She never sat down with Barbara Walters and spilled her guts. There was no public airing of her dirty laundry. To her great credit, she maintained dignity and privacy throughout her life, granting no interviews. As such, never did she create the typical high-profile media event akin to so many others– one that’s scheduled, promoted, sensationalized, over-analyzed and ultimately replayed time and again. She simply did not share herself with us in the way we might have expected and enjoyed.
The closest she ever came– and the most we’ll ever get– exists in the form of her audio recordings of 1964, made public for the first time just this past fall, as I then enthusiastically reported. Just months after the indelible event of November 22, 1963 that changed her life, the country and the world, the recently widowed Jacqueline Kennedy spoke on tape with historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., providing a rare yet quite extensive glimpse into her feelings, outlooks and recollections of not only her time in the White House– among everyone and everything that came with it– but also of the rigorous path to getting there, along with the seemingly countless figures by whom she was constantly surrounded.
I’m pleased to say I’ve now had the pleasure of hearing this insightful audio collection in its entirety, and not a moment too soon. Five months ago my words were based solely on the small pieces of these recordings that the media reported. As with most material of particular interest, however, it’s far better to listen, learn and judge for ourselves. This I’ve done, leaving me satisfied, informed and rewarded.
Much ground is covered, with numerous names, dates and places to recall and keep track of while listening to Mrs. Kennedy speak. Fortunately the book which accompanies the CD recordings presents her words verbatim, while within the pages annotates the individual or circumstance being discussed. This makes for a series of fascinating and thorough history lessons.
Granted, some topics of conversation prove more interesting than others. This is a never-before-heard Jackie, wonderfully raw and unedited. With this come her often-fragmented thoughts, her mid-sentence changes of course, and her occasional long-windedness. Still, it’s precisely these elements that make these recordings so compelling. After all, at no other time have we heard her in this manner. Unlike her 1962 White House Tour, or her 1964 thank you to the nation, we’re treated to the real Jacqueline Kennedy, free of script, rehearsal or cue.
For anyone who appreciates the many varied players and events of the Kennedy administration– and of course admires Jackie herself– this audio collection is not to be passed up. My copy will remain with me for years to come, and maybe even find its way into my lending library!
And that’s my… oh, need I bother?