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The Kennedy Obsession The American Myth of JFK cover
  • ISBN: 9780231107983
  • ISBN10: 0231107986

The Kennedy Obsession The American Myth of JFK

by John Hellmann

  • List Price: $95.00
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Publisher: Columbia Univ Pr
  • Publish date: 08/01/1997
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Description
A week after John F. Kennedy's assassination, Jacqueline Kennedy reflected that her husband's life "had more to do with myth, magic, legend, and saga than with political theory or political science". Indeed, John Kennedy was intimately involved in constructing his life -- and performing it -- as the unfolding tale of an American hero. This so captivated the American imagination that the images he helped create and the trauma of his assassination remain among our most powerful memories.

In The Kennedy Obsession, John Hellmann takes an original approach to understanding JFK's star power, tracing a carefully designed epic of survival and conquest from its origins in Kennedy's childhood. In a family obsessed with traditional masculine virtues, an often-ill JFK found solace in stories of knights and maidens in British literature; he went on to craft his persona like those of his real-life heroes, from Lord Byron and Ernest Hemingway to Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart, and to locate the origins of his own heroic myth in John Hersey's "Survival", an account of JFK's courage as a young naval officer during World War II.

Hellmann's investigation reveals that Kennedy's own books were strong projections of his aspirations, and that his father's experience as a Hollywood producer helped shape JFK's preoccupation with public image as a means of attaining political power. Hellmann shows why Kennedy, an unremarkable legislator ill-equipped for national political office, needed the "image machine" his father provided to win difficult victories as a young politician, and how he later perfected that machine while in the White House. The power of the fully developed Kennedy myth is vividly illustrated inHellmann's discussion of the Kennedy assassination in Oliver Stone's film JFK and the novels Flying in to Love by D. M. Thomas and Libra by Don DeLillo.

The Kennedy Obsession is a fascinating exploration of John E Kennedy's self-creation as the ideal American hero, embodying a legend that both mirrored and shaped the collective passage of Americans through this tumultuous century.

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