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Reading Jackie by William Kuhn

Reading Jackie (edition 2010)

by William Kuhn

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975124,414 (3.25)None
Title:Reading Jackie
Authors:William Kuhn
Collections:Your library
Tags:Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Publishing, Doubleday, Biography

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Reading Jackie: Her Autobiography in Books by William Kuhn



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In addition to being one of the most iconic First Ladies in history, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was also quite the accomplished editor, with a career at Viking and Doubleday that spanned the last two decades of her life. It’s always struck me as a bit sexist that so much attention has been paid to Jackie’s personal style and her handling of her husbands infamous infidelities, but little has been paid to her intellect. Jackie (it feels weird to refer to her as Kennedy or Onassis, because she was so much more than her relationships with these men) was a voracious reader, and in Reading Jackie: Her Autobiography in Books, William Kuhn takes the road less traveled and explores her life through the books she edited and helped bring to the public. He asserts, which is a genius angle, that we can learn a ton about what Jackie valued through the lens of the authors she championed and topics she explored.

Some of the books Jackie edited:

~Allure by Diana Vreeland
~The Ballad of John and Yoko by Jonathan Cott and Christine Doudna
~The Secrets of Marie Antoinette by Olivier Bernier
~Dancing on my Grave: An Autobiography by Gelsey Kirkland
~Blood Memory by Martha Graham
~The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell
~Amy the Dancing Bear by Carly Simon
~Skies in Blossom: The Nature Poetry of Emily Dickinson

Kuhn’s writing is fairly good. It didn’t knock my socks off but it got the job done. There were chapters that read more like a research paper and lost track of the intended audience a bit, but there were also chapters that were tight and well-developed. I feel like, unless you’re super interested in or have some background knowledge of the publishing industry or are a devoted bibliophile, this might read a bit dry…the book really focuses on her professional life, so if you’re looking for yet another biography that covers her relationships with JFK or Onassis, this isn’t the book for you. But I am Kuhn’s target audience, and the information he presented was incredibly interesting. The examination of projects she chose to champion really provides some fresh insight into what Jackie was passionate about, and really helps to flesh out a more dynamic picture of who she was: Elegant, intensely private, and incredibly intelligent.

Rubric rating: 6.5 Not sure I’ll actively seek out more titles by William Kuhn, but I absolutely found the information he provided interesting. ( )
  jaclyn_michelle | Aug 24, 2013 |
This is a library book, and I'm very glad I didn't buy it. I'm about a quarter of the way through it and just not enamoured; frankly, I don't know that I'll bother to finish it.

The premise of the book is good. Unfortunately, I just don't find it to be very well-written. Something about the writing style reminds me of something I might have written in high school. Many of his conclusions seems to be pretty broad and far-fetched. As an example: he claims that Jackie was interested in the occult, based upon her comments on a mansucript that the witch being described should be more fully developed. By and large, the book seems to be random facts and tidbits, randomly strung together. It lacks cohesiveness.

I hope to also read, "Jackie as Editor." Perhaps that one will do a better job with the theme. ( )
  amandamay83 | Apr 2, 2013 |
I liked this look at the life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis through the books that she edited and at her lifetime as a reader. I've always had some sort of fascination with her, from the time in grade school when I donated fifty cents towards the new Kennedy Presidential Library fund and received, like everyone else, a thank you note from her.

But I am also fascinated with reading and books, and William Kuhn's combination of these topics appealed to me. The book includes a listing of all the books that Mrs. Onassis edited and I was surprised at the number of them, and also, that I own a few of them. The stories of the work that went into editing and publishing the books, as well as the authors and other personalities involved were always interesting. I liked that chapters were based on book topics and general areas of interest, and that many photos were placed at the point of the narrative where they were most pertinent. (There is also a central photo section.)

Jackie, herself, was portrayed as someone very human, rather than larger than life. This may be in part because many of the sources (interviewees) were quoted as speaking with some candor, as they remembered her foibles, as well as grace and dignity.

