Libra

ISBN: 0140156046
ISBN 13: 9780140156041
By: Don DeLillo

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About this book

In this powerful, eerily convincing fictional speculation on the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Don DeLillo chronicles Lee Harvey Oswald's odyssey from troubled teenager to a man of precarious stability who imagines himself an agent of history. When "history" presents itself in the form of two disgruntled CIA operatives who decide that an unsuccessful attempt on the life of the president will galvanize the nation against communism, the scales are irrevocably tipped. A gripping, masterful blend of fact and fiction, alive with meticulously portrayed characters both real and created, Libra is a grave, haunting, and brilliant examination of an event that has become an indelible part of the American psyche.

Reader's Thoughts

Jeremy

It feels more centered, more focused than White Noise, in large part since it takes such a specific event and builds a weird, fevered narrative around it. It Shows how a group of extremely powerful but extremely isolated zealots find themselves drawn into a labyrinth connected by coincidence/destiny/large, vaguely defined forces of history. On one level Delillo is offering a very contemporary sort of critique about the nature of conspiracy theories and how people conceive of and develop them as a way of grappling with aspects of modernity that are simply too difficult to rationalize otherwise. But at the same time he can't resist coming up with his own rather elaborate idea of who is really responsible for the Kennedy assassination. And it does a great job of showing what happens when crazy right-wing anti-communist, nativist hysteria runs rampant through people's minds. The anti-castro leagues of the early 60's come across as being the precursors of the tea party movement today.

sologdin

Nutshell: soporific account of JFK assassination, intermixed with bildungsroman of assassin, with implied subtitle The Sorrows of Young Lee Harvey.Narrative is bifurcated into alternating sections. First set are designated by locus: New Orleans, Moscow, Dallas—these follow Oswald. Second set are designated by tempus: 20 May, 25 September, 22 November—these follow CIA losers, anti-castroites, other unsavories.Text ties tempus and locus together explicitly in Oswald: “from early childhood he liked histories and maps” (10). First locus chapter advises that Oswald’s truancy problems does not make him a “criminal who is put away for study. They have made my boy a matter on the calendar” (11)—which advises us not to take the tempus chapters too seriously. Conversely, first tempus chapter advises that one character, after all is said and done, will have been “hired on contract to write a secret history of the assassination of President Kennedy” (15). That’s basically what author is doing, of course. (“Oh, Blackadder! Are you the Scarlet Pimpernel?”) Contract writer of secret history intends to “build theories that gleam like jade idols” and “follow the bullet trajectories backwards to the lives that occupy the shadows,” to “a strangeness […] that is almost holy. There is much here that is holy, an aberration in the heartland of the real” (15). (cue Baudrillard’s “desert of the real.”) Those bits are the instruction manual of how to read the novel: calendar chapters are criminal who is put away for study, but with a maternal insistence that he’s just a good boy, never meant any harm; holy occupant chapters trace back to the shadowy unsavories in the CIA, the anti-castro ex-pat groups, and so on. Remainder of the novel unfolds this holy jade idolatry of assassination. Espionage thrillers are not my subgenre, and JFK conspiracism strikes me as rightwing hobby. No surprise that the novel is not really written for me.The prose is great at the sentence level, and there’s forthright presentation of known US crimes, such as Guatemala 1954, Bay of Pigs, and so on. Lotsa cool musings by LHO on Marxism and life in the Soviet Union. Nice topical details about New Orleans. Rightwing ideas are mocked fairly openly: “I like to think of people being independent, digging latrines in the woods, in a million backyards. Each person is responsible for his own shit” (173) (cf. the problem with this policy preference in Love in the Time of Cholera!). One numbnut thinks that “Red Chinese troops are being dropped into the Baja” (352), noting that “He wanted to believe it was true. He did believe it was true. But he also knew it wasn’t. [nice dialectical tension there! Pure Hegel!] Ferrie told him that it didn’t matter, true or not. The thing that mattered was the rapture of the fear of believing. It confirmed everything. It justified everything. Every violence and lie, every time he’d cheated on his wife. It allowed him to collapse inside, to melt toward awe and dread” (id.). That’s kickass, and, though it’s limited in the scene to one crypto-fascist’s response to the victory of the Maoists, is the general rule of the novel for reading JFK conspiracism on the one hand and the cold war policies of the principal belligerents on the other. Cute refrain throughout the LHO bits wherein he constantly compares himself to Trotsky: e.g., “Trotsky brushing roaches off the page, reading economic theory in a hovel in eastern Siberia, exiled with his wife and baby girl” (312), paralleling LHO’s domestic situation.As for the actual JFK conspiracism, the opening premise is that some CIA thugs wanted to do a false flag near-miss on JFK: “We couldn’t hit Castro. So let’s hit Kennedy. […] But we don’t hit Kennedy. We miss him” (28). Somehow that matures into a false flag direct hit along the way, but I missed the exact point of dialectical crisis that marks the transition. (It is certain to make the transition, as author is nothing if not meticulous—it’s just that I missed it.)Recommended for sweet-voiced boys who want to be spies, those who communicate outside the range of other men, silently, without gestures or glances, and people who think that the sewer system is a form of welfare state.

