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Joseph A. Esposito,  foreword by Rose Styron

Dinner in Camelot brings alive in vivid detail the largest and most important dinner of the Kennedy era. On April 29, 1962 forty-nine Nobel Prize winners were joined by other leading American scientists, writers and thinkers. The guest list included Linus Pauling, who picketed the White House earlier in the day; J. Robert Oppenheimer, whose presence represented redemption from his political exile in the 1950s; John Glenn, the hero of the hour who recently orbited the earth; and such great writers as Robert Frost, James Baldwin, William Styron, Pearl Buck, Katherine Anne Porter and John Dos Passos. Baldwin formed a relationship with Robert Kennedy, who also was there, and that had an important subsequent impact on civil rights. President Kennedy called it “the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.” Not only a fascinating story, this evening had historical repercussions. The dinner also has a message for us today in a severely polarized political climate.

“Joseph Esposito’s evocative rendering of the famous Nobel Prize dinner at the White House in April of 1962 that symbolized the potential, the hope, of a truly forward-looking America so many of those of us attending innocently believed in, is enhanced in these pages by the author’s exhaustive research. It has also deepened my understanding of that very special event when its host President John F. Kennedy famously remarked, ‘I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.’ We laughed. We were moved.”

Rose Styron, writer, activist, wife of William Styron, and guest at the dinner

“Joseph A. Esposito’s Dinner in Camelot is a wonderful recounting of the Greatest Party of the 1960s. The stars of the narrative are John and Jackie Kennedy, but the supporting cast—including John Glenn, Robert Frost, William Styron, and John Dos Passos—is beyond impressive. A real page turner. Highly recommended!”

Douglas Brinkley, CNN Presidential Historian and author of Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America

“Joseph Esposito takes us back to a golden moment in time and makes it a fascinating metaphor for an age sadly lost. With deft strokes, he vividly portrays the glamour and grandeur, the vaulting ambition and brilliance (and, yes the pettiness and snobbery) of an evening when America reached its apogee of power and greatness.”

Evan Thomas, author of Robert Kennedy and Being Nixon

“Recreating a magical White House evening in 1962 when President and Mrs. Kennedy outshone dozens of Nobel laureates, Dinner in Camelot uses that event as a hinge of American culture in the twentieth century, tracing the paths that led to the dinner and those that sprawled away from it. Joseph Esposito skillfully unwinds this fascinating tale that runs from science through literature, all in the grip of history.”

David O. Stewart, author of The Summer of 1787 and Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson

“This is a remarkable study of a moment in time that may have passed unnoticed by most Americans: a gathering of great minds at the White House in 1962. It took a man of John Kennedy’s aplomb, self-confidence, and intellectual grace to play host to such a gathering. Joseph A. Esposito explores the meaning of this event, placing before us the sublime possibilities that the United States does indeed represent. In doing so, he reminds us how far we have to go simply to return to what we once, almost, possessed.”

Jay Parini, author of New and Collected Poems, 1975-2015

“All of us who think about writing a book about John F. Kennedy must ask ourselves a simple, yet profound, question. Does the world really need another book about JFK? Often, the answer is no. In the case of Dinner with Camelot: President and Mrs. Kennedy Host America’s Greatest Intellectuals by Joseph A. Esposito the answer is emphatically yes. Dinner with Camelot provides vivid, memorable, and important insights into John F. Kennedy. Through careful and creative historical research, Joseph Esposito takes readers inside the ‘dinner of the century’–and behind the scenes of one of the unforgettable moments of the Kennedy presidency. We learn why it was planned, who was there, what they wore, what they ate, and what they discussed. Esposito’s book deeply and poignantly informs us about Kennedy, his presidency, his cultural sensibilities–and the world he inhabited, dominated, and was forced to leave too soon.”

John T. Shaw, author of JFK in the Senate: Pathway to the Presidency

“Joseph Esposito brings to life one magical evening in JFK’s presidency—the greatest gathering of intellect ever in the White House ‘with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.’ Dinner in Camelot is a quantum moment in time, a fabulous story of one dinner that becomes a scintillating intellectual history and an entertaining slice of biography.”

Kai Bird, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, and the Executive Director of the Leon Levy Center for Biography at CUNY’s Graduate Center in New York City

“Everyone who mattered was there at the White House that night in April 1962 — Jackie and Jack, Ethel and Bobby, James Baldwin, Robert Frost, John Glenn, Ralph Bunche, Bill Styron, and so many more who made the ’60s the most exciting era in recent American history. Now, thanks to Joseph Esposito’s Dinner in Camelot, we can be there too, feeling the glamour and sharing the hope. It’s difficult to imagine a more thrilling trip back at a moment when we all need not just a distraction but a reason to hope again.”

Larry Tye, author of Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon

“Read it and weep: A fascinating reconstruction of a once-in-a-century event in presidential history, and how it still resonates today. Joseph Esposito vividly evokes a time when science, intellect and civility trumped disruption, ignorance and rage.”

Chris Whipple, author of the New York Times Bestseller, The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency

“Fascinating! I really enjoyed the book. Joseph A. Esposito has produced a very readable book with incredible detail describing the high water mark of American idealism—Jack and Jackie’s White House dinner for the intelligentsia of our country on the evening of 29 April 1962. His astonishing amount of research brings an intimate immediacy to the event. I also enjoyed the descriptions of then-relevant national and international affairs and the occasional comments comparing the Kennedy goals and atmosphere with both previous and succeeding administrations, not excluding the current. It felt good to be proud of our POTUS and First Lady then!”

Linus Pauling Jr, MD

“In Dinner in Camelot, Joseph Esposito has written an elegant and sweeping tribute to the dinner that President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy hosted at the White House on April 29, 1962 to celebrate the contributions of forty-nine Nobel Laureate scientists from the United States and Canada. The gathering of Laureates and their spouses—along with distinguished authors, peacemakers, and national heroes—remains the largest at one time in American history. Esposito wonderfully brings to the page this glorious evening. Written with dollops of gossip and heaps of insights about a time when President Kennedy’s White House inspired Americans and others around the world.”

Peter Joffre Nye, author of The Fast Times of Albert Champion and Hearts of Lions

“Dinner in Camelot is historical storytelling at its finest – a pantheon of seminal 20th Century figures, all deeply and deftly drawn, vying with a dazzling president and with each other in a white-linen crucible of ideas and cultures.  The narrative flows, even amid extensive detail and context, offering both a window on evolving events and a mirror on our own times.”

Charles Robbins, author of the political thriller The Accomplice and co-author of three non-fiction books with prominent U.S. senators from both sides of the aisle

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