Sunday, October 16, 2011

Historic Conversations with Jacqueline Kennedy

If you've been reading my blog for awhile you know I have a fascination with American first ladies. My absolute favorite is hands down Laura Bush, but Jacqueline Kennedy is a close second. When I first started reading books about Jackie, watching documentaries and listening to tapes a couple years ago, I knew I would never get enough. There is so much that we will never know about her and her family, but that doesn't stop me from trying to learning more! She's such an interesting, smart, classy woman that I feel is also extremely misunderstood.

When I heard Caroline Kennedy was publishing these tapes I was a little nervous for her, but knew that
I was going to buy them. Then when I saw on Amazon they were only $33, I pre-ordered them. After I got them I waited for a time when I would be driving at least 8 hours so I could listen to them in long stretches of time and on the highway where I wouldn't be as easily distracted by traffic. I am really glad I did that.

I listened to almost all of them between Des Moines and Minneapolis last weekend and it made my drive literally fly by. Without even realizing it, I was on the fourth cd and in Minneapolis. This is when I got sad and started re-listening to parts that I still had questions on or maybe had missed. I didn't want it to end! I started rewinding to hear her say something again or just to clarify something (the audio quality isn't that great).

I didn't go into this thinking it was going to be all sweet and I would leave feeling happy. I knew they would be sad and I knew there would be a lot on these tapes that Jackie today would have disagreed with Jackie in 1964. In some ways, I feel that it was wrong of Caroline to publish them or to not edit them, but then in many other ways I feel like that was the right thing to do. It's really hard to decide. If Jackie were alive today I think she wouldn't have let them be published, but then again, I am not her daughter - so what do I know?

All seven conversations were published in early March 1964, less than four months after JFK's assassination. It baffles me that Jackie was able to have these conversations and remain composed, but she did. There were only a couple times where I *think* she got choked up, but that is only me guessing. Neither her or Arthur Schlesinger address it. There are many silent moments during the conversation where it is hard to figure out if Jackie is just gathering her thoughts or if she needs a moment. There are also many moments where Arthur and Jackie are whispering and it is very hard to understand what they are saying - even with the audio turned up as far as it will go. Yes, I did that! It was like listening to a secret I wasn't supposed to hear!

All of the tapes were mostly politics, which was fine, and it was extremely interesting to get her perspective on events like the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Vietnam War and especially her opinions of LBJ. Maybe it's the girl in me, but her opinion of him was humorous. There were many times I laughed out loud at the things she said about him and how candid she was. The only frustrating part was the people they talked about that I didn't know. There were so many people involved, and knowing them all would be difficult for someone that didn't live through the Kennedy administration. This fact made some of the conversations quite dry. I wanted to know more about what life was like with Jack and what life was like as a Kennedy and in the White House. I would say the cds are about half of the personal lifestyle information and half politics.

There were many times during the tapes that Arthur had to jog Jackie's memory and remind her of certain events or when things happened - but I didn't mind. I know a lot of people did mind and found that annoying. I think it makes sense! How can you expect her to remember every intricate detail? Do you think her husband remembered every detail of all of her projects? I sincerely doubt it. As First Lady I am sure it is extremely hard to keep all your own obligations under control on top of keeping track of your husbands!

My favorite parts of the tapes were when you could hear her lighting up her cigarette, or the ice clinking in their glasses and the planes flying overhead. There was even one part when John entered the room and she turned around (I'm picturing that she turned around ;)) and said, "Out!" in that mom voice that all mothers have. Seriously, it might have been one of my favorite parts! I wish she would have let him stay! It was such a humanizing moment for me, listening to her mother her child. Maybe that's weird, but I rewound that part and listened to it a few times. ;)

There was one conversation where John did speak though, and it's extremely sad. Arthur asks John if he remembers his father and Johns says playfully, "I don't remember ANYTHING!" That part made me cry a little bit. It was just so sad. Caroline did not make an appearance on any of the tapes, and I really wish she did.

I'm really happy that I invested in these and know that I will listen to them again. There are more tapes that were recorded that contain more information about the day of Jack's assassination but they are sealed until 2067. I understand her reasoning for that, but at the same time it kind of makes me mad. She claims to have such a love for history and recorded these tapes for that reason, so why release something 100 years later when that generation will not really care or understand? Today's generation cannot understand her reasoning from the 1950s and 60s, how do you expect the generation from 2067 to understand .. or even care? It's hard to hear her say some things now and not cringe, I can only imagine how that will sound in 50 years.

I suppose to her this wasn't really history... it was her personal life.

Although I will be over 80 years old in 2067, I hope I am around to listen to them... because I know I will. :)

If you have any interest in the Kennedy administration and Jacqueline Kennedy these tapes are a must-have. I promise you will enjoy them and adore getting to know Jackie from this time period just a little bit more.


Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

Sounds like interesting CDs to listen to. I have always been in awe of Jackie Kennedy. She was the picture of grace and poise in my opinion. I can not imagine enduring what she went through, from the very public death of her husband to the rumors of her husband's philandering.

Have you read the book, "What Remains" by Carole Radziwill? Since you are fascinated with the Kennedys, I think you might like it. It's written by the friend of John & Carolyn Besette, but it's really interesting and well written.

Ashley said...

I did a report and presentation on Jackie Kennedy in the 5th grade and have loved her ever since. I may have to pick up these tapes- it would be so interesting to get a closer look into their lives!

Anonymous said...

Loved the review!

Marisa A. said...

I too am a Jackie fan and now think I might have to listen to these tapes on my next trip to Minneapolis!

Kyria @ Travel Spot said...

That sounds really interesting. I have been listening to Audio Books in the car too, as I feel like I waste time listening to stuff I shouldn't otherwise. Thanks for the tip!

Shoshanah said...

I'm really not surprised that you bought this! I don't seem my self buying them, partially because I don't have the patience to listen to a book on tape, but if anyone I knew was going to buy them it had to be you.

And I saw Lisa's comment above. She recommended the same book to me, and since then I'm pretty sure that she's going to be on the next season of RHoNY. I keep meaning to ask Lisa to see if she's heard, but hopefully but commenting here, I'll finally remember to ask her. Ha!