Forty Ways to Look at JFK

Gretchen Rubin, Author . Ballantine $24.95 (387p) ISBN 978-0-345-45049-4

Rubin's latest (after Forty Ways to Look at Churchill ) is at times fresh and imaginative, but too often superficial. Attempting to find a unique angle of entrée to the enigma of the Kennedy mystique, Rubin breaks the legend down into 40 brief chapters, each a uniquely angled lens through which she examines his life, his achievements and failures, his friendships and betrayals, his courage and cowardice, his influences and motivations, the source and nature of his appeal or notoriety and why he remains a figure of such intense, conflicted passions. We learn that Kennedy "became the focus of an idealism that he—with his pragmatic view of the world—didn't share." The problem is that the categories feel arbitrary, and the reader—rather than having the 40 separate encounters cohere into a nuanced portrait—is too often subjected to familiar banalities: "Kennedy was the first president to realize photography's power"; "Kennedy won the trust of reporters, in part, by showing trust in them." When Rubin attempts to sink deeper into the source, she comes up empty-handed: "Jack Kennedy had a single quality that lifted him into triumph... he captured the interest and admiration of the public ." 29 b&w photos. Agent, Christy Fletcher . (Oct. 25)

Reviewed on: 08/15/2005
Release date: 10/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
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