Libra
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Libra

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  7,770 ratings  ·  410 reviews
In this powerful, eerily convincing fictional speculation on the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Don DeLillo chronicles Lee Harvey Oswald's odyssey from troubled teenager to a man of precarious stability who imagines himself an agent of history. When "history" presents itself in the form of two disgruntled CIA operatives who decide that an unsuccessful attempt on the lif...more
Paperback, 480 pages
Published May 1st 1991 by Penguin (first published 1988)
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Paul
Mar 24, 2011 Paul rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: novels
I'm told that the Don DeLillo who wrote this masterpiece is the same guy who wrote Underworld and White Noise, but as far as I'm concerned that's a plainly ridiculous theory and I'm not buying it at all and I've hired a private investigator to get to the bottom of why there are two Don DeLillos and why this one hasn't sued the other idiot for giving him a bad name. It's a mystery.

Libra is entirely great. Its vocals, its backing, the bass, the drums, man alive the drums, the harmonies - celestia...more
mark monday
a work of bright and ruthless genius, the jfk assassination as recounted by some alien being from the far future. well actually, not really, not at all. well actually, at times it felt like it. is delillo less than human or more than human? the novel makes no attempt to be historically factual. actually, the facts presented are reasonable and sound. the novel is historically factual, as much as anything can be. the narrative is, of course, almost too complex to be detailed. although it is, in it...more
Megha

DeLillo and I are friends now!!
We had started off on the wrong foot, but Libra has patched things up. I too share Paul's suspicions about Libra and White Noise having been written by the same person. Had I been handed these two books without the cover, I wouldn't have known those words had flown out of the same figurative pen.

Libra is a terrific piece of work. It has a huge cast of characters and a very complex web of events, all handled neatly and elegantly. While DeLillo's characters never rea...more
Marco Tamborrino
- Quando è il tuo compleanno?
- Il diciotto ottobre, - rispose Lee.
- Libra. La Bilancia.
- Sì, la Bilancia, - disse Ferrie
- L'Equilibrio, - disse Shaw.
Quelli della bilancia. Alcuni sono positivi, padroni di sé, equilibrati, con la testa a posto, saggi e rispettati da tutti. Altri invece sono negativi, cioè piuttosto instabili, impulsivi. Tanto, ma tanto, ma tanto influenzabili. Propensi a spiccare il salto pericoloso. In entrambi i casi, la chiave è l'equilibrio.


A volte finisci dei libri e non è...more
Michael
"Facts all come with points of view."
--Talking Heads

I became reasonably convinced that Libra is Don DeLillo's masterpiece about halfway through. After slogging through the first quarter of the novel -- you're introduced to dozens of characters, and they're all revealed to you in that customarily opaque way that any reader of DeLillo will instantly recognize, and the dialogue only takes you so far because DeLillo characters don't talk to each other so much as around each other, and it takes a wh...more
AC
Spoilers -- kind of....

This is a really great book -- for most of it, I really loved this -- partially because I'm an assassination buff, but also because there's a taut intelligence and poetry in much of the writing, and also (I thought, at least) some really sublime characterization and lots of Plot MoMo. The treatment of David Ferrie -- for example when he meets with Carmine .... just great writing...

This is my first DeLillo - and I know a lot of people here think he's way overrated -- so I...more
Lee
This one took about a month to read so I should respect that time turning its pages and write a few commemorative words. All I can really say is that on every page the writing reeks of literature, but rarely is it literary. What I mean is that DeLillo's sentences always seem to have an eye on a subtextual prize, that is, they always seem like an updated, abstract response to that question posed long ago by some cavedweller about the meaning of life, as opposed to turns of phrase for the sake of...more
Justin Evans
I unintentionally finished this days before the 50th anniversary of JFK's death, which made the whole thing even more enjoyable, if that's the right word. Aside from a bit of the good ole American prose (and its general fear of syntax more complex than subject-verb-object), and brief moments of postmodern angst (can we know anything???), this is an excellent, excellent book. It's easy to read but doesn't ignore the possibility that writing may (I'd go as far as 'should') be noticeable. But most...more
sologdin
Nutshell: soporific account of JFK assassination, intermixed with bildungsroman of assassin, with implied subtitle The Sorrows of Young Lee Harvey.

Narrative is bifurcated into alternating sections. First set are designated by locus: New Orleans, Moscow, Dallas—these follow Oswald. Second set are designated by tempus: 20 May, 25 September, 22 November—these follow CIA losers, anti-castroites, other unsavories.

