Designing Camelot: The Kennedy Restoration of the White House

James Abbott, Author, Elaine M. Rice, With International Thomson Publishing Services $50 (256p) ISBN 978-0-442-02532-8
Hellman, who teaches English at Ohio State--Lima, isn't out to strip away the mythic veneer to disclose all the failings underneath, but rather to show the evolution of those myths in the first place. He starts by looking at the influence that individual works such as David Cecil's The Young Melbourne, John Buchan's Pilgrim's Way, the movie Red River, or figures such as Byron and Hemingway had on Kennedy's imagined self. Hellman proposes that Kennedy was deeply aware of image: for example, he wrote Profiles in Courage because he knew that as a national candidate, he needed to ""cue the media to move his characterization forward from the role of immature boy."" The most interesting pages are those few that show how Kennedy's heroic self-image influenced his time in office. For Kennedy, says Hellman, a dilemma was best dealt with as a crisis--U.S. Steel crisis, Civil Rights crisis and, most of all, Cuban Missile crisis--complete with a deadline, ""in which he played the role of hero in the decisive confrontation."" The most vexatious issue in studies of personal myth-building is the key question of consciousness. Kennedy, in Hellman's thesis, seems to have been greatly aware of subtle influences. Of Kennedy's admiration for Montgomery Clift's character in Red River, for example Hellman notes, ""Kennedy... may even have recognized a correspondence between the macho masquerade he himself performed to cover his `feminine' aspects and the homosexual actor's role."" (Oct.) FYI: Hellman notes that Jackie's White House restoration, ""offered a heightened version of the domestic role of the average housewife."" Van Nostran Reinhold will release a lengthy illustrated analysis in Designing Camelot: The Kennedy White House Restoration by James A. Abbott and Elaine M. Rice. ($50 256p ISBN 0-442-02532-7; Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Genre: Nonfiction
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