Harold

Great novel on the JFK assassination. It presents itself very plausibly. It's not hard to believe that it could have happened this way. I'm sure many of us recall that when Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested one of the first things he told the police was "I'm a patsy." The context in which DeLillo places this statement is striking and memorable.

Simona

22 novembre 1963: il fotogramma di un istante tremendo, un istante che ha cambiato il destino dell'America e anche di Lee Harvey Oswald, forse per sempre. Da una parte, il covo degli attentatori, di coloro che preparano, organizzano il colpo alla vita di Kennedy e di sua moglie Jackie, dall'altro, la loro pedina, il loro burattino personificato nella figura di Lee Oswald, vissuto tra Bronx, New Orleans, Dallas, dal passato incerto, che si arruola nei Marines per poi esserne espulso. Sebbene questo libro mi sia piaciuto e lo ritenga un capolavoro, credo non sia facile entrare nella psicologia del personaggi, di Lee, soprattutto, anche se De Lillo racconta con una penna tagliente e affilata una storia che ci lascia senza fiato. Una storia in cui il confine tra bene e male, male e bene, non è altro che le due facce della stessa medaglia che ognuno di noi indossa.

Megan Carter

More fiction than fact, this novel replays the JFK assassination.Libra is a fictionalized biography, both of Lee Harvey Oswald and of the JFK assassination. In addition to following Oswald through his shifts of loyalty, it also jumps around to a variety of fictional ex-CIA agents, FBI agents, Cuban sympathizers, Oswald’s mother, a historian of the assassination, and of course Jack Ruby. The plot is both as simple and as complex as all the conspiracy theories you’ve ever heard: everybody wants to kill the President. The thing I usually dislike about conspiracy theories is they tend to belittle the importance of individual people. All it does is feature a CIA plot to assassinate JFK. Sure, the conspiracy convinces both Oswald to shoot Kennedy and Ruby to shoot Oswald, but you get the impression that neither of them needed much convincing. You get the impression that things might not have been any different if there hadn’t been a conspiracy. That said, I didn’t really like it all that much. One of those books you read and think, "This was excellently done," just not for me. I think it’s the literary-fiction style of the dialogue: very choppy. For a book that was all about people and how they think, I found the dialogue unconvincing. But the whole thing seemed a little removed, as though you’re watching the characters through glass. I like to be able to have a certain picture of the characters.All together, I’m glad I read it, but I don’t think I liked it very much and I have no particular desire to seek out more of DeLillo’s work. Still, that’s one more book checked off The List.

