cover image Incomparable Grace: JFK in the Presidency

Incomparable Grace: JFK in the Presidency

Mark K. Updegrove. Dutton, $29 (368p) ISBN 978-1-5247-4574-5

In this stylish yet familiar history, former Newsweek publisher Updegrove (The Last Republicans) contends that John F. Kennedy maintained his unprecedented popularity because he acknowledged and learned from geopolitical missteps such as the failed Bay of Pigs invasion (“The worse I do, the more popular I get,” Kennedy once mused). It’s a largely flattering portrait, as Updegrove acknowledges Kennedy’s “erraticism” and “rampant and reckless womaniz[ing],” including an affair with a 19-year-old intern, but prefers to focus on how he gained confidence and perspective while confronting the prospect of nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis (“the most dangerous moment in human history”) and the demands of an intensifying civil rights movement. Though the fast-paced narrative smoothly transitions from one high-stakes matter to the next and reveals just how eventful the abbreviated Kennedy presidency was, Updegrove has few new insights to offer on his subject’s character or motivations and relies heavily on the work of Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Ted Sorenson, and other Kennedy biographers. The result is a brisk and entertaining biography that doesn’t bring much new to the table. Agent: Jim Hornfischer, Hornfischer Literary Management. (Apr.)