I have always had a profound respect for Jackie O. She was raised at a pivotal time in world history, and her life was treated as an open book from the time she married Senator Jack Kennedy (1953) until her death in 1994. Through it all she remained strong, original and true to herself. This book is a different perspective: on Jackie’s two decades of professional editorial work.
Author Greg Lawrence had three of his own books edited by Jackie, so he knew her work personally and knew HER personally. He interviewed and discussed Jackie’s professional career with some 125 other professionals—some authors, some editors, some publishers, and others who knew her on a personal basis or collaborated with her during her almost-20 years as an editor.
Jackie had a stylish excellence which can be defined as a deep-seated and innate class. Class, not a social grade, or an economic attribute, but an honesty and elegance that define a person’s worth. Jackie deserves a great deal of admiration for finding herself after the very public marriages and deaths of her two husbands. She found a purpose and was dedicated to making the work she did at Viking and Doubleday. She was 46 when she started her new life as an editor. Her children were grown, but she felt—rightly—that she had much to offer the world of books.
Lawrence gives us the unbiased appraisal of Jackie’s struggles to subjugate her fame to the needs of her authors, her dedication to her family as well as her work, and her sincere love of books and the written word. She liked the behind-the-scenes work because it fit her inherent shyness and modesty. She did her best work in those years, quietly and contentedly. This was, to her, the best part of who she was. When she is recalled publically, it is her Kennedy marriage, her reign as First Lady, the conflict-ridden years with Onassis and her parenting that are discussed. Yet she was an editor for the strongest, most personal time of her life, and for the longest time of all.
Was Jackie “perfect?” Of course not. She was human, often troubled, and seldom left alone. Lawrence inherited many of Jackie’s handwritten notes, and with his interviews and his own insight into the woman who was Jackie, he has brought to readers, many of whom loved her strength and dignity, a bird’s-eye view of Jackie’s last two decades. The lengthy appendices include lists of the books that Jackie edited, the people Lawrence interviewed for the book, and the other books written about, for and with Jackie. She was a remarkable woman, both of her time and outside of it.
One comes away from the reading feeling reflective, enlightened and enriched by this portrait of Jackie as an editor.