Ned

This was a terrible book.I can't believe I actually stayed around to the end. The book is pointless. The author writes in half sentences. To give you an idea of how bad it is, the only person in the book that you care about is Lee Harvey Oswald. Also, there is one chapter that is actually poetic, and that is a chapter about the events of November 22, 1963. So the best things in this book are Lee Harvey Oswald and the assassination of JFK.This book was on some list of 100 Books That You Have To Read.This book belongs on a list, all right. But, not that one.

Procyon Lotor

Crioscrittura: l'assassinio di Kennedy Si capisce perch� James Ellroy si sia ispirato a questo libro, lodandolo pubblicamente pi� volte come l'innesco e idea iniziale per il suo American Tabloid. Come per� E. ne fa un pirotecnico rutilante scenario sanguigno, cos� DeLillo riduce a tal punto la temperatura della narrazione, la storia del complotto e assassinio (contenente una implicita biografia di Lee Harwey Oswald) fino a fregare clamorosamente la grandezza roboante della Storia che viene avvizzita a una squallida faccenda di impiegati dispeptici utenti di portaporta. Temo talvolta abbia ragione.

mark monday

a work of bright and ruthless genius, the jfk assassination as recounted by some alien being from the far future. well actually, not really, not at all. well actually, at times it felt like it. is delillo less than human or more than human? the novel makes no attempt to be historically factual. actually, the facts presented are reasonable and sound. the novel is historically factual, as much as anything can be. the narrative is, of course, almost too complex to be detailed. although it is, in its way, a straightforward narrative, straight as an arrow, straight as any history of well-known events could be. conspiracy theories, so many of them, competing with each other, often making complete sense as they are told, only to be collapsed by the next conspiracy theory. the conspiracy theory as just one version of the many-told tale, stories handed down from teller to teller. an interesting conceit. actually, more than that - storytelling is perhaps the point of the whole novel. what is the truth in a story? who is the real person behind the historical personage, behind the character in the story? the novel wonders: can reality ever truly be represented? such a humorous book at times. the jokes are secret jokes, told with a straight face. the deaths are no joke, no joke at all. the novel is dead serious. the death of lee harvey oswald is a harrowing, moving experience, the best sequence of many excellent sequences in the book. the novel is powerful and yet filled with minutiae, with meaningless detail. each detail is packed with meaning. it is a Choose Your Own Adventure, of sorts. astrology is real, it defines us and all of our actions. astrology is an illusion, as is motivation and circumstance and conspiracy and history itself. Libra is a post-modern classic. well, actually

Paul

I'm told that the Don DeLillo who wrote this masterpiece is the same guy who wrote Underworld and White Noise, but as far as I'm concerned that's a plainly ridiculous theory and I'm not buying it at all and I've hired a private investigator to get to the bottom of why there are two Don DeLillos and why this one hasn't sued the other idiot for giving him a bad name. It's a mystery. Libra is entirely great. Its vocals, its backing, the bass, the drums, man alive the drums, the harmonies - celestial, Wilsonian is the only word. And - of course - the lyrics. As we know it's about that JFK thing. The whole thing, all of it. So yes, this is the ur-conspiracy we are dealing with, which all the other conspiracies use as the template. Given my well-advertised detestation of all things conspiracytheoretical, you might think I would want to give Libra the widest of berths. Being a contrarian means I couldn't. I take contrary opinions to myself too. I had to pay my dues. I had to stare the god damned conspiracy in its jowles, I had to rummage in its belly and pick over what it ate last night, ugh, all its grimy details, its filthy postulates and its mind-damaging Agatha-Christie's-Murder-on-the-Orient-Express conclusion that - gasp, look away now - they ALL did it!So I looked and stared and rummaged and poked and turned affadavits over in my hand and ran the tape found in the camera up Marilyn Monroe's backside, all of that. Ech. It's so displeasing. It does not make you a better person. This book is like dancing with Don DeLillo, and dancing with the young President, and dancing with the handsome man who has no face, and cannot be named, while ten quaaludes are slushing through your blood system and dark hands are pouring margaritas for you at each slow waltzlike revolution of the enormous ballroom from whose windows the glitterball reveals gun barrels glinting. Through all the slow-as-the-Devonian-Age build up to even the first faint gleamings of the plot to kill John Kennedy your brain gets reformed, your aesthetic sense gets taken down and reworked with minor chords replacing all the major ones, its like a dream but a weird lovely one, one of those thousand year long dreams you wake from on some Sundays when the world can take long minutes to suck back into place... how long have I been away? Whose face is on my own head now? It takes so long to read Libra, it's such a slog through all this stuff which might have gone down like that or might on the other hand, or not, or partly.What DD does in his gradually accelerating sarabande is to take the absolute standard CIA/Mafia/Teamsters/FBI/Cubans conspiracy and weave all the ghosts and spirits together, voices humming like a hive, all the five hundred characters, into a symphony of incidence and co-incidence wittingly but at the same time blindly moving like a giant shoal of fate towards the moving target in the limousine in Dallas on the day that Deep Purple by Nino Tempo and April Stevens was number one on the Billboard charts.This is a fantastic novel. The imposter "Don DeLillo" could never have written it.

