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July 15, 2024

Review in Haiku: What Would Jackie Do?

By Katrina Stonoff

Jackie Kennedy
offers posthumous advice
on all things sty-lish.

I happened to be in B&N last month and saw this book: What Would Jackie Do? by Shelly Branch and Sue Callaway. Of course, I bought it.

We've had a joke in our family for quite some time about WW__D (fill in the blank). My son came home from Grandma's once sporting a bead keychain he'd made at her church.

It was supposed to say "WWJD," the ubiquitous letters intended to remind born again Christians to consider "What Would Jesus Do?" in sticky moral situations.

But one of the beads had gotten skewed a quarter turn, so two letters (OJ) were showing instead of one (J). We roared with laughter at the idea of considering "What Would O.J. do?" as a ruler for measuring morality (or anti-morality, as the case may be).

So I was charmed by the title What Would Jackie Do? But then I realized I was not only charmed by the title, I had to know. What would Jackie do, in an era of casual Fridays and text-message spelling? Yeah, that's a successful title, all right.

It's subtitled, "An Inspired Guide to Distinctive Living." Inside the jacket, it says, "From fashion to finance, a sophisticated and entertaining guide that shows readers how to attain the elegance and practical smarts that defined Jackie O."

Much of the advice is sterling. The lists of shopping venues at the end of the book are priceless. And I particularly appreciated the reminder that Jackie was never an "interchangeable woman." She was unique, and you can be assured she'd never have purchased anything with Martha Stewart's name on it, if only because hundreds of other American women were purchasing the exact same thing.

At the end of every chapter, WWJD (to clarify: that's Jackie, not Jesus) has a list entitled, "Would Jackie ... " Then the authors make unequivocal statements like: yes, Jackie would definitely give cash as gifts, but would never beg to join a social club; she'd defy family members to preserve sanity but definitely not interfere with Caroline's wedding plans. These lists were my favorite parts, and sometimes they were the carrot that kept me plodding through the chapters.

Because, yes, WWJD gets dull at times. I think the same amount of information could have been delivered in half the number of words (much like this review!). Much of the advice assumes the reader lives at the highest social levels, as Jackie did (my haute couture Chanel suit usually hangs in the back of my closet; where is yours?).

And dust off your SAT vocabulary because the authors appear enamored with the pretentious and ostentatious use of a polysyllabic lexicon. Can anyone tell me what "sylph," "soignée," "recherché," and "sartorial" mean? Sartorial must be especially apropos because the authors use it over and over again, ad nauseum.

I found some of the advice offensive (they promote a very patronizing attitude toward marital fidelity, something I happen to value), and the book overall was lightweight (not to mention annoying, with light blue spot color on every page).

Even worse, the authors pretend a breezy relationship with Jackie they never had (though they do quote many people who did).

So I wouldn't pay the hardback price if I were you. But definitely pick it up if you find it at a yard sale, or borrow it from the library. It's a fun read, especially on days when you want to be entertained without having to think much (except about vocabulary).

My favorite part? The unintended sound echo between "What Would OJ Do?" and "What Would Jackie O Do?" (Get it? O.J.--Jackie O; Ha ha ha, I am so easily amused).

Of course, then I have to ask myself whether Jackie is the hero or the anti-hero.

Article © Katrina Stonoff. All rights reserved.
Published on 2007-02-19
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