Book Reviews


 

 

Forever Young -- My Friendship with 
John F. Kennedy, Jr.

by William Sylvester Noonan

Review by Richard Sheppard

 

If you're interested in the widely-examined life of John F. Kennedy, Jr., a book like this, written by his "best friend," Mr. Noonan, is sure to catch your attention. However, be advised that there are startlingly few "revelations" by this author which you have not already read/heard somewhere else. Mr. Noonan, son of an affluent JFK supporter, befriends the young JFK, Jr. while they were both in their early teens, and maintains close contact with JFK Jr. through Mr. Kennedy's unfortunate fatal plane crash at Summer's end 1998. There's no doubt he had close ties to JFK, Jr. and many of the Kennedy/Camelot realm. But the book disappoints rather than enlightens.

Mr. Noonan goes out of his way to explain that he wasn't a "Kennedy coat-holder," or a sycophant, and that he wanted to counter some of the more salacious details about his good friend. Yet throughout this book, you can't help but get the feeling that Mr. Noonan thoroughly enjoyed his access to the Kennedy/Camelot milieu, and while he wasn't a "hanger-on," nonetheless was careful of his inner-circle status. He provides a few examples of contretemps he had with JFK, Jr. to prove that their friendship was solid enough to withstand disagreement. You get this sense of "distant friendship" primarily because as mentioned, there are really no new allegations or interesting new insights into JFK, Jr. For example, we already knew JFK Jr. was estranged from certain other Kennedy family members, we knew he was a heartthrob who romped with the likes of Daryl Hannah and Madonna. We knew he smoked pot, and we knew his wife Carolyn Bessette, who died along with her sister in the ill-fated plane-crash, was a paranoid, bitchy cokehead who was out of her psychic league with the Kennedy hoopla. 

Careful About Who He Got Close To

I have found JFK, Jr. -- a contemporary, age-wise -- interesting to the extent that such lives are informative to see how someone who has the world at his fingertips handles this awesome good fortune. For the most part from this perspective, JFK, Jr. handled it pretty well. Yes there were some incidents, but overall the impression was that he was a pretty straight character, not a lowlife, drunk, druggie, or pervert like many of his family. You sensed he was very careful about who he got close to, and even those he did get close to, he was guarded not to be guarded per se, but because that was his nature. As such, Mr. Noonan's book is more about his relationship and fun times with JFK, Jr. than about insights into Mr. Kennedy's life. Mr. Noonan evidently had some of his own problems in the drinking/substance spheres, alluded to in his book, much as his JFK, Jr. stories are sketches, not full-blown portraits.

I'm certain Mr. Noonan has many other stories he might have included in this book, and since he didn't he tried to have it both ways: say that it was a "defense" of his friend (although most agree JFK, Jr. had it pretty good and wasn't reviled by either media or masses), reveal some already-known information, and hold back the really juicy stuff in an effort to claim, "I wasn't a total cheese-eater."