‘Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations’ – sales surge after ABC special — The book really didn’t need the kind of promotion that a two-hour primetime television special on a major network would give it, but the historic release on Tuesday of Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life With John F. Kennedy has benefited from it anyway. The special ran on Monday, September 12, and as soon as it was available to be ordered on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com, the book and CD set shot to number one.
In the ABC special, Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words, ABC World News anchor Diane Sawyer introduced the book and the recorded interviews that the recently widowed First Lady gave to historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. in early 1964. Astonishingly for those who remember the images, both still and video, shown during the special or who have studied them since the 1960s, Jacqueline Kennedy’s breathy voice appeared to narrate what was going on behind the scenes in the TV special as the images played again before the eyes of viewers Monday night.
The interviews were recorded in March of 1964 when Ms. Kennedy was still in her first year of mourning as a widow. The tapes were made as her contribution to an oral history of her husband’s legacy. However, at Ms. Kennedy’s request, the tapes were put away to be released at a much later time, after her death. The tapes were housed at the Kennedy Library in Boston. Caroline Kennedy (Schlossberg), the daughter and only remaining offspring of the presidential couple (her younger brother, John F. Kennedy, Jr. died in a plane crash in 1999) decided the time was right in 2011 to release the interviews. The release is being done in conjunction with the 50th anniversary celebration of President Kennedy’s inauguration.
The book itself comprises 400 pages, much of them transcripts of the eight included CDs of interviews between Ms. Kennedy and Mr. Schlesinger. Caroline Kennedy wrote the Foreword, and the book contains annotations and an introduction by current presidential historian, Michael Beschloss. An accompanying exhibit is also on display this fall at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum.
In the interviews, Ms. Kennedy speaks about political campaigning, the inaugural balls, the Bay of Pigs incident, the Cuban Missile Crisis, family life in the White House, the assassination, and more. She offers what may come as surprising views on other public figures of the day, including President Lyndon B. Johnson, Martin Luther King, Jr. and French President, Charles de Gaulle. She also talks about the role of women, as she saw it in 1964, in politics.
At one point in the interviews, Jacqueline Kennedy talks about the “happiest time” of her life. Like many mothers, Ms. Kennedy recalled the days when her children were young and playing at home with her and her husband, except that those days were — remarkably as one listens and realizes — just a few short months in the past as she speaks for posterity on the tapes.
“It was really the happiest time of my life. It was when we were the closest– I didn’t realize the physical closeness of having his office . . . in the same building and seeing him so many times a day.”
Once again, even so many years later, the poignance of losing her husband so tragically and so young (she was just 34; he was 46) hits Ms. Kennedy’s listeners.
Historic Conversations, the book and eight-CD set, retails for $60.00 but is available at many online and other booksellers at a lesser price.