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Reading Jackie : her autobiography in books
William Kuhn
Adult Nonfiction PN149.9.O53 K84 2010

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From Publishers' Weekly:

During the last two decades of her life, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis worked on nearly 100 books with varying degrees of responsibility as an editor, first at Viking-she resigned after being castigated by the New York Times about a Viking thriller with a Ted Kennedy-like protagonist as an assassination target-and then at Doubleday, which promised to avoid any similar embarrassments. Her love of dance led to Onassis publishing a biography of Fred Astaire and autobiographies of Martha Graham, Judith Jamison, and Gelsey Kirkland. Kuhn (The Politics of Pleasure: A Portrait of Benjamin Disraeli) is particularly dismissive of Kirkland and her then-husband/collaborator Greg Lawrence's bestselling tell-all accusing George Balanchine of cruelties; not coincidentally, Lawrence is the author of a competing book, Jackie as Editor. With biographies of Clara Bow and Jean Harlow, the quietly feminist Onassis insisted on getting beyond publicity photo images to tell a woman's true story, says Kuhn. Being seen as royalty herself as the widow of JFK, the often imperious Onassis commissioned more than a dozen books on the royalty of India, ancient Egypt, Versailles, and Romanov Russia. Although this lucid, amply detailed catalogue of Onassis's publishing projects offers a window into her passions and opaque personality, it is far from what Kuhn dubs "the only autobiography she ever wrote"-most readers will not find it revelatory. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal:

Kuhn (history, Carthage Coll.; The Politics of Pleasure: A Portrait of Benjamin Disraeli) has previously written about historical figures from royalty or public life. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was both to most Americans. Kuhn examines her life not through her connections to famous men, but through her own editorial legacy. During the last 20 years of her life, Onassis worked as an editor at Viking then Doubleday, helping to bring into print nearly 100 books. Kuhn aims to show how her work on these books created a record that reveals a great deal of her personality. Straight off, the concept just seems right. This approach is not only more hands-off than traditional methods but also highlights the part of Onassis's life that was fully her responsibility. Kuhn conducted extensive interviews with people who worked with Onassis on her books and provides rigorous footnotes. He also includes a complete list of titles she edited and a list of her own published work. VERDICT This is a revealing, readable, and insightful book. Readers of biographies of iconic figures will eat this up, as may 20th-century American history or women's studies buffs. Kuhn's respectful approach would probably have met with Onassis's approval.-Audrey Snowden, Sunset, ME (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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