As the anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy approaches, the usual questions surface: Did Lee Harvey Oswald act alone? What happened that day in Dallas? Then, we remember (misremember, really) where we were that day that everything seemed to change.
Anyone who loves history, and especially loves that era, likely has read "A Thousand Days," Arthur Schlesinger Jr.'s sweeping account of Kennedy's days in office, from the transition period to the funeral, from hope to despair.
Those looking for more, even those frustrated by any sort of mythmaking, will find much to explore in "The Letters of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr."
This collection of letters, spanning the Cold War to Sept. 11, 2001, captures the mind and heart of a man known for his intellect as well as his personal relationships and exchanges.
Schlesinger was one of the last in a rare breed of historians who also played a role in what they wrote about.
Before he was an aide to Kennedy in the White House, Schlesinger helped shape the young Kennedy's Pulitzer Prize-winning "Profiles in Courage." In a long letter dated July 4, 1955, and included in this volume, are Schlesinger's detailed instructions on how Kennedy should polish his book. Here Schlesinger takes the future president to task for writing that John Quincy Adams was "gentle," corrects spelling and challenges word choices.
From Jacqueline Kennedy to Bianca Jagger, Schlesinger wrote to a wide range of people — not just the politically powerful of the day.
Nostalgia isn't the only reason to read these letters. Another is to be immersed in a world where someone cares deeply about ideas and people.
of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.'
Edited by Andrew Schlesinger and Stephen Schlesinger
Random House, $35, 631 pages