Matt Harris

At first the denseness and humourlessness of the book proved a bit hard to get into, the anti-hero Lee Harvey Oswald is really hard to like... He started to get under my skin though, and a few chapters later I was feeling sorry for him as prospective fall guy.What a litany of depressing characters! Reflecting the American Dream to do whatever you want to do, although it may involve self-importance and dangerous acts... The men who DeLillo imagines were responsible for coming up with this grand plot to scare a nation with an attempt on the life a leader watch as their plan starts to take on such a cancerous life beyond them, and still take part and push it along its locus. It is a solemn book in every respect, and Lee's essentially humanist at the core beliefs get subverted and changed as he joins the navy and then flees to communist Russia seeking asylum. Many facts of his life I did not know until reading the book, and I am not sure how closely the author researched (I get the feeling it was very deeply) but Lee's mother and every character close to him is drawn so believably, as s neurotic lady with so many chips on her shoulder about life. So much of the depiction of his life at that time in USA makes me upset about the conditions and influences unkind to those of less social standing. Bullied, hung upside down by navy roughnecks, for his weediness or his interest in Marxism, Lee nevertheless keeps an amazing faith in "Little Cuba" and personal freedom. Unfortunately there are many who want to use this unique person, exploit his sympathies and weaknesses, and these characters are creepily drawn by DeLillo, the character who cannot seem to register in his head that his oven is definitely off and it's safe to sleep, or the cruel gunmen who join him and finish the job on the fateful day in Dallas.The last third of the book is quite eerily clever, lining up coincidences and showing the dark consciousness of someone on unstable mental ground. Lee goes by his aliases, including Hidell (Hide the L) and Leon, or O. H. Lee, and halfheartedly tries to hide evidence which will so obviously bring him down. His impassive brutality developing through the book even to the only people close to him, show the disintegration of a young man in pathetic and brutal grey.A really difficult but worthwhile, unafraid and masterful novel.

