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The Last Brother: The Rise and Fall of Teddy Kennedy

The Last Brother: The Rise and Fall of Teddy Kennedy

by Joe McGinniss

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Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
McGinniss's biography of Edward M. Kennedy is a salacious read containing the things that make a bestseller: sex, incest, money, politics, power, compelling personalities. The problem, though, is, can you believe McGinniss? Although the bibliography lists 73 titles, there is not one footnote. There are juicy tidbits about members of the family. Joseph Kennedy progresses from a WW I draft dodger to U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James. He beds innumerable women, manipulates the stock market, becomes a Nazi sympathizer and anti-Semite. Rose is portrayed as the ultimate holder of Irish grudges: when her husband had his stroke she delayed calling a doctor while she played golf. A devout Catholic, she was actually happy about Joe's affairs because then she didn't have to sleep with him. Retarded Rosemary was lobotomized because she was considered a less-than-perfect Kennedy. There are dark hints that Joseph may have had an incestuous relationship with her. Sexual innuendo is rampant throughout the book. When McGinniss finally gets around to concentrating on Ted, we are given a picture of a lonely boy raised by servants. The first crisis of his life comes when he is expelled from Harvard for cheating. His father was furious, but only because Ted got caught. We see Ted as an ineffective campaign manager for JFK in 1960 and we see him being forced by his father to run for JFK's former Senate seat in 1962. In 1968 after RFK's assassination, Ted turned ``reflexively, to women, alcohol and other drugs.'' The book ends with the Chappaquiddick tragedy in 1969 and the questions raised by Ted's alibi. Thus the biography misses Ted's presidential campaign in 1980 and the events surrounding the rape charges against his nephew William Smith in 1991. Employing journalistic histrionics and amateur psychology in his attempts to find what makes this family and this one man obsessed with winning at all costs, McGinniss concludes that the Kennedys are all-American frauds. The reader will wonder if McGinniss isn't one also. First serial to Vanity Fair; Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club Super Releases; Reader's Digest Condensed Book selection; NBC miniseries; author tour. (Aug.)
Kirkus Reviews
Can one sympathize with a rich, powerful, boozing, aging rou‚ of a US senator? Maybe—if the senator is the Ted Kennedy presented in McGinniss's harsh but oddly compassionate biography. It's a lot more difficult, actually, to sympathize with the rich, powerful, aging bestseller of a writer—who, if even half the accusations are true, not only created scenes for this book out of whole cloth but plagiarized William Manchester's The Death of a President (1967). Save for a coda that summarizes Kennedy's slide toward irrelevance in recent presidential elections, McGinniss takes the senator only up to Chappaquiddick, which he considers not only the mangling of one man's political aspirations but also the final price paid for Joe Kennedy's dynastic hopes: "The nation...demanded that Teddy live not only his own life but, also, simultaneously, the unlived portion of the lives of his three older brothers." Except for one typically unsourced assertion that Ted phoned a onetime girlfriend in the hours after the accident, McGinniss hasn't uncovered much about Chappaquiddick not revealed in Leo Damore's Senatorial Privilege (1988)—but that's hardly surprising given the recent revelations about the author's apparent penchant for creative research. In any case, the thrust of McGinniss's narrative, whatever its provenance, is that, from the start, Ted was too emotionally maimed for the burden laid upon him: His parents shuttled him to ten schools by age 13 but visited him in none; Joe saw Ted's expulsion from Harvard as a threat to Jack's political hopes; Jack and Bobby were aghast that Joe had pushed Ted into his first Senate race so early in his career; the two assassinationslaunched Ted toward the boozy self-destruction that led to Chappaquiddick. It's all told with verve: but veracity? Caveat emptor. (First serial rights to Vanity Fair; film rights to NBC)

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Simon & Schuster
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