jamiebowen0306 (jamiebowen0306) wrote,

I finished "True Compass" by Ted Kennedy today.

I know that I'm not supposed to speak ill of the dead, but words cannot adequately describe how much this book irritated me. I'm an avowed liberal who works in the US for 6 months a year, so the autobiography of the last significantly political Kennedy should interest me. That's why I bought it after all. It didn't.

As soon as I sat down, it became apparent that this book isn't anything more than a puff piece where Kennedy spends 532 pages skimming through his life, putting the most positive spin on everything he had to address (the fact he drank like a fish and how that might have contributed to his nephew's rape arrest for example), and ignoring the rest (Chappaquiddick is dealt with extraordinarily briefly, despite the fact it's a term that symbolises his life now).

In America, Garrison Keillor signs off his "Lake Wobegon" monologues with the description of the town as a place where "the women are strong, the men are good looking, and the children are above average." That statement could be used to sum up this entire book. There is no self-awareness, let alone self-analysis here. He genuinely seems to believe that most people should see him as he sees himself, as some bastion of the common man who should be seen through that light only.

For those of you who have issues with him, he makes no excuses. He makes no attempt to excuse any of his actions. He tells us repeatedly through the book that he is who he is, and won't demean himself by explaining areas of his life he chooses to ignore. If that's the case, why write the book?

It's also worth noting that the editor didn't manage the book well. Kennedy half tells a number of stories that eventually gets told, and semi-repeated (often within a few pages) throughout the book. In addition, there's no linear narrative. He hops about his life like a magpie, and that seriously affects the flow of the book, and how it reads. For someone who was such a good orator, I'm surprised how poorly structured this book is.

In short, don't buy this book. The Edward Klein book about Kennedy is much better, because it approached him in a more neutral way.
Tags: book, book review, review

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