Text ties tempus and locus together explicitly in Oswald: “from early childhood he liked...more
Ian Scuffling
There's a special element to DeLillo's writing where you go along reading and suddenly, unexpectedly, there's a passage that sends forth a couple tentacles that squeeze you tightly--unsettle you from your comfortable reading spot. You're in awe, gripped with epiphany--stunned, really. Moments that only come at the hands of a master. But then sometimes there's a crippling mediocrity that punishes you. Maybe it's DeLillo's game with the reader--holding you so distant and cold that when the magnitu...more
Patrick Ciccone
Sep 06, 2007 Patrick Ciccone is currently reading it
OK, only halfway through, but I would like to point out Don DeLillo's ease with the looming unease of so much Americana (title of his first book):
"There was something about a long and low and open-space house with a lawn and a carport that made her feel spiritually afraid."

I would say the same of white Vermont clapboard houses too--though I like them.

To be cont'd.

Jeremy
It feels more centered, more focused than White Noise, in large part since it takes such a specific event and builds a weird, fevered narrative around it. It Shows how a group of extremely powerful but extremely isolated zealots find themselves drawn into a labyrinth connected by coincidence/destiny/large, vaguely defined forces of history. On one level Delillo is offering a very contemporary sort of critique about the nature of conspiracy theories and how people conceive of and develop them as...more
Drew
If you're into DeLillo, this is a must read. A disturbingly plausible fabrication, complete with conspiracy, celebrity, and philosophy. I have to say, though, some of the stylistic things that got me into DeLillo in the first place have now become irritating tics. His characters have a tendency to spout philosophy in an erudite and well-considered way that doesn't really make sense for their character -- or, especially, in this case, real historical personages.

They also have a tendency to walk i...more
Phil
My understanding of the general consensus is that Don DeLillo peaked with the four-book run of White Noise, Libra, Mao II, and Underworld. Having enjoyed Mao II and been downright floored by White Noise and Underworld, I intentionally put off reading Libra. I wanted to keep it in reserve as a special treat. A few days ago I looked at the nice hardcover copy I've had sitting on a shelf for several years and finally broke down, tearing into it with greedy relish. Don did not let me down. I think L...more
Ileana
Normally not drawn to historical fiction, I was happily coerced into reading this fictional account of the life of Lee Harvey Oswald. While a lot of the looping facts and speculations are hard to keep track of unless you're fairly well-versed in the JFK assassination mythology, the novel itself is a faithful exploration of the intricate, often contradictory and marvelously coincidental nature of causation, the profound impact of the most subtle influence of one human on another, and the shocking...more
Matt Harris
May 30, 2007 Matt Harris rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Americans or sympathisers!
At first the denseness and humourlessness of the book proved a bit hard to get into, the anti-hero Lee Harvey Oswald is really hard to like... He started to get under my skin though, and a few chapters later I was feeling sorry for him as prospective fall guy.

What a litany of depressing characters! Reflecting the American Dream to do whatever you want to do, although it may involve self-importance and dangerous acts... The men who DeLillo imagines were responsible for coming up with this grand p...more
Harold
Great novel on the JFK assassination. It presents itself very plausibly. It's not hard to believe that it could have happened this way. I'm sure many of us recall that when Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested one of the first things he told the police was "I'm a patsy." The context in which DeLillo places this statement is striking and memorable.
Rayroy
Death. Delillo writes about death how we try to idle it by watching T.V. and at the same time hasten it with technology, tehnology that creates advanced weapons used in war. iphone apps that kill.
Philippe
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 symphony. There is no humour, no quickening of the pulse anywhere: instead we see bleakness, we feel the oppressing humidity of the South and witness the claustrophobic plotting of 'men in small rooms'. At first I was less taken by DeLillo's montage technique, but I honestly can't see how he otherwise would have been a...more
Schuyler
DeLillo uses a phrase towards the end of LIBRA, saying "The truth of the world is exhausting." And that sentence echoes through the entire novel, through the entire era surrounding Kennedy, and into the present day.

LIBRA, like most DeLillo novels, is very cyclical and connected, as were the actual events surrounding the assassination. Reading interviews with DeLillo, he talks about how all he really did was connect the dots and follow the path that the Warren Report had laid out, and transcribe...more
Joseph Broadbent
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Geoffrey Fox
Like Mario Vargas Llosa's La Fiesta del Chivo, Libra is a chillingly realistic novel that re-imagines and reconstructs a famous magnicide. But the more mysterious circumstances of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and the particular obsessions of Don DeLillo, make this a very different book from Vargas Llosa's telling of the killing of Rafael Trujillo.

