The new Jacqueline Kennedy book: Even more fascinating detail


By now you’ve probably read about Jackie calling Indira Gandhi “a real prune,” or saying, “I get all my opinions from my husband,” as well as her tart, shrewd assessments of various ambassadors, cabinet ministers, and foreign heads of state. But a quick skim of Jacqueline Kennedy: Conversations of Life with John F. Kennedy, published today by Hyperion, reveals plenty of other fascinating nuggets.

On her husband’s reading habits:
He’d read walking, he’d read at the table, at meals, he’d read after dinner, he’d read in the bathtub, he’d read — prop open a book on his desk — on his bureau — while he was doing his tie….He really read all the times you don’t think you have time to read.” And what he was reading, she says, was nonfiction: “Listen, the only thrillers he ever read were about three Ian Fleming books. No, I never saw him read a novel.”

On the only time she asked her husband a policy question — about Vietnam — when he was in home relaxing:
“And he said, ‘Oh, my God, kid’ — which was — it sounds funny but I got used to it — it was sort of a term of endearment that I suppose his family used. He said, ‘I’ve had that, you know, on me all day and I just’ — see, he’d just been swimming at the pool and sort of changed into his happy evening mood, and he said, ‘Don’t remind me of that all over again.’ And I just felt so criminal.”

On appointing Bobby Kennedy the Attorney General:
“[Bobby] just didn’t want it and finally — you know, he’d keep saying no or, he hadn’t decided, or this or that and finally one day Jack called him in and said, ‘Well, you have to,’ or something, anfd it was decided. That shows you what Bobby is like and how he was just doing everything he could to get out of it, whereas Eunice was pestering Jack to death to make Sargent head of HEW because she wanted to be a cabinet wife. You know, it shows you some people are ambitious for themselves and Bobby wasn’t.”

On his fight over raising the minimum wage:
“I can remember him being so disgusted, because once we had dinner with my mother and stepfather, and there sat my stepfather putting a great slice of patĂ© de foie gras on his toast and saying it was simply appalling to think that the minimum wage should be a dollar twenty-five. And Jack saying to me when we got home, ‘Do you realize that those laundrywomen in the South get sixty cents an hour?'”

On the Cuban Missile Crisis:
“…I said, “Please don’t send me away to Camp David…If anything happens, we’re all going to stay right here with you….Even if there’s no room in the bomb shelter at the White House….'”

On what JFK said about his own death:
“…I remembered Jack saying after the Cuban Missile Crisis, when it all turned so fantastically, he said, ‘Well, if anyone’s ever going to shoot me, this would be the day they should do it.'”

On how the White House affected friendships:
“I used to think if I ever wrote a book, it would be called ‘The Poison of the Presidency’ because it poisoned so many relationships with people.”on Lyndon Johnson:
“…Jack would say you could never get an opinion out of Lyndon at any cabinet or national security meeting. He’d just say, you know, that he agreed with them — with everyone — or just keep really quiet. So what he’d do, he’d send him into Pakistan or something. Well, then he’d be really interested in the camel driver when he came back.”

on Lady Bird Johnson:
“…any time Lyndon would talk …Lady Bird would get out a little notebook…she was sort of like a trained hunting dog. He’d say something as innocent as — I don’t know — ‘Does your sister live in London?’ and Lady Bird would” write it all down.

on Mrs. Eisenhower, who refused to show her around the White House, a long-standing custom between outgoing and incoming First Ladies:
“She always referred to it as “my house” and “my carpets,” and I guess — didn’t President EIsenhower say during the campaign, ‘Whenever Mamie thinks of that girl being in the White House she goes s-s-s-s-s-s’ or a raspberry or some charming sound? You know, there was this sort of venom or something there.”

on Rose Kennedy:
“..she even will say now when you know someone or someone’s coming to dinner — ‘Is he a Catholic?’ or ‘Is she a Catholic?'”

on Khruschev:
“…it’s just one gag after another. It’s like sitting next to Abbott and Costello, or something….”

on the people of Wisconsin, clearly her least favorite state in the union:
“Wisconsin was the worst…I think that in Wisconsin, they’re just suspicious of anyone sort of gregarious. …Whereas in West Virginia, you know, they’re a bit gayer, even though they’re so poor….I never met one person in West Virginia I didn’t like….And I never met one person in Wisconsin I did like, except for the people who were working for Jack.”

So what do you think? Are any of you going to read the book (or listen to the audio version)? And…anyone from Wisconsin out there?

Comments (9 total) Add your comment
  • Aaron Rodgers

    Well, speaking for the entire state of Wisconsin, I say to you Ms. O, “Good riddance.”

    • jennrae

      Wow, no wonder she didn’t like the lot of you.

  • Peggy Swayne

    Remember to all that have an interest in history, this interview was done in the early 60’s…perceptions of life and roles were very different. Keep one’s perspective…read and learn about the White House from a First Lady… Jackie Kennedy.

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