Read as part of CBR11 Bingo: Birthday. Lee Harvey Oswald’s birthday was October 18 (making him a libra, hence the title!).
Two things are common with both mass shooters and high profile assassins:
1. They are almost always male.
2. They almost always have some sort of personality disorder which makes it difficult for them to fit into polite society.
Fringe groups prey on these kinds of people. They suck their soul to the marrow, leave nothing left, and abandon them when their presence becomes an inconvenience.
That’s the story Don DeLillo is telling in Libra. He certainly has some interest in the Kennedy conspiracy: the guilty party in this universe being disaffected ex-CIA types who were involved in the Bay of Pigs and angry that JFK won’t do more about Cuba. But all of the rah rah jingoism here is simply the web of the spider. Oswald is the victim. In many ways, he is helpless.
I wouldn’t say this is a sympathetic portrayal of Oswald. DeLillo does not use his anti-social behaviors as a crutch for how he treated his wife and how he viewed other humans. But DeLillo does a masterful job showing how a guy who cannot fit in anywhere could land in a spot to do harm to others. This person is not unassuming but they are naive, willing to surrender their humanity because they are a True Believer. This is the Oswald we get.
A good book except for one thing, which coincidentally, I mentioned in my previous review: I can’t stand the shifting narrative technique when I don’t know whose mind we’re in. It throws me off of my investment in the story and when I finally catch up, I feel like I’ve lost some of the subtlety of what the writer is trying to say. Please, writers, if you read this, do not do this. It’s so annoying.