cover image Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Life and Times of W. C. Fields

Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Life and Times of W. C. Fields

Simon Louvish. W. W. Norton & Company, $29.95 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-393-04127-9

So influential were these two leaders, argues syndicated political cartoonist Shesol, that their long-standing rivalry affected Johnson's Great Society and shaped U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Beginning with Robert Kennedy's unsuccessful attempt to retract his brother Jack's offer of the vice presidency to Johnson in 1960, Shesol traces their increasing animosity through Johnson's years of exile in Camelot when Bobby enjoyed his position, in J.F.K.'s words, as ""the second most powerful man in the world,"" to the sudden reversal of fortunes after J.F.K.'s assassination, and concludes with Bobby's candidacy against Johnson in 1968, Johnson's decision to pull out of the race and Bobby's assassination. Shesol uses hundreds of personal interviews, oral histories and official files to present a compelling history. His sympathies seem to be with Kennedy, and this account suggests that he ran against Johnson only to avert the ongoing tragedy of the Vietnam War. Johnson emerges as almost clinically paranoid about Kennedy. This is indispensable reading for both experts on the period and newcomers to the history of that decade. Photos not seen by PW. (Oct.)