JFK and Mary Meyer: A Love Story by Jesse Kornbluth

Reviewed by James Eaton

I read this book hoping it’d be all canard, gossip, and balderdash. I checked it out via Google and such. It isn’t. So that makes it what, a horror novel? Mr. Kornbluth claims, perhaps tongue-in-cheekly, that it’s a romance. Maybe then it’s the first of a new breed, a new genre: horror romance.

A note I took a third into the reading:

“I find myself hoping that nothing in this book is true, even as I admit without hesitation that I believe it. It is not a novel, per se, not even of the epistolary kind if one adheres to the literal definition. But it is something of a revelation, and its overarching theme, relevant to the madness of our current political situation is: Wherever you go, there you are.”

If this were written today about the current White House occupant, it’d be lauded by half and hated by the other, so to speak. And of course, the political leanings and motivations of the author would immediately be called into question. Kornbluth is telling it like it is, Kornbluth is a liar, Kornbluth is an angel, Kornbluth is the devil. But unless it’s intended as a cautionary allegory, JFK and Mary Meyer hasn’t got anything to do with our world of today. Ahem. Not at all. No, instead, we as readers are offered a close up glimpse of a man many recall as something of a fallen saint who instead turns out to be an almost Me Too textbook predator. The account is credible in a sense because it’s written from the perspective of a woman who was, to say the least, complicit in the goings on. Camelot? Lord help us.

If Bill Clinton had Monica, it seems JFK had…pretty much everyone else. Yeck. But people need to believe in heroes, and we middle Americans, whatever our political affiliation, have always been, well, suckers for a good hero tale. “Ask not” indeed.And Kornbluth’s book reads very much like an answer to a question I never would have asked, largely because I can’t unknow the answer.

Does it pull you along? Absolutely. Is it well-crafted? Sure.Is it based on facts? From what I can tell, there isn’t much doubt that it is. Will it scare you? Only if you’re a living, breathing human.
Fox Mulder would cringe at all that is implied here. He’d drop all the alien nonsense and embrace the long dark night of the bowl.

In the end, Mary Meyer is shot and killed. One only wonders why it took so long, given who she knew, what she knew, when she knew, and what she did (and with whom). One also wonders about Marilyn Monroe’s death and a host of other events, but really, this book is about a figure so central to the events that demarked the Kennedy years one can hardly believe her name is not etched in the memories of every American person, then and now.

If you’re even a little paranoid, this book will confirm that you do in fact have everything to worry about. I’m quite sure that despite advances in this, that, and the other thing, the types of individuals who run our government probably haven’t changed much. Yikes.

The book is also a festival of historical facts, figures, and story-within-story delights. Who knew who, who went nuts, who knew what when, who slept with who…You get gems like: (I paraphrase) The Soviets admitted they had forty thousand troops and all kinds of lethal weaponry in Cuba during the missile crisis, so if we’d’ve bombed Cuba…World War Three?And in the late 50’s, it was determined that a full one quarter of the American population was living under the poverty line. That sounds depressingly familiar. The mob lent the Kennedy campaign money (and no doubt provided other kinds of assistance) to get him elected (West Virginia, that bastion of Italian-American expression?) and was none too happy when he and his brother didn’t dance the requisite dance when the appropriate music was eventually piped in.

Where was Charlton Heston in all this to drop to his knees and scream, “It’s a madhouse!”? Heston does not appear in the book. Okay, let’s call that a criticism. Mine.

This has to be the oddest review I’ve ever written. But it’s charged by the degree of consternation, awe and fear JFK and Mary Meyer drummed up in me. I wholeheartedly recommend the read…if you get past the above caveats and don’t mind feeling the floor drop out from beneath your comfy feet. You think maybe you’re a cynic? Yeah, no. You’re a lamb. Then you read this.

It did have the odd effect of calming me down about the 2020 elections, mostly because I’ve come to this conclusion, a la the end of God of Carnage: “What do we know?”

Not much, it turns out. And we can unknow even less.