Kennedy's inner perceptions, thoughts and intentions. I learnt a lot! The man deserves perhaps less than what the myth would tend to suggest, but certainly much more than what Kennedy's opponents would claim. The book describes not only the history of a man but also his destiny.
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Format: Hardcover
Beautifully written, Hersh has his own entertaining, at times cryptic, writing style. This book contains some material from his previous two Kennedy books, but this one is much more thorough and puts all the pieces together.

Hersh offers a more generous view of Joe Kennedy Sr. than other books , depicting him as a loving though absent father who was loyal to his friends, such as Teddy's namesake, Edward Moore. Rejection from the Boston Brahmins fueled Joe Kennedy's competitive nature, which he instilled in his children. The loyal youngest brother rose to expectations much higher than had been thought because of the family's tragic losses.

This book documents more than any other Teddy's key role in the 1968 Bobby Kennedy campaign. Teddy campaigned actively not only in 1968 primary states but in the then dominant state conventions, where he was generally better received by party leaders than his more reserved and tense older brother. Hersh describes the RFK campaign as doomed from the start with party leaders and their delegations in lockstep behind LBJ, and, after his withdrawal, Vice President Hubert Humphrey. Teddy and many Kennedy advisors opposed the uphill campaign as it was debated, but went all out per Robert and Ethel's decision to run.

Hersh thoroughly documents Kennedy's remarkable legislative career and his failed 1980 presidential campaign, which he carried on to the convention despite impossible odds after his early losses. The author does not ignore his flaws, mainly his weakness for drink, food, and women. Though regarded as a diehard liberal, Hersh argues that Kennedy's eagerness to compromise led him at times to support legislation that many liberal Democrats strongly opposed, chiefly NAFTA and No Child Left Behind.
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Format: Hardcover
I struggled to finish this book. The author's style is rambling and choppy - by this I mean that facts about Ted Kennedy are heavily interspersed with the author's personal ruminations and opinions. Emotional distance and objectivity would have made this a better book.

For example -taking the author's depiction of the Chappaquiddick incident- Hersh is more interested in presenting Kennedy as dazed and confused by a swelling/abrasion on his head, and in reciting Kennedy's pain from torn neck muscles, as well as passing blame for the woman's death on at least three other men (Joe Gargan, Paul Markham, & Kennedy's "leathery" lawyer), than in hard investigation of what was definitely the blackest incident in Kennedy's life, his character, and his career. (The author fails to mention that there was a volunteer firehouse across from the house where the barbeque was held, and that Kennedy and friends could have sought help for the drowning woman there.) Also, without proof, the author states that Mary Jo Kopechene's photograph was retouched to give her mascaraed eyes and a somehow "come hither" look before its release to the media, because in reality she was "pasty" and solid-looking; hardly worth a place on Kennedy's sexual radar.

In any event, I don't understand why anyone would write a biography of Kennedy NOW. He's only recently passed away. A few years need to pass before an informed judgment can be rendered of this man, who had some talents but too many demons. This weak biography isn't balanced enough to suit my taste, it's not quite hagiography but its frequent dips into Kennedy-mystic/worship make me queasy.
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