There were glimpses in the book in which she seemed more human, more engaged with her life than just reporting on it as though she were a bystander, but those moments were too few. Still, Radziwill had a fascinating, if a bit voyeuristic, subject to write about and the topic alone made the book a very interesting read. Why was poor Carole Radziwill so doomed? Why did she have to live as an "other", the permanent widow-to-be, while all of her friends lived such carefree lives, having no greater worries than in what exotic locale they would spend their next holiday? This book made me realize that at the end of the day, all we really have -- what actually remains -- is our life, our health and the people we love. Death is the ultimate equalizer.
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A Memoir of Snapshots and Redemption. By Christopher Kennedy Lawford. A Memoir of Fate, Friendship, and Love. By Carole Radziwill. Without prompting, he launches into some eyebrow-raising stories about his upbringing. He describes his famous parents, so unsuited to childrearing that they installed their newborn son and his nanny in a separate house down the street. There was the first time he saw a grown woman naked: Jacqueline Kennedy, whom the year-old Chris mistakenly walked in on as she was preparing for a bath.
Lawford is laughing hard at his own stories, and you laugh along with him, even as you wonder why he is peddling these tales to a stranger. You start eyeing the bar. Though Lawford has a double pedigree -- he is the son of Patricia Kennedy, sister of John and Bobby, and also of Peter Lawford, the suave British member of the Rat Pack -- the author describes himself as a "second-string Kennedy" who never received as much attention as his cousins, even when he screwed up in spectacular ways.
And those screwups were indeed spectacular, even by decadent Hyannis standards. He spent nearly two decades stumbling hazily among tony schools, Hollywood parties and emergency rooms. At Tufts, the perpetually stoned Lawford wiggled out of required on-campus housing with a letter from Dr. Robert Coles documenting "social phobias" that Lawford invented.
He was so entitled that he regularly ignored his economy airline tickets and installed himself in first-class cabins, so smug that he and his friends amused themselves by taunting Cambridge townies, and so politically clueless that when Martin Luther King Jr. A dishy Kennedy memoir is a rare thing; about as many family members have written tell-alls as have had bar mitzvahs. Kennedy Jr. And her pointed fashion tutelage: after meeting her, Carolyn leaves Radziwill a polite note asking her to "get rid of those Gap sneakers.
Our friendship cannot proceed into a growth-oriented way until you realize how important this issue is to me. Except for a few bare moments in which she describes her cancer-strained marriage, Radziwill mostly chooses graciousness over disclosure. And nothing is more important to Lawford than being a Kennedy. He claims to have written this book "to free myself to find myself" and to help fellow addicts facing similar struggles. But along the way, Lawford reveals other motivations: he admits he is intoxicated by attention, makes a habit of immediately informing new acquaintances of his pedigree, and has suffered from a lifelong inability to do anything other than "take advantage of the circumstances I was born into.
It may terrify her, and persuade her to take advantage of the privilege of her birth -- namely, that she did not come into the world a Kennedy -- and start a new life while she still can. Jodi Kantor is a reporter at The Times.
'Symptoms of Withdrawal' and 'What Remains': Ask Not
A Memoir of Snapshots and Redemption. By Christopher Kennedy Lawford. A Memoir of Fate, Friendship, and Love. By Carole Radziwill.
Carole Radziwill's 'What Remains'