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Libra (Contemporary American Fiction) [Kindle Edition]

Don Delillo
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

DeLillo's ninth novel takes its title from Lee Harvey Oswald's zodiac sign, the sign of "balance." And, as in all his fiction ( Running Dog , The Names , White Noise ), DeLillo's perfectly realized aim is to balance plot, theme and structure so that the novel he builds around Oswald (an unlikely and disturbingly sympathetic protagonist) provokes the reader with its clever use of history, its dramatic pacing and its immaculate and detailed construction. The plot of the novel is history itselfand history, here, is a system of plots and conspiracies: the U.S. government has plotted to invade Cuba, and there are CIA agents who want retribution against President Kennedy for his halfhearted support of the Bay of Pigs operation; there are Cubans plotting revenge on JFK for the same reason and for, they fear, his plot to forge a rapprochement with Castro; there is a lone gunman, Oswald, who is conspired upon by history and circumstance, and who himself plots against the status quo. The novel bears dissection on many levels, but is, taken whole, a seamless, brilliant work of compelling fiction. What makes Libra so unsettling is DeLillo's ability to integrate literary criticism into the narrative, commenting throughout on the nature and conventions of fiction itself without disturbing the flow of his story. The characters are storytellers: CIA agents and Cuban immigrants retell old plots in their minds and write fantasy plots to keep themselves alive; Nicholas Branch, also of the CIA, has spent 15 years writing an in-house history of the assassination that will never uncover its deepest secrets and that in any case no one will read; Oswald, defecting to the Soviet Union, hopes to write short stories of contemporary American lifedyslexic, he is aware of words as pictures of themselves not simply as name tags for the material world. DeLillo interweaves fact and fiction as he draws us inexorably toward Dallas, November 22. The real people (Jack Ruby, Oswald, his mother and Russian wife) are retrieved from history and made human, their stories involving and absorbing; the imagined characters are placed into history as DeLillo imagines it to have come to pass. By subtly juxtaposing the blinding intensity of DeLillo's own crystal-clear, composite version of events against the blurred reality of the Zapruder film and other artifacts of the actual assassination, Libra ultimately becomes a comment on the entire body of DeLillo's work: Why do we understand fiction to reflect truth? Why do we trust a novelist to tell us the whole story? And what is the truth that fiction reveals? 50,000 first printing; $50,000 ad/promo; BOMC main selection; QPBC selection; first serial to Esquire.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Did Lee Harvey Oswald act alone in assassinating President John F. Kennedy? In his ninth novel, American Book Award winner DeLillo (for White Noise , LJ 2/1/85) addresses this question, skillfully weaving together fact and fiction to create an engrossing tale. It is a measure of his success that while reading, one must keep reminding oneself that this is, indeed, a novel making "no claim to literal truth." DeLillo's vision is not of a single, perfectly working scheme but rather of "a rambling affair that succeeded in short term mainly due to chance." The cast, both real and fictional, ranges from scheming CIA agents to Mafia dons, but what haunts the reader most is the image of Oswald as a confused young man searching for an identity and accidentally caught up in something bigger than himself. Sure to be a best seller. David W. Henderson, Eckerd Coll. Lib., St. Petersburg, Fla.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1173 KB
  • Print Length: 468 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reissue edition (May 1 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0023SDQI0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful "idea" novel Jan. 30 2003
Libra is a fictional "biography" of Lee Harvey Oswald following his life and the plans that were underway during the seven months before the Kennedy assassination to make him the scapegoat. DeLillo, of course, takes liberties with the facts but he has produced a real page-turner and made Oswald into an entirely sympathetic character who may not have had the purest of motives but was not the one who fired the fatal shot.
Interestingly, DeLillo attributes an inordinate amount of luck to the fact that the motorcade appeared when and where it did. Several coincidences occurred to make the assassination possible, totally out of the control of those planning it. And yet it still worked.
The most fun part of reading it was noticing the ideas presented in the film JFK (filmed three years after Libra was published) appear in this book, making it a familiar territory. David Ferrie, in particular, is a major character and Guy Bannister appears often, also, as does Jack Ruby. De Lillo has obviously done his research.
Having just seen JFK again, I picked this up as sort of a "companion" novel and it worked well in that capacity. I felt that the movie did not really touch on so much of Oswald's life and that Libra filled in those gaps well.
DeLillo's sense of time and place are commendable and I think this was probably a good training ground for his epic Underworld, which has sat on my bookshelf, collecting dust for many years and which I will most likely now pick up and read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars History, Conspiracy and Men in Small Rooms Aug. 8 2002
On the surface Libra is a novel about the history of the assassination of President John Kennedy and an insightful narrative about the man who is said to have pulled the trigger: Lee Harvey Oswald. But as with all such histories, the seemingly clear surfaces merely reflects the latest scriblings on what is really a deeply inscribed palimpist of human chronicle. Based on years of painstaking research and written from the perspective of a CIA historian assigned to produce a complete and secret history of the event, Don Delillo presents an intimate look at the man who has since become the symbol for America's shattered dreams and the subject of countless conspiracy theory scenarios. In so doing Delillo produces an image of Oswald that attempts to transcend the simplistic tropes to which he has been so often cast and, instead, represent Oswald as he really was: a lonely, impressionable, self-contradictory young man with a identity fractured by modernity.
