The staggering success of The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis—it has sold more than half a million copies in the last five months—might well inspire cynicism.
It used to be a publishing joke that a book on Lincoln’s doctor’s dog would be a guaranteed best seller, since Lincoln, dogs, and medicine are perennially popular. Today, one could certainly add all things Kennedy to the list, and there’s no doubt that the double dose of Kennedy this book provides (it is edited by Caroline Kennedy) is responsible for much of its popularity. But at a time when a best-selling book of new poetry tops out at around 10,000 copies, there must be something more than just mystique at work here. It looks like there’s a much bigger public ready, even eager, for poetry, as long as it is the kind of poetry one might associate with Jackie: that is, romantic, patriotic, traditional, and elegant.
Posted Wednesday, March 20, 2002, at 12:21 PM ET