Brief reviews of recent releases: "The Day Kennedy Died: 50 Years Later LIFE Remembers the Man and the Moment," by the editors of LIFE magazine, and "The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion," by Fannie Flagg.
The Day Kennedy Died: 50 Years Later LIFE Remembers the Man and the Moment
By the Editors of Life magazine (Life Books, 192 pages, $50)
Life, the magazine that brought you the Zapruder film, has come out with a coffee-table book that includes remembrances, photos and insights into those four horrible days in November 1963, including a reprint of its Nov. 29 issue that was supposed to have Navy football star Roger Staubach on the cover. “The Day Kennedy Died” is a glossy, full-of-historic-photos compilation for the reader who can’t get enough of the 50th anniversary. Perhaps the biggest highlight is the story of how Life got the rights to publish still photos from the Super 8 home movie taken by dressmaker Abraham Zapruder in Dallas’ Dealey Plaza. Frame by frame, Kennedy’s assassination unfolds on film, including frame No. 313 that shows the president’s head being hit. Life also tells Zapruder’s personal story, written by his granddaughter 50 years later.
The book has a “Where were you when you heard” chapter that includes the memories of lots of famous people such as Jimmy Carter, Sergei Khrushchev (Nikita’s son), Lynda Bird Johnson Robb, Garrison Keillor, Tony Bennett, Art Garfunkel, Barbra Streisand, Willie Mays, John Boehner and many, many more.
Life also tells the story of Teddy White’s famous “Camelot” interview with Jackie Kennedy conducted a week after the assassination. In his essay for Life that month, White did not include Jackie’s gruesome memories of the shooting itself, of sitting next to her husband as blood and brain matter spattered everywhere. Those memories are in this book. There is so much more: lots of Kennedy family photos, photos of the invitation to the funeral, the Parkland Hospital admission note and excerpts of the speech Kennedy never gave at the Trade Mart, comments that almost could have been given today.
Pamela Hue, copy editor
The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion
By Fannie Flagg (Random House, 347 pages, $27)
Fannie Flagg came through with a good, heartwarming yarn in “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe,” but her latest book disappoints with stilted dialogue and characters that were tough to believe in.
Maybe Flagg wanted to write about the Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASPs, who served their country during World War II at great cost and with very little recognition. She’s right, there’s a great story there, but this novel about a Southerner who finds out she comes from a family once known as the Flying Jurdabralinskis of Pulaski, Wis., doesn’t get to that tale until halfway through the book (and that was by far my favorite part). There are some funny moments, as when the protagonist, Sookie, has to hatch new stratagems to prevent anyone in Point Clear, Ala., from knowing that she’s seeing a shrink, especially her overbearing mother. Lenore Simmons Krackenberry, known around town as Winged Victory, lacks any common sense, which could be charming except that she also seemed to lack real love for her grown children, who bend over backwards for her.
Meanwhile, back in Pulaski in the 1940s, the war effort is gearing up, and the Jurdabralinskis throw themselves into it with special flair at their filling station. They’re led by the pioneering and free-spirited Fritzi, who is someone I’d like to meet.
Catherine Preus, copy editor