By EW Staff
September 24, 1993 at 04:00 AM EDT

The Kennedy moment in American history survives in myth and magic — and in a long shelfof books, serious and sleazy, about the same epic time. There are semiofficial histories by administration admirers, critical works by historians and journalists, and the inevitabl;e gossip glut by camp followers. Here’s our guide to the most notable titles. TITLE A Thousand Days Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. Kennedy Theodore C. Sorensen The Death of a President William Manchester The Kennedys: an american drama Peter Collier and David Horowitz The Kennedy Imprisonment: A Meditation on Power Garry Wills A Question of character: a life of john F. Kennedy Thomas C. Reeves A Woman Named Jackie C. David Heymann CLAIM TO FAME Liberal academic star gets to play inside the White House Kennedy alter ego devised the classy but essentially meaningless antitheses and inversions of JFK’s speeches Jackie suggested the author write this work, turned against him when the finished product offended her finer sensibilities Authors are famous political changelings, switching from red-hot radicals in the ’60s to glare-ice conservatives in the ’90s Author mixes classics, American culture, public policy, and history; sounds like liberal and conservative at the same time Author is a leading American scholar of the life of Chester A. Arthur (Chester who?) Author dedicates this book to two lawyers AGENDA First out of the starting gate to establish the basic elements of the Kennedy myth: courage, brilliance, vision, culture Set in stone description of JFK as ”pragmatic liberal,” kill idea that Democratic Presidents were soft on communism Mythologizing the assassination as a tragic act in the tradition of the great English regicides and Greek tyrannicides The Family, warts and all Create an existentialist, Aesopian, vaguely poststructuralist, Catholic moralist context for JFK (wow!) John F. Kennedy as dirty bird

A buck

PROBLEM Author confuses Kennedy’s virtues with those he would like to be his own

Author created one straw man, destroyed another

Author is no Shakespeare or Sophocles

Despite their tough love, the authors treat the Kennedy saga like an epic romance novel. Omnia vincit amor.

Gets a bit stuck on the Kennedy libido

No follow-up-e.g., the author states that JFK was circumcised at the age of 21, but he doesn’t say why, or how

No problem

JUDGMENT OF POSTERITY Blinded by the light of Camelot

Too close for comfort, or posterity

More than we wanted to know about Nov. 22, 1963

All unhappy families are the same

The best existentialist, Aesopian, vaguely poststructuralist

Shallow clip job; the first cut is the deepest

Worth a buck