ROBERT KENNEDY: A Memoir by Jack Newfield


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Here, for readers who did not follow last year's campaign through the liberal-left press, is a memorial to Robert Kennedy, written by a reporter who was close to him and who is assistant editor of the Village Voice. The book proceeds on two levels. There is a loose historical survey, which recounts stages in Kennedy's career between Dallas and Los Angeles: the decision to run for the Senate; the losing ventures into New York State Democratic party quarrels; the growing involvement with the black and poor; the shift to opposition on Vietnam; the commitment to the primary race; the last months on the campaign trail. Much of the anecdotal material is familiar, as is the conclusion--that Kennedy alone could have healed our divisions. Simultaneous with the chronological overview is an analysis of the man's enormous growth--from uptight ""Bobby"" to poetry-reading RFK--over the five year span. Newfield locates the turning point in Kennedy's ""immersion in death"" following his brother's assassination, an experience which opened him to the pain of others, and which ultimately made him identify deeply with the outcast and the sufferer. Noting the continued liberal attacks on Kennedy as a ""ruthless opportunist,"" Newfield astutely remarks that superficial shifts of personae (a New Nixon in every garage) are so common in our politics that ""authentic inner change is doubted when it happens. ""He makes a good case for its occurrence here. Ironically, by focusing on his subject's psyche and style (rather than on his policies or on his public impact) Newfield himself contributes to the contemporary tendency to see politics in terms of personal ""images."" Possibly such myth-making is all that can be expected so soon after RFK's death. To those who mourn him (and who don't mind the approach) this sensitive portrait will have appeal.

Pub Date: June 10th, 1969
Publisher: Dutton