Picks and Pans Review: Now You Know
"I could not imagine anyone wanting to publish, let alone read, a book about Kitty Dukakis." the wife of the 1988 Democratic presidential candidate informs us. Obviously she could imagine it. and so proceeded with this regrettable, illogical and poignantly self-aggrandizing project.
Addicted to diet pills until her 1982 withdrawal at the Hazelden Clinic, Dukakis was warned that alcohol could also become a problem. Neither she nor, more remarkably, her husband took that admonition seriously. And so Kitty hit the campaign trail bolstered by the antidepressant Nopramin and the promise of happy hour aboard her private plane, Sky Heaven. The plane was important to Kitty, as were such political perks, she confesses, as getting a parking space where none was previously available. Indeed, her descriptions often make the campaign seem nothing more than a glorified Miss America race, complete with wardrobe and makeup tips. As for Michael—despite Kitty's constant protests that her publicly taciturn mate is in reality "a loving, caring...sunny kind of person." there is not one anecdote to back up that claim. In fact readers are more likely to close Now You Know shocked by Dukakis's inattention to his wife's myriad problems. Certainly voters would have reason to question how a man who exercised such poor judgment in his own house would handle the decisions of the White House.
But this is Kitty's book, and Kitty does not blame Michael for her suffering: she blames her hypercritical mother. The passages detailing Kitty's childhood are tough going and would prove particularly annoying to the millions of Americans who could justifiably look upon her rearing as a fairy tale. That Mrs. Dukakis has no real problems, however, doesn't erase the real pain she feels. By the end of her book, Kitty is detailing lost weeks of canceled appointments and drunken stupors leading up to a frantic desire for oblivion that caused her to imbibe rubbing alcohol, mouthwash, hair spray and nail-polish remover. "I had no plan to kill myself," she writes of the well-publicized rubbing-alcohol incident. "I only wanted to sleep for awhile. I wanted relief from the pain of being awake."
Dukakis has sought help in four institutions, most recently in April at the Randolph County Hospital in Roanoke, Ala. Clearly her recovery is by no means complete—or certain. Since this is not a particularly helpful or—with the exception of her addictions" dirty details—revealing book, the question remains: Why was it published? In a Greek tragedy, one might point to hubris. In an American melodrama, that translates to arrogance. (Simon and Schuster. $19.95)