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JFK: American Adulterer


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March 29, 2009

American Adulterer by Jed Mercurio

The Sunday Times U.K.

Review by Hugo Barnacle

http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol...icle5976558.ece

When the American drama series Kennedy, starring Martin Sheen as the 35th president, was aired in 1983, the show was rather stolen by Vincent Gardenia as JEdgar Hoover, a sinister, buttoned-up xxxxx who took the president's unruly libido as a personal affront, hissing: “The Kennedy weakness is sex.” As the critic Christopher Dunkley observed, this device “acknowledged the hero's imperfections without the need to show them”.

In his remarkable new novel about the president, Jed Mercurio decides to show them, and does it unsparingly. So, there are the two White House secretaries, codenamed Fiddle and Faddle by the embarrassed secret- service agents who keep an eye on things; plus Fuddle, a Wall Street heiress picked up at some function; the gangsters' moll Judith Campbell; poor Marilyn, who daftly thinks she'll be the next first lady; Mary, a friend of Mrs Kennedy; Ellen, a German prostitute who is deported when Hoover decides to pretend she's a Stasi spy; and so on and on. It wears you down a bit, and is meant to, but it still exerts a grisly fascination.

Arthur Schlesinger, as Kennedy's court historian, claimed that not even half the stories about the president's sex life could be true, because he could never have found the time. While Mercurio's account is largely made up, since no record survives of most of these trysts, it shows plausibly how Kennedy could indeed find the time and, in his own view, had to.

The psychology of philandering is well laid out. Monogamy is a deadly prison and every man wants every woman he can get, but only the truly dedicated man, with sound but simple planning, long practice and the ruthless suppression of all feelings of guilt, can get away with it. The president is that dedicated because, without the release that new and stimulating partners bring, he will suffer his famous headaches (and backaches, bowel trouble and an inflamed prostate). Besides, his private life is his own concern, the press have no jurisdiction and there won't be a scandal.

But then the Profumo affair happens in Britain, bringing down the president's friend, the prime minister, Harold Macmillan. The jubilant press get the taste for muck-raking and Hoover appoints a “Special Investigator” (called Kenneth, like that malign Mr Starr) to examine the American implications. Oh, bother. But for a nut with a gun, conspirator or loner, an awful stink might have arisen.

Mercurio adopts a distant, quasi-clinical tone throughout, referring to Kennedy as “the subject” and using odd, alienating vocabulary - at one point, “feculence” (muckiness) and “cark” (to worry) appear on successive pages. All this promotes an effective form of irony.

It doesn't quite clear Mercurio of the charge of reductive prurience, but the novel makes the case that Kennedy's vice is worth studying as the tragic flaw in a genuine hero. The man's wit, courtesy, peacemaking vision and cool judgment are all here, vividly re-created, as well as his courage in the face of near-disabling infirmity and pain. Mercurio notes in an afterword that, despite the womanising, Kennedy's reputation still grows “as successors continue to fall short”. It was hardly a coincidence that the makers of The West Wing hired Sheen to play their ideal leader.

After Kennedy's assassination, the US Mail issued a stamp bearing the president's features and a line from his inaugural address, which originally referred to America's creative optimism, but now seemed to prefigure his own legacy and the eternal flame that burns on his grave: “And the glow from that fire can truly light the world.” The present incumbent benefits from great goodwill, and talks a good game - but will anyone ever write, or read, such a gripping and thoughtful novel about him?

American Adulterer by Jed Mercurio

Cape £12.99 pp357

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March 29, 2009

American Adulterer by Jed Mercurio

The Sunday Times U.K.

Review by Hugo Barnacle

Why write a novel, the real story is more interesting?

And Adulterer is the worst they can call him?

BK

http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol...icle5976558.ece

When the American drama series Kennedy, starring Martin Sheen as the 35th president, was aired in 1983, the show was rather stolen by Vincent Gardenia as JEdgar Hoover, a sinister, buttoned-up xxxxx who took the president's unruly libido as a personal affront, hissing: "The Kennedy weakness is sex." As the critic Christopher Dunkley observed, this device "acknowledged the hero's imperfections without the need to show them".

In his remarkable new novel about the president, Jed Mercurio decides to show them, and does it unsparingly. So, there are the two White House secretaries, codenamed Fiddle and Faddle by the embarrassed secret- service agents who keep an eye on things; plus Fuddle, a Wall Street heiress picked up at some function; the gangsters' moll Judith Campbell; poor Marilyn, who daftly thinks she'll be the next first lady; Mary, a friend of Mrs Kennedy; Ellen, a German prostitute who is deported when Hoover decides to pretend she's a Stasi spy; and so on and on. It wears you down a bit, and is meant to, but it still exerts a grisly fascination.

Arthur Schlesinger, as Kennedy's court historian, claimed that not even half the stories about the president's sex life could be true, because he could never have found the time. While Mercurio's account is largely made up, since no record survives of most of these trysts, it shows plausibly how Kennedy could indeed find the time and, in his own view, had to.

The psychology of philandering is well laid out. Monogamy is a deadly prison and every man wants every woman he can get, but only the truly dedicated man, with sound but simple planning, long practice and the ruthless suppression of all feelings of guilt, can get away with it. The president is that dedicated because, without the release that new and stimulating partners bring, he will suffer his famous headaches (and backaches, bowel trouble and an inflamed prostate). Besides, his private life is his own concern, the press have no jurisdiction and there won't be a scandal.

But then the Profumo affair happens in Britain, bringing down the president's friend, the prime minister, Harold Macmillan. The jubilant press get the taste for muck-raking and Hoover appoints a "Special Investigator" (called Kenneth, like that malign Mr Starr) to examine the American implications. Oh, bother. But for a nut with a gun, conspirator or loner, an awful stink might have arisen.

