In Forthcoming Memoir, Edward Kennedy Writes of Chappaquiddick's Aftermath

In a posthumous memoir, Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy writes of fear and remorse surrounding the fateful events on Chappaquiddick Island in 1969. The memoir will be published later this month. Video by AP
By Vince Bzdek
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 3, 2009

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy makes fresh revelations about his state of mind after Chappaquiddick in a 532-page memoir, "True Compass," to be published posthumously Sept. 14. He calls his behavior "inexcusable" and admits that he made "terrible decisions" at that time.

According to the New York Times' Carl Hulse, who obtained a copy of the book early, Kennedy wrote that "atonement is a process that never ends," and that while he had to live every day with the consequences of the accident that killed Mary Jo Kopechne, her family had to endure worse.

Cary Goldstein, a spokesman for Twelve, the publisher of the confessional autobiography, said he was dismayed that the Times obtained the book before its publication date.

"We regret that the New York Times did not respect the September 14th release date of 'True Compass,' which was carefully coordinated with the senator's family," Goldstein said. "That copy was obtained without consent or permission from Twelve -- or if it was somehow purchased, then it was sold illegally."

Kennedy had been working on the autobiography for two years, and finished just a few months before his death last week. He reportedly received an $8 million advance.

Kennedy drew on notes in a personal journal he kept for almost 50 years, beginning with his brother John F. Kennedy's 1960 presidential campaign. He also relied on interviews conducted for a five-year oral history project by the University of Virginia.

"In the final years of his life," Goldstein added, "he worked valiantly to finish the book and make it the best it could be. As always, he was true to his word."

The Kennedy family could not be reached immediately for comment on the book.

Twelve is printing 1.5 million copies and offering an electronically signed, leather-bound, limited edition for $1,000.

Kennedy collaborated with Ron Powers, co-author of the No. 1 bestseller "Flags of Our Fathers" and author of "Mark Twain: A Life."

In a statement, Jonathan Karp, the editor in chief and publisher of Twelve, has described working with Kennedy as "the greatest experience of my 20 years in the publishing business." Karp, who edited the book, said he spent the past two years asking Kennedy every question he could think of.

Kennedy wrote that he never questioned the official findings of the Warren Commission on President Kennedy's assassination, saying he was "satisfied then, and satisfied now."

But Kennedy did say that his brother Robert's deep grief over the loss of John "veered close to being a tragedy within a tragedy," according to Hulse.

The book contains Kennedy's detailed account of his 15-month battle against the brain cancer that ultimately took his life and his decision to battle the disease as aggressively as he could. And he writes about how much he regrets his "self-destructive drinking," especially after Robert's death.

But Kennedy said he was able to persevere through tragedy after tragedy by means of his personal faith. "I have fallen short in my life, but my faith has always brought me home," he said.

Kennedy said he had no qualms about the public scrutiny that the private lives of politicians receive, especially his own. "But do I think it tells the whole story of character? No I truly do not," he wrote.

The book ends with Kennedy's hope that readers will be inspired to take up his unfinished cause of health-care reform.

"If you persevere, stick with it, work at it, you have a real opportunity to achieve something," he wrote.

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