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Dinner in Camelot
The Night America's Greatest Scientists, Writers, and Scholars Partied at the Kennedy White House
Joseph A. Esposito; Rose Styron, fwd.

2018 • 252 pp. 45 photos (10 color) 6 x 9"
20th Century U.S. History / American Government / Popular Culture

$29.95 Hardcover, 978-1-5126-0012-4

$24.99 Ebook, 978-1-5126-0255-5

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

“A fascinating entry point to the cultural and academic environments of the 1960s. . . . Esposito presents a book that makes us wonder what the world could have been and that allows us to dream, at least for 200 pages.”—Kirkus Reviews

“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.”—President John F. Kennedy, April 29, 1962

In April 1962, President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy hosted forty-nine Nobel Prize winners—along with many other prominent scientists, artists, and writers—at a famed White House dinner. Among the guests were J. Robert Oppenheimer, who was officially welcomed back to Washington after a stint in the political wilderness; Linus Pauling, who had picketed the White House that very afternoon; William and Rose Styron, who began a fifty-year friendship with the Kennedy family that night; James Baldwin, who would later discuss civil rights with Attorney General Robert Kennedy; Mary Welsh Hemingway, Ernest Hemingway’s widow, who sat next to the president and grilled him on Cuba policy; John Glenn, who had recently orbited the earth aboard Friendship 7; historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., who argued with Ava Pauling at dinner; and many others. Actor Frederic March gave a public recitation after the meal, including some unpublished work of Hemingway’s that later became part of Islands in the Stream.

Held at the height of the Cold War, the dinner symbolizes a time when intellectuals were esteemed, divergent viewpoints could be respectfully discussed at the highest level, and the great minds of an age might all dine together in the rarefied glamour of “the people’s house.”

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reviews / Endorsements

“Esposito’s approach captures all of that remarkable evening’s many dimensions, reading like a melding of American Heritage, Architectural Digest, and Gourmet, along with a national newspaper’s page 1 above the fold and society pages.”—National Book Review

“A fascinating look back at a time when intellect and culture were respected in the inner sancta of American power.”—Publishers Weekly

“A delightful, detailed account of the dinner, its background, its repercussions and its lasting meaning. . . . Esposito brings a solid blend of intellectual and writing background to his task. He has taught history, written it and lived it in three administrations. The book is a largely skillful mix of diligently researched detail and chatty anecdotes, all woven together without excessively florid Camelot rhetoric.”
Washington Post

Dinner in Camelot is a wonderful recounting of the greatest party of the 1960s. 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 Being Nixon and Robert Kennedy: His Life

“Re-creating 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.”—David O. Stewart, author of The Summer of 1787 and Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln’s Legacy

“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

“A stunning snapshot of a shining moment in time in mid-century America. Joe Esposito uses this unique dinner to spotlight the era’s’ best and brightest remarkably assembled in one place by a president and first lady who, all too briefly, thrilled and inspired a hopeful nation.”—Eugene L. Meyer, journalist and author

JOSEPH A. ESPOSITO has had a long career in the fields of public service, education, communications, and nonprofit work. He served in three presidential administrations, most recently as deputy undersecretary for international affairs at the U.S. Department of Education. He is currently an adjunct professor at Northern Virginia Community College. He blogs about history at

Click here for author's website.

Thu, 14 Mar 2019 13:08:06 -0500