Marco Tamborrino

- Quando è il tuo compleanno?- Il diciotto ottobre, - rispose Lee.- Libra. La Bilancia.- Sì, la Bilancia, - disse Ferrie- L'Equilibrio, - disse Shaw.Quelli della bilancia. Alcuni sono positivi, padroni di sé, equilibrati, con la testa a posto, saggi e rispettati da tutti. Altri invece sono negativi, cioè piuttosto instabili, impulsivi. Tanto, ma tanto, ma tanto influenzabili. Propensi a spiccare il salto pericoloso. In entrambi i casi, la chiave è l'equilibrio. A volte finisci dei libri e non è che ti senti privato di un amico. Ti senti privato di un mondo intero. Finisci dei libri e ti chiedi cosa succede là fuori, perché mai tu sei dentro casa a leggere. Ti portano via un universo. Le ultime pagine. Le lacrime che colano sull'inchiostro. E le domande, le migliaia di domande prima dell'ultima riga. Ti hanno derubato, quando finisci dei libri. Così io mi sono sentito: come se mi avessero tolto ogni certezza. Le certezze derivate da un mese di lettura, da un mese di lettura sulla vita di Lee Harvey Oswald. Ventiquattro anni. Una vita giovane, eppure una vita immensa. Adesso ho bisogno di aria. Ho finito un libro che è poesia. Quando finisci un libro che è poesia è normale che ti venga voglia di uscire a respirare un po' d'aria fresca. È il disfacimento interiore delle proprie convinzioni. Le parole che graffiano, stridono, si artigliano ai tuoi vestiti, ti si accalcano addosso. Non puoi farci niente. Sono gelide e secche, sono lì per fare del male.Ma che cos'è Libra?Io penso che Libra sia Lee Harvey Oswald, e che Lee Harvey Oswald non possa essere altro che Libra. Il romanzo stesso. Tutti i dettagli della sua vita. L'infanzia, la giovinezza, l'amore. L'Unione Sovietica, l'odio per il sistema capitalista. Lee Harvey Oswald è conosciuto dalla maggior parte di noi semplicemente come l'assassino del trentacinquesimo Presidente degli Stati Uniti d'America, John Fiztgerald Kennedy. Ci fermiamo qui e lo odiamo. Pensare a un complotto sarebbe troppo complesso. Un complotto implica centinaia di piste da seguire, centinaia di dati su centinaia di personaggi, tutti coloro che sono entrati in contatto con Lee Harvey Oswald. Perché alla fine gira tutto intorno a lui. Tutto riporta a lui. Sono un capro espiatorio, disse prima di venire ucciso da Jack Ruby."C'è abbastanza mistero nei fatti così come li conosciamo, abbastanza complotto, coincidenza, questioni irrisolte, vicoli ciechi, molteplicità di interpretazioni. Non c'è bisogno, pensa, di inventare la grande macchinazione magistrale, la congiura che si ramifica impeccabilmente in dieci direzioni diverse."Non ce n'è bisogno, già. Ma alla fine non si può far altro. Fu veramente Oswald a uccidere il presidente. Era l'unico a sparare, quel giorno? Ventidue novembre millenovecentosessantatre. Come mai tutte le persone che entrarono in contatto con lui negli ultimi mesi della sua vita morirono pochi anni dopo? De Lillo intreccia ai fatti reali sulla vita di Oswald gli eventi fittizi che darebbero vita a un grande complotto per assassinare il presidente e far pensare che Oswald fosse stato inviato da Cuba, e alimentare quindi una nuova invasione dell'isola dopo il fallimento della Baia dei Porci. Ancora oggi, dopo tre inchieste (una delle quali è la famosa e abnorme Commissione Warren), non si è riusciti a dimostrare che si trattasse di un complotto. E così hanno deciso che è stato lui e basta. Lee Harvey Oswald ha ucciso il presidente. Da solo. Ma noi non leggiamo Libra per sapere questo. Questo lo sappiamo già. Noi leggiamo Libra per sapere se la vita di L. H. Oswald era una vita come tante oppure una vita speciale. E scopriamo, quasi con sorpresa, che era entrambe le cose. Che tutte le nostre vite soneo entrambe le cose. Speciali e normali. Che l'amore è speciale e normale. Che avere una figlia, diventare padre, è insieme una cosa meravigliosa, inaspettata e incredibile, tanto quanto una cosa quotidiana e noiosa.Chi è Lee Harvey Oswald?"L'assistente sociale scrisse: «Le risposte alle domande rivelano che il ragazzo sente fra sé e le altre persone un velo che lo rende irraggiungibile, ma preferisce che il velo resti intatto»."Lee H. Oswald è un ragazzino maltrattato dai compagni di scuola che vive da solo con la madre. Si spostano in continuazione. A dieci anni ha già cambiato sei scuole. Cresce leggendo il manuale dei marines di suo fratello Robert, già arruolato. Poi inizia a leggere letteratura marxista. Si arruola a 18 