Camelot dismantled again. Parmet, a CUNY historian (Eisenhower and the American Crusades) won't reach the castle itself...


JACK: The Struggles of John F. Kennedy

Camelot dismantled again. Parmet, a CUNY historian (Eisenhower and the American Crusades) won't reach the castle itself until the promised second volume; here he gets only as far as JFK's declaration of candidacy in 1960. Still, the myth hovers over these pages. Parmet draws a fair, unflattering, not unfamiliar portrait of Joe Kennedy: anti-Semitic, vaguely pro-German, a social climber, ceaseless womanizer (even, given a chance, with his sons' girlfriends), and aggressive paterfamilias who pushed publication of John's Harvard honors thesis (Why England Slept) and generally shoved his son into public life. Also familiar by now are the competitive pressures he fostered within the family, his vision of Joe, Jr., as the future president (JFK was slated to be a mere university president), and wife Rose's role in keeping the family together. Parmet makes much of JFK's repeated hospitalizations, and their complications. These physical problems, as we all know by now, were hidden by public shows of vigor and touch football. The other plot-peg--first featured in the Blairs' 1976 The Search for J.F.K.--is a woman named Inga Arvad, a Danish journalist with a shadowy, Nazi-tainted past. JFK had an affair with her in 1941, when he was a Navy ensign. As part of a security check, the FBI got on to the liaison; and though Joe was instrumental in having Jack shipped off to the Pacific to break it up, those FBI files came back to haunt the younger Kennedy, who feared that J. Edgar Hoover would leak them. Indeed, Joe's presumed pro-German sentiments were always in the background waiting to explode all over JFK's career. Mixed into Parmet's account of Kennedy's House and Senate history, which is thorough, are other sexual tidbits, including some dating from after Kennedy's opportune, career-oriented marriage to Jacqueline Bouvier. Altogether, Parmet's text is nice and tidy, with intermittent small discoveries and nothing to upset the now-orthodox ""realist"" view of JFK. And he manages this, somehow, without seeming to be appalled at the vast public and private power wielded by Joe, Sr.--which is not a compliment.

Pub Date: July 11, 1980


Page Count: -

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1980