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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Libra: Fiction in a World of Ficton
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...
Published 24 months ago by JoeBB02

versus
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but superseded by Ellroy...
Your reaction to this book depends, I think, on whether you have read James Ellroy's trilogy of America in the 1950s and 1960s. Ellroy himself cites Libra as an inspiration, and you can see the connections and overlaps.

If you haven't read Ellroy, then Libra reads as an entertaining blend of fact and fiction, and an interesting depiction of Lee Harvey Oswald...
Published on 30 Dec 2009 by bloodsimple


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Libra: Fiction in a World of Ficton, 13 July 2012
By 
JoeBB02 (Cambridge, UK) - See all my reviews
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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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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A mesmerising novel, 27 Feb 2004
'Libra' is absolutely brilliant. Simply by the biography of Lee Oswald it is gripping and intense, but combined with the infamous conspiracies in which he may (or may not) have been involved, the probing descriptions of the agents, Oswald's wife and his mother it is a masterful novel.
You're constantly wondering what is fact and fiction, a device that is as clever as it is easy to employ on such a subject; The entire enigma of JFK's assassination is tightly woven into American fabric thirty one years on.
Delillo has created something powerful and moving with 'Libra' and I can't recommend it enough. It is a daunting trip into an incomprehenisble time in American history.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing, 18 May 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Libra (Paperback)
Another superb read from perhaps the greatest American writer of his geneartion. Unlike many novels concerning JFK/LHO DeLillo's attempt details event from two different angles. The first which explores Lee Harvey Oswald's life is well 'fleshed out' by the authors dazzling creativity and is, in my view, the more interesting of the pair. The other more convetnional plot sees the infamous conspiracy to assasinate the young president unfold. Such is the quality of the authors delivery and characterisation, by the end we are left sypathising with Lee Harvey Oswald, one of the most notorious men of the twentieth century. On the whole I'd recommend this novel to anyone who has enjoy DeLillo previously or anyone with a general interest in the recent history of the U.S.A.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another book for the top ten., 19 April 2010
This review is from: Libra (Paperback)
Somtimes you see a book and read a few reviews on Amazon and you just know it's for you.Immediately after starting this book I had a feeling it was going to be superb.The writing is first class,the kind that is rare.The story is of course familiar but added to in a clever sophisticated way,rather than blindly slapping on layers of conspiracy.Regardless of the subject matter it's a stand up book and he surely could have written an equally engrossing book if he had just made it all up.It pulls you in,and you won't find yourself racing through the last few pages.A classic to the very last word.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliantly achieved, 14 Mar 2010
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This review is from: Libra (Paperback)
i thought this was a truly great book.
it is not a "conspiracy" novel as such, because while it deals with a lot of that kind of material surrounding the assassination of j.f.k., it's main achievement lies in an investigation of how many of the "cast" - oswald in particular, of course - might have thought and felt and reached their positions and attitudes.
delillo brilliantly gets imaginatively "inside" the minds of his characters, and their memories and the forces that drive them. whether his insights are "true" is beside the point. he goes into their histories and interactions and makes you believe in them from the inside.
in the end it is this examination of the thoughts and feelings and souls and minds of the principal characters in those fervent times that is the subject of this book, as much as the actual connections that may, or may not, have lead to the final act.
james ellroy covers the same material very differently, if also brilliantly. interestingly i heard ellroy on the radio choosing "libra" as his one "desert island" favourite book. it is not hard to see why.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but superseded by Ellroy..., 30 Dec 2009
By 
bloodsimple (nottingham, uk) - See all my reviews
Your reaction to this book depends, I think, on whether you have read James Ellroy's trilogy of America in the 1950s and 1960s. Ellroy himself cites Libra as an inspiration, and you can see the connections and overlaps.

If you haven't read Ellroy, then Libra reads as an entertaining blend of fact and fiction, and an interesting depiction of Lee Harvey Oswald. It depicts the `conspiracy' as part-deliberate, part-accidental, part-malicious and part-farcical. Which may well be an accurate concoction. When it was written, it was certainly an unusual and insightful way of approaching something that already seemed done to death.

If you have read American Tabloid et al, then the deficiencies in Libra begin to stand out even more starkly. Ellroy succeeded where Delillo failed. Ellroy made the conspirators a set of three-dimensional beings; tangible in their flaws and foibles, zealous in their chaotic politics, capable and yet easily dismantled. Ellroy also brought the Kennedys and their acolytes to life - vital if the reader of forty years later is to truly feel the sense of the era, and what drove extremists within it. Delillo does none of these things - his conspirators are too slight, and flit in and out of the narrative too much. The absence of the high-level politics in Washington is a serious omission - the reader needs to really understand why Cuba and the Bay of Pigs still mattered so much to these characters, and why they could countenance shooting their own President. Without this strategic view, the motivations fail to convince.

In addition, where Ellroy has a drive and a pace to his narrative, Delillo's falls flat generally, and especially in the middle third. Ruby is introduced far too late; he seems an afterthought and merely clutters up what should have been the acceleration towards a climax. I agree with other reviewers who found the last forty pages poorly thought-out and badly delivered.

In summary, this may have been a stand-out book when it was written, and deserves props for its ambitious approach and interesting angles. However, once Ellroy got going, he showed how this book should have been written.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful, 20 Mar 1998
By A Customer
Don Dellilo with Libra claims the title of the modern master of the Hemmingway iceberg -- a plot that pokes out of the surface of the water, leaving the reader to imagine the massive form below the surface that keeps it afloat... Or, less is more. Brilliant.
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4.0 out of 5 stars a good read, 17 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Libra (Hardcover)
id recommend this book to any one interested in the jfk conspiracy.reads like a thriller,with interesting and believable characters.also gives you a good insight into 1960s dallas.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful evocation of one of Americas darkest days., 3 Jan 2014
Fact and fiction merge in this rich reimagining of the Kennedy assassination told through the lives of some of its main protagonists. DeLillo conveys successfully the dark tensions and vehement politics that suffused extremist America in the 1950's and 60's, counterbalancing his imagined history with the confused and convoluted reality any investigation into the assassination swiftly becomes.

Libra is a detailed, well observed and fascinating period piece that is social history and thriller in one.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Just couldn't get into it, 31 May 2013
I have now read half this book and I've given up, I just can't get into it and find it extremely boring. I note all the very positive reviews on amazon but I just don't get it. I was looking forward to learning about lee Harvey Oswald but this isn't what the books about, it's a load of hypothetical scenes invented by the author. I wouldn't recommend.
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Libra
Libra by Don DeLillo (Paperback - 3 Dec 1998)
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