anni. Nell'esercito gli capita di sbagliare, e viene spedito nel carcere di rigore ad Atsugi, Giappone. Conosce il sistema della prigione americana. Poi, passando per la Finlandia, va in Unione Sovietica. Si innamora di Marina, la sposa, e quando si accorge che il comunismo è tutto tranne quello che pensava, torna in Amerca. Qui viene preso di mira dai servizi segreti americani, ex agenti della CIA che tramano per uccidere il presidente e far partire un'invasione di Cuba. Viene preso di mira perché ha tutte le caratteristiche del personaggio di cui questi congiurati hanno bisogno. È l'uomo perfetto."L'obiettivo principale è che Kennedy muoia.Il secondo obiettivo è che muoia Oswald."Secondo la classica ricostruzione dei fatti, quella che - più o meno - tutti conosciamo, Lee Harvey Oswald sparò tre proiettili in meno di sei secondi. Il primo ferì lievemente il presidente sotto il mento. Il secondo mancò il bersaglio. Il terzo aprì un buco nella testa di JFK. In Libra, quando Oswald sta mirando per sparare il terzo proiettile, nel mirino del suo fucile vede la testa del presidente esplodere, ma non per il suo colpo. Sono un capro espiatorio, disse. E noi, ancora oggi, non sappiamo quale sia la verità.Ma Lee Harvey Oswald era anche il ragazzo che ha saputo amare con tutto se stesso come qualsiasi essere umano. Il ragazzo che passava le notti a fissare la figlia, tanto l'amava. Tornato in America si mise a picchiare Marina, è vero, ma paradossalmente non smise mai di amarla."Il saluto con cui le rispondeva era infantile, un agitar di mano, un piacere profondo e toccante. Sembrava dirle, dalla sua barchetta: - Guardaci, siamo un miracolo, così autentico e sicuro."Quali sono i personaggi che ruotano attorno all'universo di Libra, al mondo di Lee Harvey Oswald?Ce ne sono tanti. Ogni attentatore ha la sua storia, la sua famiglia, i suoi sentimenti. Ogni membro dell'operazione volta ad assassinare Kennedy richiede pagine e pagine di approfondimento. Niente è messo lì a caso. il più rilevante è forse David Ferrie (pilota della marina), omosessuale convinto di avere il cancro."- Dave, tu in cosa credi?- In tutto. Specialmente nella mia morte.- La desideri?- La sento. Io sono la pubblicità vivente del cancro.- Ma ne parli così volentieri.- Perché, avrei altra scelta?"Poi c'è Marguerite Oswald, la madre di Lee. Nei suoi capitoli sembra sempre parlare a un giudice in un'aula di tribunale. Dice che non può spiegare la vita di suo figlio con una semplice deposizione. Deve raccontarla tutta. E i toni con cui racconta sono drammatici, forti, impregnati di un opprimente senso di perdita allo stesso tempo umano e storico. E dopo Marguerite c'è Marina. Marina e il suo amore sincero per Lee, convinta che le cicatrici che lei e il ragazzo portano sulle braccia siano un segno del destino, un segno che li ha fatti incontrare e li farà stare insieme. Ma quando lui comincia a picchiarla, lei inizia a chiedersi se l'ami veramente, pur rimanendo invariato il suo amore per lui.A Marguerite e Marina si aggiunge una carrellata di personaggi più o meno importanti. Ma ognuno di loro, a modo suo, è tragico e malinconico. Ognuno si porta dietro una tristezza infinita, e il lettore sa perfettamente che tutto dovrà culminare con la morte del presidente. Perché è l'anima del complotti, terminare con una morte.Win Everett, ideatore dell'attentato, a tal proposito formulerà questo pensiero:"Le trame possiedono una logica. C'è una tendenza, nelle trame, a evolvere in direzione della morte. Lui era convinto che l'idea della morte fosse insita nella natura di ogni trama. Nelle trame di narrativa come in quelle di uomini armati. Più la trama di un racconto è fitta, più è probabile che approdi alla morte. La trama di un romanzo, credeva, è il nostro modo di localizzare la forza della morte fuori dal libro, di esorcizzarla, di contenerla."Qual è il senso di Libra?Forse DeLillo non aveva un secondo fine. Forse lo scrittore americano voleva solo scrivere un bel romanzo sulla questione documentandosi molto. Ma io credo che abbia voluto dare anche un segnale. Che la vita di ogni essere umano non è semplice. Non si può giudicare da un gesto. Non si può rinchiudere in un istante di tempo e lasciarla lì. Kennedy era un simbolo prima ancora che un uomo. E Lee Harvey Oswald o coloro che sono rimasti nell'ombra l'hanno distrutto. Ma perché? Non sono umani anche loro? Non sono simboli anche loro? Simboli di un America, di un sistema sbagliato?

