Libra by Don DeLillo
(I read this one last month, before White Noise, but forgot to post. ) This one is brilliant. I always liked DeLillo but had stopped reading him after he got popular. Until I read Underworld with a reading group a while ago and loved it. It was the publication of DeLillo’s latest, Falling Man, that got me to go back and read the others. Someone in one of my bookgroups remarked that DeLillo had been writing about terrorism in some manner for a long time and I realized that was true. So I decided to have something to compare his 9/11 novel with when I read it, deciding to read Libra, White Noise, and Mao II.
I’ve read a fair number of analyses of the Kennedy assassination and besides I was an adult when it happened—newly married and in grad school. I didn’t see Jack Ruby shoot Oswald—we didn’t have TV, but my husband and I were in the kitchen where I was making bread that morning, and listening to the radio. I did of course see the rerun on TV when we went to the
I knew most of the details of Oswald’s life but had no idea who Oswald was. That’s what DeLillo filled out and I can see why Oswald has been considered the novelist’s greatest character. The title is the astrological sign for balance and harmony—Oswald’s birthday was Oct 18th. And Oswald was the perfect dupe to build a conspiracy around. Bright but not too bright. An independent thinker. Born suspicious and angry at being made to feel inferior. Susceptible to anyone who even pretended to take him seriously. Seriously—the character if not, of course, the real person—trying to find a balance between East and West, the US and the USSR, both of which he both loved and hated, wanted to be loyal to but felt betrayed by—and was betrayed by.
The characters around Oswald are fleshed out as well: his mother who whines about how hard she tried to keep her family together.
The better-known characters in the assassination story—Kennedy, Jackie, Johnson, Connolly—are mere cardboard walk-ons.