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.
From the Hardcover edition.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
JED MERCURIO is the author of Bodies and Ascent.
From the Hardcover edition.
The subject is an American citizen holding high elected office, married, and father to a young family, who takes the view that monogamy has seldom been the engine of great men's lives. He has always had women -- numerously, sequentially and simultaneously, in the form of family friends, heiresses, socialites, models, actresses, professional acquaintances, colleagues' spouses, party girls, shopgirls and prostitutes -- following the youthful discovery that he liked women and they liked him.
Only in the course of longer-lasting affairs did the question of marriage arise; it was not something he took seriously until his political ambitions began to include high office, whereupon it was clarified by numerous colleagues that a good marriage was not merely an advantage but a necessity. A politician must remain publicly faithful to those principles and causes he chooses to follow; whether he remains faithful to his wife is another question.
Seven years ago, at age thirty-six, he married a beautiful young woman twelve years his junior. He will not admit defrauding his marital vows. Before God, he decided not to be derailed by the impossibility of making promises based upon the permanence of love, when it is clear to any thinking person that to guarantee one's state of mind in twenty or even thirty years' time is preposterous. Taking vows is merely etiquette -- as is appearing to observe them.
His bride convinced herself that the institution of marriage would wave a magic wand over his catholic libido. Of course, in those days a good part was directed toward her. He refuses to blame himself for her misconception. She was attracted to a man who had his pick of women. If she had wanted the type who struggles to get laid, then she should have married one -- certainly there are enough to choose from.
When he sees a beautiful woman, he wants to make love to her. That has been a natural, physical desire he has experienced since youth. If marriage had quelled the impulse, no one would have been happier than he -- with the exception, of course, of his wife.
Once married, obviously the subject had to become more discreet. He always denied any wrongdoing, except to essential accomplices. Work occupied him at weekends and in the evenings, and, for many months during that initial phase of their marriage, he impressed on his wife that he was absent in the company of men or in the service of work with females present by coincidence. Over time, his plausible denials failed to disabuse his wife of her suspicions. His periods away from home and his social engagements in the presence of attractive women were opportunities for fornication but only as long as he retained the requisite appetite. Her epiphany was provoked by what she saw in front of her rather than that which he hid behind her back: stolen glances, lingering handshakes, and subtle shifts in the focus of his attention during the telling of an anecdote. No matter how strenuous his denials, the insight that prevailed was that his sexual interest in other women had not expired.
As time passed, he remained convinced his wife was an excellent choice and one he certainly did not regret, save for her lack of accommodation to his need for an independent personal life, so he adopted the stratagem of reminding her constantly of her status. He puts her first in all things, and her place in his life, and in his heart, is unique and secure. It may come as no surprise that these proclamations did not end the matter.
After three years of marriage, his wife gave birth to a stillborn daughter, the child arriving prematurely, while he was on vacation in the Mediterranean. There were wild nights on the yacht, and he had sex with four women in total, one of whom sailed with his party for a time and became a short-term mistress. He was reluctant to return home, as he was having such a fine time and the mistress was a stunning blonde, but he made the sacrifice for the sake of their marriage.
Yet, in her distress, his wife threatened divorce. She remained angry and upset for so long that he worried the effort of constant denial would wear him out. Thankfully the subject is convinced his wife has never acquired irrefutable proof of his adultery. His single-minded determination to protect his privacy has allowed their love to prevail.
The obstetrician counseled them to conceive again as soon as possible, for his wife's well-being. Both parties share a commitment to resilience. They have both enjoyed much fortune in their lives, so they must not resent misfortune; obstacles must be overcome and tragedies endured without complaint. So it was imperative that rancor be set aside, though some months passed before his independent personal life could again be a fit subject for rational examination. By then, his wife was pregnant again, and they are now not only blessed with a beautiful three-year-old daughter, but his wife is also expecting their next child.