I appreciate Bill Kuhn making his book available to me through Member Giveaways. I am pleased to have it and to have read it. ( )
  y2pk | Feb 11, 2012 |
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis is a captivating and iconic figure which makes her a great subject for a book. Known mainly for her role as wife to the powerful (JFK) and rich (Onassis) it's refreshing to read about her later life as an independent woman who supported herself by working as an editor. It's always a plus when a book gives you new ideas for reading possibilities and Kuhn's Reading Jackie added at least a page of Jackie-edited volumes to my Amazon wish list. A further bonus of this career centered biography are the fascinating portraits of many of the authors and subjects of those books, including photographers, politicians, cultural historians, and media stars like John Lennon, Michael Jackson, former Vogue editor Diana Vreeland, mythologist Joseph Campbell and ballerina Gelsey Kirkland.

Also profiled is Greg Lawrence, who was Gelsey Kirkland's boyfriend at the time Jackie was editing Kirkland's book Dancing on My Grave. Lawrence has just published his own book about Jackie's life as an editor which is maybe why Kuhn is almost comically dismissive and writes particularly harshly about him.

Detracting from the reading experience for me is that Kuhn has a jarring tendency to quote someone or describe something and then interrupt the flow of his narrative with an, "in other words," to explain what is already clear. Also, Kuhn has written too much of the book in an expanded version of the five paragraph essay style that is taught to middle school students, stating and restating what he would like to prove and making sometimes improbable connections to support his thesis. Kuhn has written this book with the idea that there is a lot to be learned about Jackie's private feelings by looking at the list of books she edited, but sometimes he seems to be reaching too far. Editing a book on Sally Hemmings is supposed to show Jackie is sympathetic to presidential mistresses. Her books on ballet are held up to prove she has issues with her body.

Still, Reading Jackie is full of talented and sophisticated people and Kuhn has done his research, treating Jackie like a queen without ignoring her flaws, so this book is both moving and entertaining. ( )
1 vote Jaylia3 | Jan 1, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385530994, Hardcover)

A Look Inside Reading Jackie

Jackie and ICP director Cornell Capa
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
JFK and Jackie at their wedding
Courtesy of Toni Frissell--Sidney Frissell Stafford
Jacqueline Kennedy, 1957. She told her Doubleday colleague Ray Roberts that she remembered the picture being taken at “10 a.m. in full evening dress and he scared me to death!”
Courtesy of Yousuf Karsh

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:39:46 -0400)

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Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis never wrote a memoir, but she told her life story and revealed herself in intimate ways through the nearly 100 books she brought into print during the last two decades of her life as an editor at Viking and Doubleday. Based on archives and interviews with Jackie's authors, colleagues, and friends, this book mines this significant period of her life to reveal both the serious and the mischievous woman underneath the glamorous public image. Though Jackie had a reputation for avoiding publicity, she willingly courted controversy in her books. She was the first editor to commission a commercially successful book telling the story of Thomas Jefferson's relationship with his female slave. Her publication of Gelsey Kirkland's attack on dance icon George Balanchine caused another storm. Jackie rarely spoke of her personal life, but many of her books ran parallel to, echoed, and emerged from her own experience. She was the editor behind bestsellers on the assassinations of Tsar Nicholas II and John Lennon, and in another book she paid tribute to the allure of Marilyn Monroe and Maria Callas. Her other projects take us into territory she knew well: journeys to Egypt and India, explorations of the mysteries of female beauty and media exploitation, into the minds of photographers, art historians, and the designers at Tiffany & Co. Many Americans regarded Jackie as the paragon of grace, but few knew her as the woman sitting on her office floor laying out illustrations, or flying to California to persuade Michael Jackson to write his autobiography. This book provides a compelling behind the scenes look at Jackie at work: how she commissioned books and nurtured authors, as well as how she helped to shape stories that spoke to her strongly. Jackie is remembered today for her marriages to JFK and to Aristotle Onassis, but her real legacy is the books that reveal the tastes, recollections, and passions of an independent woman.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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