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A fresh perspective on a president whose style, legacy, and politics continue to inspire discussions about freedom and...

A focused cultural analysis of John F. Kennedy’s “manly ethos.”

Watts (History/Univ. of Missouri; Self-Help Messiah: Dale Carnegie and Success in Modern America, 2013, etc.) probes the masculine allure JFK represented and how it changed a nation’s impression of what a man and a political leader should embody. The author shows how, amid the “high-flying spirit of the New Frontier,” this idolized, charismatic leader navigated his personal and political lives. In the late 1950s and early ’60s, male society experienced what was considered a postwar “crisis of masculinity” due to modern workplace bureaucracies and “increasingly angry feminists,” both of which inspired a backlash in which a “cultural crusade for masculine regeneration” began to swell. Effervescently young, handsome, and idealistic, JFK came to symbolize this movement. Perhaps the book’s most compelling viewpoints are formed from the astute attention paid to the interconnectedness of the “Kennedy Circle.” This stylish, influential collective consisted not of political advisers but rather prominent male celebrities who, in one form or another, through behavior or appearance, exuded and thus promoted the touchstones of an undeniably masculine aesthetic: physical attractiveness, youth, vigor, bravado, and unbridled, unrepentant virility. Particularly provocative are chapters featuring Norman Mailer, Frank Sinatra, Hugh Hefner, Kirk Douglas, and Tony Curtis. The author also examines the consequential fallout from the president’s 1963 assassination, as the country mourned the demise of their iconic leader and the modern embodiment of political leadership thus changed. A tad overanalyzed but consistently bolstered by solid research and convincing arguments, the book conjoins its subject’s two most memorable images—the private “tireless sexual adventurer” and the responsible, citizen-centered politician—and reconciles them both into a dignitary who, for better or worse, created indelible change for America.

A fresh perspective on a president whose style, legacy, and politics continue to inspire discussions about freedom and leadership values.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-250-04998-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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