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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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Authors On The Menu

President Harry Truman said the only thing new in the world is the history you don’t know.

I thought about that observation while reading David Nasaw’s The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy, an amazing and meticulously researched book on President John F. Kennedy’s father. It was a finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Biography, and Dr. Nasaw, a Roslyn High School graduate, will return to Nassau next week.

Nasaw, the Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. professor of history at the Graduate Center for the City University of New York, along with New York Times bestselling memoirist Will Schwalbe (The End of Your Life Book Club), are the two featured authors appearing on Friday, May 17, at The Friends of the Port Washington Public Library’s 44th annual Richard D. Whittemore Book & Author Luncheon. It starts at 11 a.m. and continues until 2:30 p.m. at the North Hills Country Club, 200 L.I.E. North Service Rd., in Manhasset.

Novelist and screenwriter Susan Isaacs, a Port Washington resident, will serve as the program’s moderator. Tickets are $65 per person. The Friends of the Library is a volunteer support, outreach, advocacy and advisory group, and they are online at www.pwpl.org/fol.

Nasaw and Schwalbe will each speak for 25 minutes about their most recent projects, followed by a brief question and answer period. Both books will be for sale, with the authors available to sign them.

Nasaw’s The Patriarch (Penguin Press) rightfully won rave reviews when it was published in November 2012.  The conventional wisdom held that Joseph Kennedy’s fortune was made in bootlegging, when, in fact, it was done primarily through Wall Street manipulations, such as insider trading and pump and dump schemes, which were legal at the time, along with accessing presidential-level political connections to secure lucrative deals to sell hard liquor legally after Prohibition ended. To rebuild the public’s confidence in the nation’s stock exchanges, Kennedy subsequently fought to keep others from profiting on Wall Street in the ways he had while serving as President Franklin Roosevelt’s first Securities and Exchange Commission chairman, Nasaw writes.

I criticized NBC’s chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd a few weeks ago for signing a book deal prior to Election Day 2012 that would financially benefit Todd personally, especially if the president were re-elected. Kennedy saw no need for a publisher to act as the middleman when keeping journalists in line. Indeed, Nasaw reports Kennedy paid money out of his own pocket to New York Times reporter Arthur Krock, whose full-time job at the time was covering FDR’s administration, to have Krock ghost write a document in support of FDR’s re-election in 1936. The slim volume was eventually published under Joseph Kennedy’s byline.

Released in October 2012, Schwalbe’s The End of Your Life Book Club (Alfred A. Knopf) chronicles how the author, a former editor in chief at Hyperion Books, and his late mother, Mary Anne, started a “book club” after she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and how that club brought them together as her life came to a close. “While it is a story about death, it is mostly a celebration of life and of the way books can enrich it,” Booklist said, giving the title a starred review.  

For tickets to the May 17 luncheon, call Tinu Thakore at 767-1142, or email her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . The library’s Community Relations Office (883-4400, ext. 130) also has details about the event.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: MFBARRY@optonline.net