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From the Depths, a Kennedy Life Story

Sen. Edward Kennedy in his last interview about his memoirs, "True Compass," published this week. He died August 25th. Video by: Twelve Books

A few hours later, Kennedy came back to Karp. "I've been thinking about what you said," Kennedy said. "I think the reason I have been so restless in my life is that I have been trying to stay ahead of the darkness, to just keep moving to stay ahead of the despair."

Karp says there was only one time Kennedy openly wept.

"We were talking about family and how it fell to him to inform his father about JFK's death," said Karp, referring to Joseph P. Kennedy, who already had suffered a stroke. "The senator began describing the day to us and going up to his father's room -- and then he broke down in tears. He couldn't continue. What was so striking to me was that the event was still so raw for him."

Ted Kennedy Jr. told "60 Minutes" that reading the book has been emotional for him. "What I think I would like this country to understand about my dad -- that even though he really felt he needed to hold it together throughout some really difficult experiences, he was kind of able to let it out in this book," Kennedy Jr. says.

Referring to a passage in the book, the younger Kennedy said he was struck by what Joseph Kennedy said to his youngest child: "Teddy, you can live a serious life or a nonserious life. I'll love you just the same, whatever you choose. But, you know what? I'm a busy guy. And I'm gonna do everything I can to help you. But you have to make that choice.

"My father had the same conversation with me . . . about our lives and really our obligation to really make something of ourselves," Kennedy Jr. said. ". . . Yes, bad things have happened to us. But we've been given incredible advantages."

Washington lawyer Robert Barnett, who sold the book after a competitive auction, said that he had talked to Kennedy about the possibility of doing a memoir for years, but it was only a couple of years ago when he came back and said he was ready. Barnett said there were no explicit conversations about how candid Kennedy planned to be, but in meetings with publishers it became clear that he intended for this to be an insightful and informative historical work.

During their first meeting, Karp said, it was Kennedy who offered that his objective was to write an honest transcript of his life, assuring the publisher that he would be forthright about everything, including sensitive topics such as Chappaquiddick.

Vicki Kennedy, the senator's wife of 18 years, was an integral part of the process, said several sources.

"I don't think he could have done this without her by his side. He makes clear that she loved him for himself, not what he had accomplished," Goodwin said. "And clearly, knowing that he did not have long to live freed him to be more open."

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