#19 -- "Libra" by Don DeLillo
"Libra" was the first DeLillo I ever read, back either in high school or early in college -- it was prompted by a James Ellroy interview in which the latter said the book "scorched [his] sexuality," a phrase I've struggled with for many years.
Don't really remember much about reading it then, but since I've gone on to read most of his novels in the intervening years, I obviously wasn't put off or anything. Reading it now, though, I'm really impressed -- I always held it to be a notch under "Underworld" or "White Noise," but perhaps I've been wrong all along.
It's the story of the Kennedy assassination, from two parallel points of view -- that of Lee Harvey Oswald and that of a group of plotters. (Not to ruin anything, but Kennedy dies) DeLillo's use of the language is amazing -- I'd forgotten just how good he can be. Whichever musician was being described when someone-or-other discussed "the notes that aren't there" -- that's DeLillo, right there. His spare, unordained conversations leave blanks that somehow don't need to be filled in. "Libra" is jittery and jumpy, paranoid but calm, and I enjoyed the hell out of reading it again. Now I've just got to resist the temptation to give "Underworld" and "End Zone" another shot until after I read a few newer things.
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I spent a good portion of my teenage years obsessed with the Kent State massacre -- prompted, I think, by this famous shot. I read and re-read Michener's "Kent State," wrote several papers on the shootings in school, all in search (I guess) of some deeper meaning, some hidden truths that would be revealed by the whole sorry mess, something that would give it some reason.
Today's the 37th anniversary of the shootings -- May 4th is stuck in my head along with similar dates of infamy (September 11, August 6, April 20, December 7, November 22, and so on). Still no closer to finding any deeper meaning.