Nicholas Pell

A real favorite of mine written by perhaps my favorite living author. This is a historical fiction novel about the Kennedy Assassination. Lee Harvey Oswald is an engagingly sociopathic loner, angry at the injustices of society and frustrated by his lack of a connection to history. The story is a metanarrative (har har) as told by the main reviewing the CIA's entire case files on the subject. Many points of view are utilized from the vast palette of JFK conspiriana. For fans of Don Delillo and assassination buffs alike, Delillo crafts a surprisingly believable version of actual events.It's a thick, but surprisingly readable book with well-rounded characters and a compelling story set against the backdrop of one of the most important events for the American psyche in recent history. Kennedy is almost entirely absent from the book, as is Jim Garrison, but the rest of the gang are there and talking to each other like characters in a Don Delillo novel.

Bad-at-reading

DeLillo's poetic instinct isn't nearly as intrusive here as in White Noise or (thank god) The Names, but I still find myself wishing he wouldn't try so hard. His narration is excellent but he loves to derail it periodically with contemporarier-than-thou fragment pileups and sudden, meaningless proclamations like "There is a world inside the world." Uhhh, what?That's my only concrete complaint about Libra. Fiction is as useful a way as any to approach the Kennedy conspiracy, to whatever extent it was one. Or the Oswald conspiracy, as it feels more appropriate to call this treatment of it. DeLillo argues persuasively that the search for the truth about the assassination was futile from the moment Oswald was shot; the "facts" of the case that have emerged are so specious and so voluminous (a prototypical instance of information overload) that remaining agnostic about "the true story" is the key to finding a different kind of satisfaction in discussion of its meaning and ramifications. Everyone wants to make their case for or against, for instance, the second gunman on the grassy knoll. But why let that keep you up at night when you could be pondering even scarier notions: does our love of and need for heroes create men like Oswald and Ruby, and did their actions on some level sour us on the idea? And certainly not to suggest Oswald did the right thing, but did far bloodier catastrophe lie down the road for America under Kennedy?

Patrick Ciccone

OK, only halfway through, but I would like to point out Don DeLillo's ease with the looming unease of so much Americana (title of his first book):"There was something about a long and low and open-space house with a lawn and a carport that made her feel spiritually afraid."I would say the same of white Vermont clapboard houses too--though I like them.To be cont'd.

