Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...

updated 10/31/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 10/31/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

>Doris Kearns Goodwin


HISTORIAN DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN IS not timid about tackling gargantuan subjects. It took her seven years to research and write Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream (1976) and another 10 years to produce The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys (1987). "I was lucky enough to know Lyndon and to spend so much time with this giant in the last years of his life," says Goodwin, 51. "And I was fortunate to have access to Joe and Rose Kennedy's papers that had been in an attic for 50 years. What was so much fun about No Ordinary Time was that I was not only able to deal with a fabulously interesting man but also with the woman who was right there with him in what was perhaps the last time America was so united and so productive."

What most intrigued her about Franklin and Eleanor? "Here was a man with extraordinary confidence and a sparkling personality who was also a paraplegic," says Goodwin. "He couldn't even get out of bed in the morning without help and was so afraid of fire that he would practice crawling on the floor to reach his door. And here was a woman haunted by so many insecurities from childhood—an alcoholic father, a mother who told her she was ugly—who became a voice for the dispossessed. It shows how one can overcome enormous physical and emotional obstacles."

Goodwin's fascination with her subject never waned during the six years she spent on the book, which CBS will spin into a miniseries. "I got so caught up, there were times when I found myself talking to them as if they were still alive," she says. "There's a part of Eleanor and Franklin that remains mysterious. You feel you could spend years and still not know everything."

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