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  • Libra
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4.1 out of 5 stars
30
Libra
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on 27 February 2018
still working through but perhaps, if I'm honest,not as gripping as I hoped.Received quickly.
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on 9 February 2013
Don DeLillo spins a good story that is very readable. At the end of this one feels that Lee Harvey Oswald was always destined to do something dramatic in Russia or the USA.
I bought this for my son who loves conspiracy theories and this is still one of the greatest.
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on 3 March 2015
Very pleased with purchase. As described. Many thanks
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on 17 January 2014
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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on 13 July 2012
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.
12 people found this helpful
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on 12 February 2015
DDL is variable - between the torrid brilliance of White Noise and The Names, and the piffling pseudery of The Body Artist, for example, lies a Grand Canyon of quality - but this novel packs a powerful punch. Some of the protagonists are still household names, other less so (and many don't use their real names anyway), but note how they inhabit the margins of things - cities, towns, organisations, society, themselves - and the thwarted bitterness running like a poisoned stream through their lives. They want someone to blame, someone to take it out on, and there are cleverer, more shadowy figures lurking in the background who are prepared to push all the right buttons to ensure they do just that. The book has the clammy tension of a first-rate thriller and scenes of vivid brutality punctuate the action - Oswald in military prison; Jack Ruby kicking the stuffing out of a man who gropes one of his club hostesses. Violence is the keynote of this extraordinary work and though the killing of Kennedy is its denouement it seems that, even today, more than 50 years after the event, no closure has been reached, the terrible wounds still gaping wide open.
2 people found this helpful
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on 27 June 2015
This is an OK read, but throughout the book I kept thinking, but is this bit true or has DeLillo made this up? The problem is that while some of the story is obviously based on facts relating to Lee Harvey Oswald and the assassination of JFK, a lot of the details are fiction, invented by the author to turn a news item into a story. The same with the characters: some are real and some aren't. But we don't know where the division lies, and while this might not matter to some readers, for me it reduced the enjoyment of the story.
The thing is, it's interesting if true. But the parts that aren't true lose that interest value, and because this can't work as a thriller, because we already know the outcome, it fails as an entertaining novel. Facts should be interesting, fiction should be entertaining, but mixing the two is difficult, and in my view it doesn't really work here.
I found the opening chapter, written in short, blunt sentences that soon grated on me, rather poor, but luckily it began to pick up soon after, and gradually the novel grew in stature, till it reached a peak towards the end when we get to the assassination scene, which I thought was really good. This is followed by a weaker last chapter seen from Oswald's mother's point of view. So overall, rather a mixed bag: not bad, not great.
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on 20 March 1998
The most plausible work of fiction concerning the JFK assassination that I have read. The fact that the dialogue (both external and internal) is truncated and unrealistic actually doesn't matter. The author is anxious to "show" us what happened and to "show" us the motivation of his characters (obviously largely based on real people) and is anxious to show us everything and does so, like a dedicated but pressed-for-time tour guide. So the dialogue is sacrificed but in a good cause. There are MANY things about the JFK assassination that argue AGAINST the idea of a wide-ranging conspiracy. Oswald's and Ruby's OPPORTUNITIES to commit their respective crimes both arose by happenstance. Most conspiracy buffs either disregard that or embroider the truth about that. Not author Dom DeLillo - he boldly acknowledges these random elements and cleverly incorporates them into his plot. DeLillo is, in short, an Oliver Stone with integrity and with his feet on the ground. Oh yes, his treatment of all characters, including bit players like David Ferrie, is also more understated and hence more realistic than Stone's. The "conspirators" are not heartless all-powerful manipulators in service of the forces of darkness but ordinary people with limited authority and human foibles who cross their fingers and hope for luck as does everyone who has ever punched a time clock.
One person found this helpful
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on 19 April 2010
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.
4 people found this helpful
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on 3 October 1997
There's a certain school of thought that states that authors generally don't make good scriptwriters; they're too much in love with words, not dialogue. DeLillo falls into this category. His sentences are beautifully written (though some times he seems to be trying too hard), but his characters don't talk TO each other, they talk AT each other. Every person in the book seems to have some knack for speaking like wanna-be nineteenth century poets. Anyway, the novel itself is enjoyable, but DeLillo tries to cover all the angles. Oswald WAS a lone nut. But, unbeknownst to him, the CIA was really pulling his strings, designing their very own "patsy" before the fact. What? Isn't this an either or situation? Or maybe this is closer to the truth than DeLillo realizes; on November 22, 1963, just about anything seemed to have been possible.
2 people found this helpful
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