By: Steven M. Gillon
Ranked as #8 on the New York Times bestseller list -Non-Fiction… this week, “America’s Reluctant Prince” underscores a problem in the genre of friends becoming biographers of their own subjects. On the one hand, the writer has access to his own memories and mutual friends. On the other, he is perhaps too close to his subject to dig deep. He functions more as a protector than as provocateur. Further, a great deal of attention is paid to the Kennedy ambivalence about photographs; they are conscientious about their faces and physiques yet simultaneously annoyed when followed by paparazzi. At the very least, a book about John Jr. (never “John-John”) should offer the reader great images. Sadly, the few in this volume are unremarkable and familiar; only one features him without a shirt. Without spoiling the final surprises this biographer has in store (one of them rhymes with “Kokaine”), there is a solid amount of shade thrown in the direction of Bessette-Kennedy, a woman who claimed she was not attracted to her husband. As everyone knows, the biography ends tragically. According to Gillon, if Kennedy had not recklessly piloted his single-engine plane after dark, in the fog, navigating without instrumentation, he, his wife and her sister might still be alive today, and we could have looked forward to Kennedy appearing on the cover of AARP’s magazine as the world’s sexiest senior.