Friday, January 28, 2011

The chapter she wrote herself

I just finished Jackie as Editor by Greg Lawrence, the first book I have read in a long, long time that has anything new to offer about the life of JBKO.

Lawerence's spin is an interesting one: She was married to John F. Kennedy for 10 years and lived in the White House for less than 4 years. She was the world's most revered widow/heroine for 5 years and then Mrs. Onassis for 7. Then she spent more than 15 years as a book editor. This means that the longest period of her adult life is the one that mostly ignored by the press, the paparazzi and her biographers. Which is, I suspect, exactly how she wanted it.

Up until Ari's death, she had lived her life completely defined by powerful, charismatic men. Then, at age 46, she found herself single again. Her children were getting ready to go off to college. Financially she was set for life. Now what?

She went back to work. For the first time in 22 years. And she created a career for herself that made good use of everything that came before: the society girl who lived in Paris, the First Lady who restored the White House, the jet set celebrity whose calls were always returned by everyone. As an editor she was able to champion projects about ballet and Versailles and make sure that books about heroines she admired got published and read.

She worked hard and learned about the publishing industry -- and office politics. She began in a cubicle and worked her way up to an office with a window.

She also fell in love with a man who adored her and was willing to put her first, letting her shine instead of expecting her to bask in his reflected glory. She watched her children begin careers and she became a grandmother. She bought a home all her own, Red Gate Farm, on Martha's Vineyard. She surrounded herself with artists and writers and working girls, her sister "Brides of Doubleday." She was proud of herself and fulfilled.

Greg Lawrence worked with her on Dancing on My Grave, so many of his observations are first hand and all of it is credible. I especially enjoyed the juicy parts about Michael Jackson (let's just say she began as a fan but by the end of their ordeal -- his autobiography Moonwalk -- she thought he was a tacky freak) and imagining her in her office, muttering "Oy! Vey!" when confronted with a daunting task and triumphantly proclaiming "Hot spit!" when things go her way.

Thanks to Snarkypants for gifting me with this terrific book. It was inspiring to read about how Jackie created a world for herself where she was able to find peace, contentment and satisfaction.