Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Men We Became

I have discovered yet another book about John F. Kennedy, Jr., The Men We Became , by Robert Littell.  They met at Brown, and their friendship continued for the rest of John's life.     
I skimmed over the parts about football and other sports, but I read with great interest Littell's accounts of John's family, especially Jackie:

Mrs. Onassis moved with incredible grace, every movement graceful and smooth, like a ballerina.
Her apartment was grand, but a home, a place where a family lived.  The decor felt strong and timeless, paintings and family pictures covering the walls, the library filled with books.  Everything was beautiful in a quiet, serious way.  I was impressed by the sheer quality of it all.
Littell was not around John's sister, Caroline, very often (she often rolled her eyes at his and John's antics), but she graciously invited him and his wife to her wedding.  At the buffet line, he found himself behind Lee Radziwill, Jackie's sister:

When John introduced us, Lee gave me a "steely once-over" and then basically dismissed me with a sneer. 

That is not surprising to me; I've read she is a real snob!
Littell writes about the summer he and John spent bumming around Europe, retreats at Jackie's estate in Martha's Vineyard, and an unexpected invitation to a Christmas dinner at her New York apartment where she made him feel like family.  (She had the cook prepare the meal Littell always ate:  a burned-to-a-crisp hamburger and Minute Rice!?)
He reveals who John originally intended to marry; that he would eventually run for the White House; how he wanted desperately to have children, and how he dealt with his legacy:  I am not my father! he once said. 
John was kind and caring, going to great lengths to make people feel comfortable around him.  He was loyal to his friends and wanted to be "just one of the guys" at Brown.  He and Littell were roommates, and some of the things they did were hilarious.  Like the smell.

Their dorm room was always a mess, especially Littell's closet, where he stuffed everything:  clean clothes, dirty clothes, sports gear, balled-up sweat socks.  One day, they began noticing a terrible smell.  They tore up the room, searching for the source, but they couldn't figure out where it was coming from.  It got so bad that their dorm mates would not come closer than six feet from their door and their girlfriends refused to set foot in the room. 

Soon, the smell was permeating the whole floor.

Jackie stopped by unexpectedly one day, so John sent Littell down to entertain her while he changed to the pressed white shirt he always kept for her visits.  She was waiting on the porch, and it was a very cold day, so Littell invited her inside.

I'll wait here," she said, "I know about the smell."

(They finally found the source:  a full cup of hot chocolate topped with whipped cream.  It had been there for months!)

Littell paints Carolyn Bessette as a kind, unbelievably beautiful woman who occasionally smoked pot and did lines of coke every now and then.

I know she was beautiful, and she was probably kind, but I feel much was left out.  Like the extent of her drug habit and her "weeding out" of John's friends.  She put them in categories: those she felt were his true friends and those she felt were there because of who he was.  If they were in the latter group, they were excluded.  (I couldn't help wondering if she might have been excluded, if someone else were doing the weeding out.  Would she have married him if he had been a plumber, for instance?)

I like to think she was deeply in love with John, though, and married him because of the kind and compassionate human being he obviously was. 

The book is unique and revealing, and very poignant, knowing at the beginning what the ending will be.  But if you enjoy books about the Kennedys, you will not be disappointed.


met said...

John john seemed iike a fine person. I read somewhere that his father was a rich Greek.He certainly didn't look like jfk.

Brenda said...

No, he doesn't look a thing like any of the Kennedys. Hummm...

Anonymous said...

Look at his mother and mother's father and you will see where he go this looks-his grandfather was "Black Jack Bouvet" he looks just like him!

Brenda said...

Yes, he definitely got his looks from someone other than the Kennedys.

All words and pictures © 2008 Brenda G. Wooley