When power leads man toward arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses. (John F. Kennedy, Amherst, Mass., October 26, 1963)
A wide range of literary works dealing with John F. Kennedy have been published over the past five decades since his death in Dallas in 1963. This book is a critical examination of this significant body of American literature. Included are narratives by such diverse authors as Don DeLillo, John Updike, Richard Brautigan, William F. Buckley, Norman Mailer, Anton Myrer, Wright Morris, Vance Bourjaily, and William Manchester, as well as plays by Barbara Garson and Wendy MacLeod and poetry by Robert Frost, W.H. Auden, Allen Ginsberg, John Berryman, and Lou Reed. The results converge to reveal a composite profile of Kennedy in American literature, offering new perspectives of the man he was to the nation and providing insights into the unique role he plays in America’s collective memory. Accompanying the analysis is a fresh and imaginative review of a pivotal time in American political and cultural history that still resonates in countless ways.