The Kennedy Curse
Edward Klein
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Buy *The Kennedy Curse: Why America's First Family Has Been Haunted by Tragedy for 150 Years* online

The Kennedy Curse: Why America's First Family Has Been Haunted by Tragedy for 150 Years
Edward Klein
St. Martin's Griffin
272 pages
April 2004
rated 2 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Edward Klein's book addresses what is known as "The Kennedy Curse" in the current urban legend. To fortify his premise, Klein cites, of course, the assassinations of JFK and Bobby Kennedy, both following the tragic death of their older brother, Joseph, in World War II and the death of Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy, their oldest sister in another plane crash. The Kennedy dynasty was established in America's imagination as Camelot with the presidential election of JFK and his wife, Jacqueline, although what went on behind closed doors at the White House would have shocked today's voters.

Klein attributes the arrogance of the Kennedy's to narcissistic omnipotence, a tendency to overachieve and take unnecessary risks, some of which caught up with them -- for example, Ted Kennedy's performance at Chappaquidick. However, in the second part of the book, the lesser stars of the Kennedy galaxy are given much attention, when, in fact, the Kennedy era was past, with the possible exception of JFK, Jr. Unfortunately, we will never know. But Wm. Kennedy Smith's exploits with his uncle Ted in their Florida estate hardly polished the image of America's once Royal Family.

Using legitimate historical sources such as Doris Kearns Goodwin, the first half of the book has some believability, but much of the second half is taken from court transcripts and magazine articles by biased authors, such as Dominick Dunne of Vanity Fair. Whatever impetus there was in the family political dynamic, the next generation of Kennedys was responsible for the same stupidity and overindulgence as their uncles, a lot of which was driven by the alcoholism so prevalent in their ranks. For the most part it is the Kennedy men, not the women, who display such extreme behavior. Carolyn Kennedy, JFK Jr.'s sister, has never been the object of gossip and continues to work for the betterment of society, although she gets little press coverage. Too boring.

The back cover of The Kennedy Curse touts this book as "a detective story" -- an overstatement, to say the least. There is no aged Irish curse, or any other for that matter. The title is but a facile manipulation of public curiosity, a ploy to sell copies. Had Klein stuck with the diligence of his first few chapters, he may have contributed additional facts about the family that so captured the imagination of the world for those short years in the 1960's. The "curse" is, after all, a myth, and any attempt to pretend otherwise is ridiculous. Bad things happen to good people and bad people. They happen more frequently to those who live dangerously and drink to excess.

© 2003 by Luan Gaines for Curled Up With a Good Book

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