A chorus of fascinating and mostly thoughtful voices reflects on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Kentucky native Hansen, a retired emergency room nurse and grandmother of 11, joins forces with her daughter, Laura, in the assembly of responses to a letter the elder Hansen dispatched in 1978 as a “quirky and idiosyncratic” homage to the Kennedy tragedy. The missive invited thousands of addressees to submit their thoughts on that fateful day and how the event impacted their lives. The response was overwhelming. Presented as graphically reproduced originals on the page, the book highlights the best of these letters. Canvassing such a wide spectrum of “famous, infamous, and ordinary people” resulted in a kaleidoscope of opinions and memories as well as a nostalgic glimpse back to an age of hand- and typewritten communication. Leading the anthology is poignant poetry contributed from a member of the Oglala Sioux Indian tribe, followed by vivid reminiscence from such luminaries as Edward Albee, Steve Allen, Ed Koch and Mary Tyler Moore. These sit alongside heartfelt verbatim exchanges from Minnie Pearl and prolific Southern author Erskine Caldwell and lighter moments from Walter Matthau and Nobel laureate Roger Wolcott Sperry, who heard the news as he was performing experimental brain surgery on a test monkey. The authors curiously include a less-sincere form letter from then–Vice President George H. Bush and omit a delusionary handwritten rant received from Charles Manson. They include dismissive declinations from Art Buchwald and William F. Buckley Jr. and a rather indifferent reaction from Academy Award–winning costume designer Edith Head. An unexpectedly riveting paragraph from Julia Child joins somber remembrances from state senators, governors, mayors, college students and distinguished actors such as Foster Brooks, George Burns, Claudette Colbert and Danny Thomas. With profound respect, the Hansens offer posthumous appreciation for an iconic American leader taken too soon. Other contributors include Arthur C. Clark, Ned Beatty, Hal Holbrook, Bob Hope and Pete Seeger.
A moving, wistful, uniquely entertaining tribute.