The Apotheosis of John F. Kennedy

Young John Kennedy

by Gene Schoor
Harcourt, Brace & World, 253 pp., $3.95

The Kennedy Wit

edited by Bill Adler
Citadel, 83 pp., $3.00

Of Poetry and Power

edited by Erwin A. Gilkes, edited by Paul Schwaber
Basic Books, 155 pp., $5.95

The Kennedy Years

by the editors of the New York Times and Viking Press
Viking, 327 pp., $16.50

Kennedy Without Tears: The Man Beneath the Wit

by Tom Wicker
Morrow, 61 pp., $2.50

The Founding Father: The Story of Joseph P. Kennedy

by Richard J. Whalen
New American Library, 480 pp., $6.95

A Day in the Life of President Kennedy

by Jim Bishop
Random House, 108 pp., $3.95

Joseph Kennedy
Joseph Kennedy; drawing by David Levine

I have just pushed aside, I confess with mounting distaste, a pile of Kennedyana on which I had been browsing. Graveyard, or memorial, prose is among the least edifying and least pleasing forms of human composition. There is a prevailing flavor of syrupy insincerity, an affectation of wholehearted truthfulness, amounting to the worst kind of deception, which sickens as it surfeits. I can only say with all possible respect that if the late President really was as he is here presented—so dedicated a public servant, so faithful a husband and devoted a father, so witty, learned, and profound an orator, writer, and thinker, so genial a friend, prayerful a Christian, and enlightened a statesman—he is better off in Heaven, where, according to an electoral oration in Ohio by Vice-President-elect Hubert Humphrey, we may now confidently assume him to be.

The Vice-Presidential candidate pointed out (and I refer to the matter only as indicating how someone as normally sensible as Mr. Humphrey can be drawn into this obituary morass of sentimentality and chicanery) that next to his beloved State of Massachusetts the late President cherished the State of Ohio, which had deeply distressed him in the last presidential contest by voting Republican. Now was an opportunity, Mr. Humphrey went on, to make the late President happy in Heaven by reversing this black record and voting Democrat. I must say, speaking for myself, that if, as Mr. Humphrey would seem to envisage, election results are tabulated in Heaven, I have no wish to go there. A glimpse on arrival of Huntley and Brinkley, still more of the portentous Cronkite, would convince me that I had found my way to the other place, and, if so permitted, I should hurriedly make off.

A good deal of this grisly material relating to the late President’s life, virtues, and achievements had already been published before the Dallas tragedy, and to a jaundiced eye bears unmistakable signs of external direction. From within the turgid prose, the handouts shine forth with a yellow light, like street lamps in a fog. Thus certain episodes recur, narrated in almost identical words, in a manner which irresistibly suggests the existence of a cyclostyled master-version. For instance, the following from Young John Kennedy by Gene Schoor:

“Big party tonight, Jack. Pretty girls, too,” said Torb.

“Everyone will be there,” said Ben Smith.

“Sorry,” said Jack. “I’ve got this work to finish before morning…” When Torb and Ben finally got home, there was Jack working away under the lamp on some small-print clipping, some lengthy report by a member of Parliament [sic]….


“It’s finished!” announced Jack.

“Finished!” echoed Torb.

“All done,” said Jack.

Torb’s immediate reaction was to call for a celebration, but the words died in his mouth. This was serious work: Torb knew how serious and what it meant to Jack.


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