According to DeLillo (through his stand-in character, Nicholas Branch),"the conspiracy against the President was a rambling affair that succee...more
Andrew
I come rather late and uninformed to DeLillo, having read Mao II years ago before I knew the extent of DeLillo's reputation. I once gave away a first edition hardback Underworld because I stupidly distrusted a book that opened with a baseball game. In Buenos Aires I read the middle third of White Noise on a day it was sleeting. Otherwise, Delillo has come into my life during the past year or so -- seeping in, a flitting influence like some maleficent electric signal from one of his novels. Long...more
Graeme Hinde
For the first hundred pages or so I was afraid Libra would be an embarrassing attempt by an intellectual writer at a Tom Clancy-style spy thriller. I haven't liked the past couple DeLillo books I've read, and this one initially gave me the same feeling I got from those -- that the author was experimenting with style in a self-indulgent and distracting way. He writes this one in choppy, disconnected sentences and fragments with heavy repetition, and at the same time uses the shop-worn trick of al...more
Nicholas Pell
A real favorite of mine written by perhaps my favorite living author.

This is a historical fiction novel about the Kennedy Assassination. Lee Harvey Oswald is an engagingly sociopathic loner, angry at the injustices of society and frustrated by his lack of a connection to history. The story is a metanarrative (har har) as told by the main reviewing the CIA's entire case files on the subject. Many points of view are utilized from the vast palette of JFK conspiriana. For fans of Don Delillo and as...more
Ed
This book moves slowly. After the first hundred pages or so, all of the setting up DeLillo does begins to pay off. As it does, the story also gets heavier. All of the periphery tightens a bit, making for a better read than the beginning indicates. The strength of the book is in DeLillo's binging Oswald to life. He's such a tragic character: desirous of importance, manipulated, and very disturbing. He has that emptiness seen in sociopaths, and it's a clinic in character development watching Oswal...more
Simona
22 novembre 1963: il fotogramma di un istante tremendo, un istante che ha cambiato il destino dell'America e anche di Lee Harvey Oswald, forse per sempre.
Da una parte, il covo degli attentatori, di coloro che preparano, organizzano il colpo alla vita di Kennedy e di sua moglie Jackie, dall'altro, la loro pedina, il loro burattino personificato nella figura di Lee Oswald, vissuto tra Bronx, New Orleans, Dallas, dal passato incerto, che si arruola nei Marines per poi esserne espulso.
Sebbene ques...more
Ned
This was a terrible book.

I can't believe I actually stayed around to the end. The book is pointless. The author writes in half sentences.

To give you an idea of how bad it is, the only person in the book that you care about is Lee Harvey Oswald. Also, there is one chapter that is actually poetic, and that is a chapter about the events of November 22, 1963. So the best things in this book are Lee Harvey Oswald and the assassination of JFK.

This book was on some list of 100 Books That You Have To R...more
Zuberino
Towering in its ambition and execution. DeLillo enters into the spirit of 1960s paranoia as fully as anyone could, and the empathy and insight on display as he inhabits character after character - from Marguerite Oswald to David Ferrie to Jack Ruby and above all Lee Harvey Oswald himself - it's a staggering achievement. As the NYRB rightly said about DeLillo: he is "current fiction’s most astounding ventriloquist".

It was only with the shooting scene, 22 Nov 1963, that the novel finally started...more
Katie
Libra piqued my interest after I read and thoroughly enjoyed Stephan King's 11/22/63, another fictionalized take on the JFK assassination that is spectacularly King-esque. Libra was written more than twenty year's before 11/22/63, but because the majority of the plot unfolds in the past it's barely dated at all; the only references to "modern" times come in the form of a late-1980s researcher hired by the US government trying to write a secret history of the assassination, and he makes only rare...more
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Don DeLillo is an American author best known for his novels, which paint detailed portraits of American life in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. He currently lives outside of New York City.

Among the most influential American writers of the past decades, DeLillo has received, among author awards, a National Book Award (White Noise, 1985), a PEN/Faulkner Award (Mao II, 1991), and an American...more
More about Don DeLillo...
White Noise Underworld Cosmopolis Falling Man Mao II

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“Facts are lonely things” 54 likes
“That which we fear to touch is often the very fabric of our salvation. ” 17 likes
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