The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy

As I mull over the idea of writing a biography, I was pleased to pick up this tremendous example of what a bio should be: well-written, well-researched, good pacing and enough historical background to fill in the gaps but not overwhelm. JPK’s life was always an outsider struggle, the Irish-Catholic trying to break into the Boston Brahmins, the stock market jockey horsing around in Hollywood, the ambassador to Britain who refused to wear the required knee breeches at court (“Grown men do not appear in public in short pants.”) His fierce loyalty to family and friends is legendary, along with his work ethic, charm, hospitality, and penchant for having affairs. He created a fortune for his family by exploiting the stock market, then became SEC chairman to close the loopholes that he know about. His public relations team constantly tended to the Kennedy image, feeding puff stories to major news outlets to keep JPK in the press, and when his boys were poised to take over the political reins, to keep Joe Jr. and Jack in the press. And then the chaos of unending tragedy begins, with Rosemary’s botched lobotomy, then Joe Jr’s death in WW2, daughter Kick (Kathleen)’s plane crash, JFK’s assassination, and RFK’s assassination. The old man crushed in his mute post-stroke state seems to collapse into a pile of ashes, never to rise again.