In his study of John F. Kennedy's womanizing, Mercurio never demonizes his subject, instead offering a sympathetic portrait of a virtuous man in the grip of an uncontrollable vice.
From its opening line, explores the life of a habitual womanizer in hypnotically clinical prose. The subject regards his high libido as normal, yet this particular philanderer must go to extraordinary lengths to conceal his affairs from his wife and his political rivals — and with good reason, since he is the President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Here are Kennedy's affairs with Marilyn Monroe, mob moll Judith Campbell, libertine Mary Meyer, and his flings with numerous White House staff. Each affair propels Kennedy into increasingly murky waters. He fears losing his wife and children to whom he's devoted, and the office to which he's dedicated.
Through its study of an important figure, American Adulterer poses controversial questions about society's evolving fixation on the private lives of public officials.
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Customer Reviews (42)
American Adulterer was just okay, but I'll definitely be reading more about JFK
American Adulterer looks closely at John F. Kennedy's lecherous tendencies while in office. The book tries to make the case that JFK cheated on his wife because he had difficulty concentrating, developed headaches, and in general, had a hard time getting his presidential work done if he didn't have a lot of sex with a lot of different women. Maybe it's because I'm a woman or maybe it's because I don't go for the "boys will be boys" attitude, but I did not buy into the argument that JFK not only "needed" to have a lot of sex, but he "needed" to have sex with a variety of different women. This may have impacted my overall take on the book (note the sarcasm - it definitely impacted by take on the book).
I will say, I was surprised to read that JFK was in almost constant pain because of his Addison's disease, back problems, and bowel issues. I don't know if the book is totally accurate on this point, but in the book he is getting daily injections of painkillers and downing a variety of other medications. He juggled multiple doctors to ensure he got the different treatments he thought he needed. Now, I understand trying to cope with chronic pain and how distracting it can be, but even JFK's myriad health problems seemed to take a back seat to his need to get down with the ladies.
I'll admit there was a little bit of prurient interest in picking this book up. JFK was known as a bit of ladies man so I thought his love life would make for an interesting novel. But my god, it felt like this book was all about sex and his various health problems. Every important point in his presidency (and adult life) was set against the backdrop of his insatiable need to have sex and/or how much pain he was in. If JFK's mental energy was really so strongly focused on sex and pain, I honestly don't know how he accomplished anything.This laser focus made the book feel a little repetitive by the time I got to the end.
In the book's defense, I did want to read more about JFK once I had finished it. I want to find out how much of Mercurio took liberties with the historical record and where he stuck with the truth. I mean, could all of this possibly be true? I find this happens to me pretty regularly - I'll read a historical novel that is just okay, but it drives me to read more about the subject because I want to learn more. I suppose this shouldn't be surprising - I read so many historical novels that they can't all be good. So while the story in American Adulterer wasn't that great it will definitely drive me to pick up a biography or two on JFK (recommendations are welcome).
I was bored by this but my GF LOVED it,
I didn't enjoy this book at all. I really wanted to as I find this fascinating but it was a very dry read for me, reminiscentof a textbook. My friend however LOVED it and just lent it to someone else. She found it very informative and was amazed by the history, partly cuz she didnt grow up in the US.
Well Researched but too Intimate a Portrait of the Man
If the name JFK makes you envision a champion of civil rights, activist for nuclear disarmament, and a handsome, charismatic leader who was brutally snuffed out before his time, after reading American Adulterer, you will never view Jack Kennedy that way again.
Jed Mercurio, a British author with a medical background, offers a fictional glimpse into what could have gone on in the sex life, physical health and mind of JFK. Mercurio portrays Kennedy as such a medically ill person that we wonder how he ever had the clarity of mind to decide whether to wear the white shirt or the blue shirt, let alone to negotiate with Nikita Khrushchev. Kennedy is on a host of medications for his Addison's, thyroid failure, and suffers with severe bouts of stomach distress. This is not to mention the incessant pain from his back, which was injured in his early years playing sports, fractured when PT 109 was blown up by the Japanese, became septic during surgery, and infected during a postop operation for a herniated disc. Wow! How could one person have such bad luck? And how could that man possibly have the drive, and the intellectual rigor, to aspire to the highest office in the land?
I felt very sympathetic towards Kennedy reading about all his ailments, although there was quite a bit of TMI, but the sympathy stopped the minute Mercurio provided a detailed description of Kennedy's affairs. I'm not quite sure how I feel about sex addiction -- is it just a way for powerful men like Tiger Woods to justify their infidelity and exploitation of women because women throw themselves at them? Is it a psychological problem -- a type of sociopathy where an otherwise devoted husband has absolutely no regard for his wife or her feelings? Or is it biological? Do some men (and women) have extraordinary urges for sex that go beyond the "norm"? There are no easy answers but I had an uncomfortable feeling reading this book... that I wasn't sure if I was really entitled to this information. Just because people are famous, or even world leaders, doesn't mean that I should know the intimate details of their physical health or sex life.
On the other hand, Kennedy is part of history. And the old boys' network that kept his secrets is long gone. Maybe we're entitled to know some of this but not all. Although this work clearly took a lot of time and was well researched, it was quite repetitive and too intimate a look at the man for my own taste. Mercurio succeeds in crushing whatever idolization we have about the JFK years and the dreadful assassination. Instead, he is reduced to a skirt chasing invalid. Very sad.
Sigrid Macdonald, Author of Be Your Own Editor
Fact of Fiction
Although some of the facts seem to be correct I think the author wrote this more as fiction
A Mixed Bag (excuse the expression)
I was pretty sick of the repetitions about JFK's need to flush the 'poisons' out of his 'tubing.' Has there every been a more distasteful description of the sex act?
I also found it distasteful to hear this major historical figure called 'the subject.' Is the author a scientist, a dissectionist, a psychotherapist? Maybe all?
But the book did hook me. I learned facts I didn't know about the horrific face off in the ocean between Russia and the US. I was very grateful that we had a president who did not give in to the importunings of all the generals, who were virtually jumping up and down and wetting their pants over the prospect of nuclear war and, if anyone survived, the lucrative contracts that could be awarded to their favorite companies. Now, that's disgusting.
I found the repetitivness of JFK using woman after woman, much like kleenexes, to be depolorable. But I'd much rather have a president who received head in the oval office, but kept his head in the war room rather than the reverse.
There were so many moments of pre-deja vu. 'Did you have sex with that woman?!' That was the mantra of Congress' questions about Bill Clinton and his intern. And there was a threat of the story being broken in 'The Star?' Reminded me of Kenneth Star, who was in charge of exposing Clinton's predilections. Also, the Star Chamber for torturous question sessions by the Inquisition.
The scenes after the baby died were were heartrending. I found it hard to square up that man with the man who continued cavorting in the Mediterranean when Jackie had the miscarriage. What made him so much more sensitive? It couldn't have just been having the FBI scare him to death about disclosures on his refutable health treatment to relive his 'argonic poisons.' (Was that how it was spelled? I read the book in audio form. Anyway, it was a heck of an explanation/excuse for a married man with a sexual addiction.)
But I digress. How did the same man who went without sleep for two nights to stay by a dying baby and grieving wife square up with the man who didn't even trouble to come home when his wife had a miscarriage? Did he fall truly in love with her during the crises they faced? I'd really like to know the magic formula for transforming an s.o.b adulterer into such a loving, caring man.
I did enjoy the book. I learned a lot about that period in history. I still don't understand the man.
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