Sharing Books and Authors, with an emphasis on Mysteries.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Dear Mrs. Kennedy by Jay Mulvaney and Paul De Angelis
It always sounds so trite to say those of us who are over fifty remember where we were on November 22, 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. But, even those of us who were only six remember, and we remember the sounds and sights of the subsequent days. Jay Mulvaney and Paul De Angelis, in compiling a collection of letters written to Jacqueline Kennedy, have reminded us how the country and world shared those experiences. Dear Mrs. Kennedy: The World Shares Its Grief: Letters, November 1963 is a beautiful, moving remembrance of that agonizing time.
By the time the letters stopped arriving, Jacqueline Kennedy had received 1,250,000 pieces of condolence correspondence. Nine hundred thousand response cards went out on St. Patrick's Day, 1964. Those letters were sorted over time, and many of them are stored at the JFK Library. Mulvaney had the idea to compile those letters, and, following his death, De Angelis picked up the project.
They are letters from people of every walk of life, and all corners of the world. And, those letters tell a story, not only of a grieving world, but of the history of the country. They remind us where we were in the world, with comments about Cuba, Russia, the space program, the Peace Corps, Kennedy's call for all of us to step forward. The letters that came from Hollywood and the Jet Set, notes from Prince Rainer, Pearl Bailey, Oleg Cassini, Lauren Bacall, remind us of the glamour of the Kennedy White House. There were beautiful notes from politicians, world leaders, journalists. But, some of the most moving notes came from women and children, those who identified with the widowed First Lady and her young children. And, as the authors said, these letters also show the lost art of writing beautiful letters, an art that is lost now that we spend so much time on our computers, and children aren't even taught handwriting in schools.
For a short time in 1963, the world stood still, focused on a grieving family, and a grieving nation. One of my favorite telegrams came from Darryl F. Zanuck of 20th Century Fox who wrote from Italy, saying that "In Rome on the day following the assassination all of the advertising billboards were removed throughout the city and were replaced with large billboard posters with a full-sized photograph of our late President."
If you remember November 1963, Dear Mrs. Kennedy will bring back memories. If you don't remember those tragic days, Mulvaney and De Angelis provide an opportunity for understanding. The words of so many Americans, and people from throughout the world tell a story of loss, and grief, and knowledge of what we lost.
As part of the TLC Book Tour, they are offering one blog reader a copy of the book. So, here's my contest. Anyone can enter the contest by sending me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject heading, "Win Dear Mrs. Kennedy." The contest will end on Thursday night, Nov. 18 at 6 PM MT, when I'll use a random number generator to draw the winner. But, if you're over fifty, I'd be interested in knowing where you were when you heard President Kennedy was shot. I was in school, but I was home sick watching all of the funeral proceedings.