22 October 2014

0 ghosts

there's this fascinating dialogue across time that happens that i cannot explain and yet which i will attempt to describe, because it feels that important.

this exists on two planes.

one is the moment where you realize a person you read about and write about is real.

as a biographer, you live with the intellectual fact of this. but the feeling of it is an altogether different thing. to write the story of jackie's life, i need- to some extent, if i'm to feel at all qualified to do such an audacious thing- pretend that the story of jackie's life is actually something one can do. in order to do that, one needs to detach to some degree. (aren't we all detached to some degree?)

but there are moments where the feeling comes in. today, in looking through rose kennedy's notes on the opening of the kennedy center in 1971, i came across a paragraph that had meant enough to rose kennedy that she copied it into her notes. a paragraph jackie wrote on pg. 29 of the opening night program, where she mentioned the importance of having reduced price tickets for old people and students and people who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford to hear opera or see dance or take in whatever was being performed on a given night.

the layers of preservation involved there... i don't know. for some reason it was profoundly moving. i teared up there, looking at this image file of a page from rose kennedy's notes where she quoted her former daughter-in-law's comments from a commemorative program.

something about that... it brings you a closeness. to the words, to the people, to the story.

that is what i want to get in, which is still not something i'm entirely certain how to do, outside of finding as many of jackie's own words as i can.

my father is my mailbox for things from archives that cannot be scanned and for which hard copies must be sent. and he admitted to feeling a similarly mystical connection through jackie's letters to gore vidal. not necessarily when he did a dramatic reading of them to me over skype. but when he opened that envelope, took in her handwriting, saw her words.

it makes it real. really real.

that's not all that makes it real though. there's the moment you realize the real person you're writing about it real, but there's this other moment where you see just how closely we are all connected across time.

that sounds very new age. it isn't.

because i'm writing about a story and how that story was consumed as it was being written in the media and how it has changed over time, my writing process basically involves total saturation in the newspaper articles on jackie. a ferreting out of all of the things said and then the working of them into a story. and then i turn to the archival stuff i've amassed throughout all this and see if the story i just built is bunk.

which is the point at which rose kennedy chimed in today to tell me that eunice shriver read that same article that i just read about ari giving jackie a yacht for her 41st birthday, and eunice told her mother and her mother asked jackie and jackie laughed and jackie said, no, no, don't believe everything you read.

which, i guess, boils down to jackie laughing at me down the ages through all those people.

no, no, don't believe everything you read, she told her former mother-in-law, who wrote that in the notes for the memoir she was writing, which i saw in her archive and- without really even letting the content register before my eyes- photographed back on that one afternoon at the JFKL in may, on the off-chance it might one day be useful.

there is an element of magic to all of this.

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