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Editor from Camelot

Jackie O among the literati.

Feb 28, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 23 • By JUDY BACHRACH
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Well, you get the idea. About the only serious misstep I could discover in Jackie’s entire career-girl phase was her decision to blame her first boss, Guinzburg, for the acquisition of Shall We Tell the President, a novel by Jeffrey Archer that chronicled a fictional assassination attempt on Jackie’s brother-in-law, Senator Edward Kennedy. This was not an inspired idea on Viking’s part, considering the perils in those days of being a Kennedy, and considering that a Kennedy in-law was then the publishing house’s prize jewel. It was Jackie’s contention forever after, especially when the clan’s rage hit the fan (as it was bound to do), that she was ignorant of the book’s contents, and that her boss, in effect, had pulled a fast one, exposing her once again to worldwide derision for seeming callousness. It was this factor that led her to quit Viking in a huff and move to Doubleday two years after starting work.

In fact, she knew a fair amount about the sordid business well in advance of the novel’s release, as Lawrence makes clear. It simply suited her, especially early in her editing career, to remain vague, distant, and apart from the consequences—until, and this unfortunately is a Kennedy trait as well, the consequences came and got her.

I am not among those who dislike the Kennedys on principle, and I do believe that Jackie, whatever her drawbacks, gave a rather gray-hued country, as America was in the early sixties, a touch of dazzle. She knew how to dress, and she wasn’t stupid, and there is certainly something to be said for all that. But I can’t help noticing that the author of Jackie as Editor points out rather late (page 146) that another, less famous, Doubleday editor, Shaye Areheart, “enjoyed a very special relationship with her.” What was the nature of this special relationship? As it turns out, Shaye Areheart did “the dirty work” which, presumably, is publisher-speak for “the work.” Shaye became “an integral part of Jackie’s Doubleday team,” also known as “Jackie’s SWAT team,” and in this capacity, was expected to keep the nosy press at bay and negotiate “the fine points of contracts, presenting books in marketing and sales meetings, writing the fact sheets that sales reps used .  .  . ”

In other words, once Jackie was hired, someone else entirely was supposed to stand in as editor. It would have been good to learn this on Page One.

Judy Bachrach is a contributing editor to Vanity Fair.

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