Fatherhood has been the great blessing brought by marriage. He values the stable companionship of a wife, and also the social and professional advantages that accompany having a consort and hostess, but the emotional core of life lies in his relationship with his child. One might argue that marriage provides a vehicle for such men to father children responsibly. Kings left bastard children scattered throughout their lands, denied their father's patronage, just as common men of weak character drift out of their children's lives for selfish reasons.
The subject intends to provide for his children the safe and loving home only a marriage can offer. In this statement, he considers his own experience: his father traveled a good deal, as is only to be expected of a successful and important businessman and politician, and in his youth he discovered his father was far from a faithful husband. His mother appeared completely faithful; in fact, she was a devout observer of her marital vows. Yet his mother is not a demonstratively loving parent: when he was a child, and often quite sick, she regularly made trips for her own private reasons and he would not see her for weeks. In reflecting briefly upon his upbringing, he concludes that his opinion of neither parent is colored by their fidelity.
His wife's father was also a philanderer. He was a public embarrassment to the subject's mother-in-law, so they divorced. The subject's parents remain married. However, his mother denied his father sex once she'd borne his youngest brother; his father's mistresses served a substitute function, though the subject never formed the impression it was a course of action he pursued with a great many scruples. In contrast, the subject's wife doesn't deny him sex; if that were enough to satisfy him, life would be simple.
Virtually all males possess the sexual impulse, essential to continuation of the species, though they possess it to greater or lesser degrees, and in some cases the urge is not directed toward the conventional model of feminine pulchritude, or toward females at all. The subject doesn't believe such men are morally deviant. They experience desires generated by their bodily hormones. Each of us must take a moral view on the repercussions of satisfying his natural desires, and in the past he's been given to reflecting on his own case. He resists applying the terms "condition" or "pathology" to his behavior, because he believes his libido lies within the variants of normal rather than being in any way abnormal, as would, for example, a sexual attraction to minors or to animals. Past reflections only reaffirmed his conviction that promiscuous sexual relations with consenting partners not his wife are no cause for moral self-recrimination. He no longer examines his conduct, proceeding with a clear conscience.
This point of view is reinforced by his observation that constant desire for women appears both natural and normal. He is not an animal overcome with a bestial urge. He does not rip the clothes from a woman's body and ravish her in public. He asks her about herself. He endeavors to interest and amuse her. When he concludes there is a possibility of mutual attraction, he employs direct but delicate methods of suggesting sex.
That is not to say that he has never practiced restraint. He has desired women who were already taken by another man he liked, respected or feared, or who were confidantes of his wife, or whom he's solely encountered in the close company of his wife. In such cases, he consigns himself to the misery of continence.
It must be understood that his compulsion is more complex than simple sexual release. He gains far greater satisfaction from the pursuit and conquest of a novel desirable woman than from sex with his familiar desirable wife. It is not even the nature of the sex act itself: for the most part he does not act with extramarital partners differently from how he acts with his wife, and for the most part they do not perform with markedly greater alacrity or aptitude (or, for that matter, markedly less) than her, nor does the intimacy of "love" make the physical experience any more (or less) pleasurable for him. Novelty is the most intense sexual thrill: novelty of sexual partner. He compares the experience to unwrapping a present. The anticipation can be breathless.
His wife dreads their circle inferring she does not arouse him sexually. Picture one occasion: she holds a gin in her hand, her eyes burn with fury, and she screams at him, "She'd better be gorgeous!" before sweeping out of the room. He's never invited his wife to elucidate this remark. The conclusion he's reached, forming the basis of the first rule of his adultery, is that it would help her to know that a mistress was so beautiful that any husband, however loving, would be tempted to be unfaithful. How many married men would reject the chance to go to bed with a magnificent beauty if they could be sure of getting away with it? Her remark also reflects the importance his wife places, even in betrayal, on matters of taste.
When she suspects his philandering, he will deliberatel...
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.
Book Description Vintage, 2010. Paperback. Book Condition: Brand New. 368 pages. 7.80x5.08x0.91 inches. In Stock. Bookseller Inventory # zk0099515873