Jackie Kennedy was all about staging


Paula Marantz Cohen reflects on recently published conversations with the First Lady @ The Smart Set.I am trying to get a handle on the latest publishing event: the transcription and accompanying CDs of Jacqueline Kennedy’s interviews with Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. in 1964, less than four months after her husband’s assassination. Upon her order, these tapes were not to be released for 50 years, but her daughter jumped the gun by three, publishing them now to commemorate the 50th anniversary of her father’s election to the presidency. I first read excerpts from these interviews in a front page story in the New York Times. The story’s tone was reverent but the quotes were rather bitchy, making me want to see if greater context would help explain the reverence. Thus I paid $60 for the transcripts and CDs.I should note that I never did “get” Jackie Kennedy. I thought she had good taste and was enviably thin, but she seemed wooden and wide-eyed and had that grating little-girl voice. The view I’ve heard expressed is that this is what women were like at the time, but I happened to be alive at the time and didn’t know women like Jackie Kennedy. I am around the age of Caroline Kennedy, and I had a mother who was a clothes horse and spoke French but who otherwise did not resemble Jackie. She had strong opinions and an inflected, exuberant voice. Her friends were a diverse group of people, but none had Jackie’s particular brand of coy femininity.read more