Joseph Broadbent

** spoiler alert ** At a question and answer session a few years ago the somewhat overrated actor Gary Oldman was asked: throughout his long and winding career, what was the most enjoyable role he has had the pleasure of playing? Oldman did not ponder, instead instantly blurting out"Oswald. He didn’t do it, by the way."This seven word statement was followed by cheers and a round of applause from a now rowdy, clearly conspiracy oriented, audience. Oliver Stone in the years following JFK had been a quite staunch conspiracy theorist – on one occasion forcing the late JFK Jr. to leave a dinner by consistently turning the conversation with lines like “you can’t seriously believe the Warren Commission?” – but Oldman’s quote and the subsequent response showed that the events of November 22, 1963 still have an effect on Americans as the fiftieth anniversary looms, and possibly the wrong effect.I start with this grim reminder as I could not help but feel that DeLillo’s book must have, at some point, been considered as a Hollywood project. Published in 1988, long before Stone picked up a copy of On the Trail of the Assassins, DeLillo’s writing plays upon the reader’s images of Oswald and Ruby in such a way that its translation to screen would have been seamless. A further positive would be that DeLillo, unlike Stone, Garrison or Marrs, readily admits that his piece is fiction – a positive step in story telling which neither of the other two acknowledged about their own. It would not be hard to imagine this book with fifty pages of footnotes and placed on the ‘Alternate History’ shelves of your local bookstore. But it is this which DeLillo has done so well, he has taken an existing subject, gone down the “what if?” line, and written a wonderful story which smacks of reality in all the right places. Take the portrayal of Marguerite Oswald for example, the paranoid bizarre little lady that hired Mark Lane to “defend” Oswald in front of the Warren Commission. In Libra, Marguerite lives in her own world, consistently having to justify herself to a judge in her own fictional world. For example:"Now, about Marina as Russian or French. It is amazing how her English improved right after Lee is killed. It is amazing how she suddenly has a cigarette in her hand, which I never witnessed when Lee was alive. I will research the picture of Marina to learn if it is true." (p. 452)DeLillo frames her as a control freak that could control nothing and he does it beautifully. As he did with the fictional Nicholas Branch, a character which all researchers on the assassination (myself included) can relate to in one way or another. Branch, a retired employee of the Central Intelligence Agency, lives in his study which houses everything one could possibly need to write a history of the assassination and more. It would be easy to exchange the name Branch for ‘McAdams’ or, more poignantly, ‘Bugliosi’ – ignoring the conspiracy/lone-gunman element, of course.----------------------Closing in on 2013, the National Archives have recently released a statement saying that they will use their full mandate and release the remaining hundred-thousand documents in 2017, despite Michael Kurtz previously saying otherwise. Some still believe that these classified documents hold the key to the assassination, and there is no doubt that when they are released there will be swathes of people rushing in to look them over, as in the 1990s following the JFK Act (the one positive achieved by Stone’s motion picture). It is difficult to imagine that any document will be uncovered that will lead to headlines the next day, however it is very likely that more disgraceful incidents of ignoring CIA, FBI and Secret Service protocol will be found. Initially these came to the fore because of groundbreaking work by John Newman, an ex-Army intelligence officer turned lecturer. Newman found that the Agency had deliberately withheld information on Oswald from the FBI and Secret Service, even going as far as to move it into different files so that others within their organisation would not stumble upon and disseminate it. Newman worked tirelessly, interviewing all those he could that appeared in the files, some of whom were nonagenarians. When Newman released his book, Oswald and the CIA, in 1995 it was an extremely embarrassing episode for a lot of people. Yet, the reasons for this game of hide-the-file are still unknown. My hope is that the 2017 release will highlight concrete reasons for doing so, however one thing is almost certain – there will be no one to interview this time. You would be hard pressed to find an Agency apologist who would say that this was not the reason for the coy status – time is a healer.Ultimately, the legacy of the assassination will be the innumerable fantasies created to understand the gaps in the official record, gaps that those responsible for the official record do not acknowledge. Every book has to make a “leap of faith” to join the first dot and the hundredth, but unlike DeLillo who readily accepts that he has written a fictional account of an alternate reality, the conspiracy theorists sell theirs as authentic works of history. This is damaging to reason and logical thinking. Is it unsurprising that many of those that believe a huge conspiracy killed Kennedy also believe that a cruise missile hit the Pentagon? Their books belong in the fictional section, but not on the same shelf as Libra, and not even in the same breath as DeLillo.

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