In the days following Senator Edward Kennedy's death, his story will be told by friends and admirers, fellow politicians, family members, pundits and critics. But when Kennedy's mammoth memoir, True Compass, is published on Sept. 14, readers will be able to experience his life story as told by the Senator himself.
Kennedy was acutely aware of the historical importance of his words and memories. He kept a personal journal for almost 50 years, beginning with his brother John F. Kennedy's 1960 campaign. In 2004, he started a five-year, comprehensive oral history at the University of Virginia. And for the past two years, he had been writing a confessional autobiography for Twelve, a division of Hachette. He completed it this year.
The publisher has high hopes for the 532-page tome, with a 1.5 millioncopy first printing in the works. And banking on the international appeal of the Kennedy name and legacy, Twelve will publish the book in numerous countries, including the U.K., France and Italy. Twelve is profoundly guarded about the details of the embargoed book, as it angles for a huge best seller. But it does allow that, for ardent fans, a signed, leather-bound, limited-edition copy of the book can be preordered on the publisher's website.
In writing the book, Kennedy collaborated with Ron Powers, co-author of the No. 1 best seller Flags of Our Fathers and author of the critically acclaimed Mark Twain: A Life. Jon Karp, the editor in chief and publisher of Twelve, edited the book. In a statement, he described working with Kennedy as "the greatest experience of my 20 years in the publishing business." (Karp declined an interview.) He said, "For the past two years, I've had the incredible opportunity of asking Senator Kennedy every question I could think of and receiving answers that deepened my understanding of national politics and took me inside one of the most heralded families in America."
It is a safe bet that Kennedy's memoir will soar to the top of the best-seller list, though in the wake of his death his political aides are considering how best to handle its marketing with his family in mourning, they may turn to his Senate colleagues to give interviews about the book. Three other recent books about Kennedy Last Lion: The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy, edited by Peter Canellos (Simon & Schuster); Ted Kennedy: The Dream That Never Died by Edward Klein (Crown); and Ted Kennedy: Scenes from an Epic Life by the Boston Globe (Simon & Schuster) are also climbing the Amazon charts. For his own work, the Senator was certainly looking beyond a publishing success; his literary efforts were made for posterity. Now, sadly, they'll be posthumous as well.
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