Mercurio adopts a distant, quasi-clinical tone throughout, referring to Kennedy as "the subject" and using odd, alienating vocabulary - at one point, "feculence" (muckiness) and "cark" (to worry) appear on successive pages. All this promotes an effective form of irony.

It doesn't quite clear Mercurio of the charge of reductive prurience, but the novel makes the case that Kennedy's vice is worth studying as the tragic flaw in a genuine hero. The man's wit, courtesy, peacemaking vision and cool judgment are all here, vividly re-created, as well as his courage in the face of near-disabling infirmity and pain. Mercurio notes in an afterword that, despite the womanising, Kennedy's reputation still grows "as successors continue to fall short". It was hardly a coincidence that the makers of The West Wing hired Sheen to play their ideal leader.

After Kennedy's assassination, the US Mail issued a stamp bearing the president's features and a line from his inaugural address, which originally referred to America's creative optimism, but now seemed to prefigure his own legacy and the eternal flame that burns on his grave: "And the glow from that fire can truly light the world." The present incumbent benefits from great goodwill, and talks a good game - but will anyone ever write, or read, such a gripping and thoughtful novel about him?

American Adulterer by Jed Mercurio

Cape £12.99 pp357

Link to comment
Share on other sites

March 29, 2009

American Adulterer by Jed Mercurio

The Sunday Times U.K.

Review by Hugo Barnacle

Why write a novel, the real story is more interesting?

And Adulterer is the worst they can call him?

BK

http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol...icle5976558.ece

When the American drama series Kennedy, starring Martin Sheen as the 35th president, was aired in 1983, the show was rather stolen by Vincent Gardenia as JEdgar Hoover, a sinister, buttoned-up xxxxx who took the president's unruly libido as a personal affront, hissing: "The Kennedy weakness is sex." As the critic Christopher Dunkley observed, this device "acknowledged the hero's imperfections without the need to show them".

In his remarkable new novel about the president, Jed Mercurio decides to show them, and does it unsparingly. So, there are the two White House secretaries, codenamed Fiddle and Faddle by the embarrassed secret- service agents who keep an eye on things; plus Fuddle, a Wall Street heiress picked up at some function; the gangsters' moll Judith Campbell; poor Marilyn, who daftly thinks she'll be the next first lady; Mary, a friend of Mrs Kennedy; Ellen, a German prostitute who is deported when Hoover decides to pretend she's a Stasi spy; and so on and on. It wears you down a bit, and is meant to, but it still exerts a grisly fascination.

Arthur Schlesinger, as Kennedy's court historian, claimed that not even half the stories about the president's sex life could be true, because he could never have found the time. While Mercurio's account is largely made up, since no record survives of most of these trysts, it shows plausibly how Kennedy could indeed find the time and, in his own view, had to.

The psychology of philandering is well laid out. Monogamy is a deadly prison and every man wants every woman he can get, but only the truly dedicated man, with sound but simple planning, long practice and the ruthless suppression of all feelings of guilt, can get away with it. The president is that dedicated because, without the release that new and stimulating partners bring, he will suffer his famous headaches (and backaches, bowel trouble and an inflamed prostate). Besides, his private life is his own concern, the press have no jurisdiction and there won't be a scandal.

But then the Profumo affair happens in Britain, bringing down the president's friend, the prime minister, Harold Macmillan. The jubilant press get the taste for muck-raking and Hoover appoints a "Special Investigator" (called Kenneth, like that malign Mr Starr) to examine the American implications. Oh, bother. But for a nut with a gun, conspirator or loner, an awful stink might have arisen.

Mercurio adopts a distant, quasi-clinical tone throughout, referring to Kennedy as "the subject" and using odd, alienating vocabulary - at one point, "feculence" (muckiness) and "cark" (to worry) appear on successive pages. All this promotes an effective form of irony.

It doesn't quite clear Mercurio of the charge of reductive prurience, but the novel makes the case that Kennedy's vice is worth studying as the tragic flaw in a genuine hero. The man's wit, courtesy, peacemaking vision and cool judgment are all here, vividly re-created, as well as his courage in the face of near-disabling infirmity and pain. Mercurio notes in an afterword that, despite the womanising, Kennedy's reputation still grows "as successors continue to fall short". It was hardly a coincidence that the makers of The West Wing hired Sheen to play their ideal leader.

After Kennedy's assassination, the US Mail issued a stamp bearing the president's features and a line from his inaugural address, which originally referred to America's creative optimism, but now seemed to prefigure his own legacy and the eternal flame that burns on his grave: "And the glow from that fire can truly light the world." The present incumbent benefits from great goodwill, and talks a good game - but will anyone ever write, or read, such a gripping and thoughtful novel about him?

American Adulterer by Jed Mercurio

Cape £12.99 pp357

It's a scribble that poses as a critique of a Novel.

The ironic saga referred to is also largely made up.

The work of fiction makes Kennedy smaller by removing some of that which he was made of, making him instead lustful.* Which the critic then deftly flips into the typical persona accepted during Kennedy's era; that of the eassentially immoral, 'lock up yer daughters' garbage, that heavily pigmented slaves have had to put up with for centuries,

- to attack Barak Obama.

(Doubtful anyone will ever bother to write a similarly onanistic and imaginative novel about the critic?)

__________________

After Kennedy's assassination, the US Mail issued a stamp bearing the president's features and a line from his inaugural address which refers to the US of A's creative optimism -

.“And the glow from that fire can truly light the world".

Kennedy's reputation grows as others fall short.

__________________

*((US, law) : Sick, morbid or shameless)

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