In Libra, Oswald is not only the small meek looking man gunned down by Jack Ruby as a stunned nation was instantaneously transformed into subjects of the media panopticon, but also a dedicated Marxist, a US Marine, a husband, father and son. Thus, he gets what most assassins do not: a human face, if not a multitude of them. As the story progresses, Oswald's multiplicitous character is transformed and molded from "mere pocket litter", a "cardboard cutout" into a ready-made villain of a fading American ideal. How this transformation is accomplished, rather than the result of Oswald's actions, is really what Delillo is trying to fide an answer for. Whether or not he succeeds in discovering this depends upon the value that is given to history in modern society, and the implicit logic that this type of epistemological inquiry anticipates.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Elegantly Written July 23 2002
"Libra," is an elegantly written book that took me as deeply into the mind of Lee Harvey Oswald as I care to go, and by so doing allowed me to feel some compassion for a character (at least in this fictional version) I've likened more to a weasel than a human being. From boyhood to his young adult death Mr. Dellilo's Oswald is a character in search of self who never gets there. He's a shy, stupid, somehow charming boy who should be protected, but whose grandiose delusions would eventually put any protector off. You'd miss him in a crowd - until he pulled a gun. Oswald and Jack Ruby are the most defined characters in the book, with Oswald's mother weighing in with self-defining monologues that are a pleasure to read, but a pain to sympathize with. She's a whiner with an interesting whine.
The remaining characters are thin, never as low-down as you'd expect, and don't seem at all realistic as plotters in the assassination of the century.
"Libra," is not a mystery, not a thriller, not even much of a drama. If anything it's a meditation on character - or at least on Oswald's character. I'd recommend it for the beautiful writing, (phenomenal dialogue) but certainly not as a page-turner.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A mixed success May 31 2002
After reading the hefty Underworld and the sparse Body Artist, I wondered what DeLillo, a man who has a gifted use of language, would do with a more conventional narrative. With Libra, I began to get my answer and was not all that impressed.
Although not completely conventional, the story is more straightforward than the other books I have mentioned. Although a story dealing with conspiracy and assassination, it is basically lacking in suspense and action; for this reason, it must rely more on things like character, in particular that of Lee Harvey Oswald.
DeLillo portrays Oswald as a pathetic individual, a malfunctioning human whose failure is inevitable. You don't really empathize with Oswald; instead, you observe him with the same fascination you would give to a train wreck. The other characters in this story are more weakly depicted.
There are better novels dealing with the Kennedy assassination and possible conspiracies associated with it. I recommend American Tabloid by James Ellroy, which is much better (and Ellroy's sequel, The Cold Six Thousand, while weaker, is also very good). For DeLillo, while this is not a bad book, he is better off with his more unconventional stories.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars better history than a work of fiction
This is an impressive book in that it is able to string many different elements of Kennedy Conspiracy theories into a coherant plausible scenario. Read more
Published on March 1 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent "Historical Fiction"
I must recommend Libra as a work of fiction while suspending judgment as to the "truth" of the account. Read more
Published on May 19 2002 by Michael D. Kittell
5.0 out of 5 stars history and rage
don delillo's libra is part character study (rendering the obscured figure of lee harvey oswald into focused clarity so that his sensibilities, his nuerosis, his passions become... Read more
Published on May 16 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Freedom or Captivity
This is the second Delillo book I have read (the other Underworld) and I was not disappointed. Upon finishing the book, I desired to read another by him. Read more
Published on Dec 25 2001 by Garritt A. Kokesh
5.0 out of 5 stars A Nice Rebuttal of Two Shortsighted Theories
Delillo cuts a nice middle ground between two strikingly opposing viewpoints about the Kennedy assasination, showing how both of them disintegrate in the whirling amorphous cloud... Read more
Published on Dec 19 2001 by Roger T. Whitson
4.0 out of 5 stars The whole is far less than the smattering of its parts
In Libra, Delillo deals with one of the most well-known and well-documented events in recent history. Read more
Published on Dec 2 2001 by Matthew Vanhouten
4.0 out of 5 stars The whole is far less than the smattering of its parts
In Libra, Delillo deals with one of the most well-known and well-documented events in recent history. Read more
Published on Dec 2 2001 by Matthew Vanhouten
5.0 out of 5 stars Contemporary masterpiece
This book is a wonderful example of the way fiction is able to elucidate a level of truth that nonfiction is not able to get at. Read more
Published on Nov. 5 2001
4.0 out of 5 stars A contemporary tragedy
Libra was my first DeLillo read and I found it to be a very compelling one. The first few hundred pages of the book meander menacingly along like a slow movement in a Shostacovich... Read more
Published on Oct. 28 2001 by Philippe Vandenbroeck
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