cover image Jackie Under My Skin: Interpreting an Icon

Jackie Under My Skin: Interpreting an Icon

Wayne Koestenbaum. Farrar Straus Giroux, $21 (291pp) ISBN 978-0-374-28446-6

The same kind of serious play that distinguished Koestenbaum's earlier book, The Queen's Throat, a highly regarded study of opera and homosexuality, shapes the Yale English professor's scrutiny of the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis--and, more exactly, of the highly charged gap between the private woman and the public icon she became. In brief chapters, her signature sunglasses and scarf, her coiffure (``battle gear of a woman of means''), even the ``O'' of her name occasion manic, inventive and sometimes wildly funny ruminations. In ``Silent Jackie,'' Maria Callas is quoted as saying that Onassis ``spoke like Marilyn Monroe playing Ophelia''; in ``Jackie as Housewife,'' Onassis is at once the devoted helpmate of powerful men and the star whose allure obscured them; ``Exotic Jackie,'' always conscious of her public role, was ``in exile from herself, a bemused visitor to her own body.'' Though some will undoubtedly find the book hopelessly irreverent, those fascinated by the cult of celebrity will find Koestenbaum's analysis of an enduring American icon a compelling contribution in cultural studies. First serial to the New York Times Magazine; Readers Subscription Book Club selection. (May)