Jeffrey Keeten's Reviews > 11/22/63

11/22/63 by Stephen King
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May 08, 15

bookshelves: horror
Read from March 01 to 18, 2012

You may ask yourself how in the world did a wife beating, mental degenerate, and multiple country defecting (USA, RUSSIA and an attempt at Cuba) little shit like this

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kill the charismatic, handsome war hero, and most powerful man in the world.

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It doesn't make any sense. It never has made any sense. Oswald just does not fit the profile for a guy that could pull off an assassination of this magnitude. He's a semi-educated hillbilly, but he's surprisingly crafty."

Kennedy provided a golden opportunity to every disgruntled crazy out there by deciding to ride in an open car through the hostile city of Dallas, Texas. His swoon-inspiring smile, his wavy hair, and his beautiful wife would not win him votes hidden behind bullet proof glass. A tough election was coming up and Texas was again critical for the Kennedy/Johnson ticket. The parade route was even published in the paper. When Lee Harvey Oswald noticed that the route passed right by the Texas School Book Depository, his place of work, he felt the universe was talking to him. A president riding in an open car sounds insane, but the reality is that a president had not been assassinated since McKinley in 1901. I could see how Kennedy, weighing the risk, would have felt reasonably safe. We all know how that turned out.

Jake Epping, an unassuming English teacher, is given an opportunity to go back in time. The time portal, located in the back room of a greasy spoon, will take him back to 1958. A year tantalizingly close to one of the most traumatic events in American history. Jake, now George Amberson, just had to lay low and wait for 1963 to roll around and use that time to come up with a plan to stop the before mentioned Lee Harvey Oswald. King explores the well traveled road of the potential devastating effects of changing the past to influence the future. What if Kennedy had not been killed? My liberal leanings would have me believe that the world would be better today. There are piles of documentation showing that Kennedy had no intention of escalating the war in Vietnam. As he proved with The Cuban Missile Crisis, he was a man that understood the bluff without committing the hardware. He was a man that had been to war, and I find it hard to believe he would have committed American kids to die in the jungles of Southeast Asia.

One of Stephen King's strengths is that despite the fact that he is wealthy man and one of the most successful writers in the world, he really understands common everyday people. I found myself developing a real fondness for Jake. I winced when he failed. I whooped when things went well. His romance with Sadie is spun out so nicely that the Kennedy assassination almost becomes a back ground plot.

King placed a Japanese proverb at the front of the book and also used it so wonderfully in the plot. Every time I read it I find a smile on my face.

"If there is love, smallpox scars are as pretty as dimples."

The number on the back page does say 849 pages, but King's writing style makes reading this book effortless. The margins are wide and the print large, so don't let the size of the book keep you from reading this charming book.

I'm off to turn my time travel machine, nearly finished, back into something a little less dangerous to the world like a cappuccino machine.

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Reading Progress

03/05/2012 page 180
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Comments (showing 1-38)




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message 38: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich Great review, I really need to get to this. I've been wary as Under The Dome wasn't my thing, but I've seen nothing but high praise for this.

Speaking of Kennedy, I saw a comedian on tv the other night making fun of Dora the Explorer saying 'did they actually think that titled rhymed? It only rhymes if your in the Kennedy white house' then proceeded to do an awesome Kennedy accent.


Jeffrey Keeten s.penkevich wrote: "Great review, I really need to get to this. I've been wary as Under The Dome wasn't my thing, but I've seen nothing but high praise for this.

Speaking of Kennedy, I saw a comedian on tv the other..."


Thank you! Sometime when you need a bit of escapism that won't hurt the brain cells too much this will be the perfect book.


Jeffrey Keeten Bird Brian wrote: "It doesn't make any sense. It never has made any sense.

It makes more sense if you think the CIA did it!"


Don't get me started on the CIA. They had their shorts bunched over the Bay of Pigs. They thought they could force Kennedy's hand and make him invade Cuba. He told them they'd get nothing if the people of Cuba did not rise up. They did not rise up. Kennedy did not send the planes.


Jeffrey Keeten Bird Brian wrote: "So what do you think of E. Howard Hunt's deathbed confession?

http://www.rense.com/general76/hunt.htm"


I just read Mallon's Watergate book which was excellent. http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/... The niggle that really bothers me is Hunt HATED Kennedy and he was in Dallas in November of 1963 now why the heck was he there? When Oswald said "I'm a patsy." my ears perked up and then Ruby so conveniently takes Oswald off the map before he can be debriefed properly. I lean towards believing the Hunt confessions, even though I know he is a vindictive, dark souled ghoul.


message 34: by James (new)

James a president had not been assassinated since McKinley in 1901."""

True, but not for lack of trying,
people took shots at FDR in the 1930's


Jeffrey Keeten James wrote: "a president had not been assassinated since McKinley in 1901."""

True, but not for lack of trying,
people took shots at FDR in the 1930's"


Truman as well had a very serious attempt on his life resulting in a gun battle in which White House police and secret service saved his life. FDR was shot at just before he was sworn in as President in 1933. My point was that I don't think Jack felt he was in any real danger or at least thought it was worth the risk. Only in retrospect can we look at it, knowing the result, and realize that the risk level was too high.


message 32: by Bridget (new)

Bridget even semi educated hillbillies can aim and pull a trigger. There is no talent education or craftiness to kill a man in an open car riding down the street.


Jeffrey Keeten Bridget wrote: "even semi educated hillbillies can aim and pull a trigger. There is no talent education or craftiness to kill a man in an open car riding down the street."

That was a quote from the book, so that is Stephen King saying that about Oswald. In the book it was a referenced to his whole life...not just the assassination of JFK. The point being it was easy to underestimate him. Maybe it is just as simple as you make out to be, but there are things about Oswald that just don't add up. His defection to Russia. His reemergence back in the United States. His statement that he was nothing, but a patsy. Unfortunately, if there is more to known it may never be known.


message 30: by Bridget (new)

Bridget Jeffrey wrote: "Bridget wrote: "even semi educated hillbillies can aim and pull a trigger. There is no talent education or craftiness to kill a man in an open car riding down the street."

That was a quote from t..."


all that shows is he was a confused man seeking a way to make the world notice him. HE took the same easy route most lazy people take rather than be famous be infamous. Nothing more to it. Why do we muse over the fact that a simply no body pulled the trigger and killed a somebody when a President sold drugs in LA and no one cares????


Jeffrey Keeten Bridget wrote: "Jeffrey wrote: "Bridget wrote: "even semi educated hillbillies can aim and pull a trigger. There is no talent education or craftiness to kill a man in an open car riding down the street."

That wa..."


I think it is simply curiosity. The mob, the CIA, and a faction of pissed off Cubans all had reasons for wanting JFK dead. Maybe Oswald was a crazy, attention seeking lone gunman or maybe he was a pawn of someone else. Since Ruby killed Oswald before we could get those answers it leaves history open to speculation. You do have me curious I've never heard of a President selling drugs in LA.


message 28: by Bridget (new)

Bridget WHAT you never heard of drugs being sold in order to fund the contras???? Really??? Oily North and the whole nasty business?? It shocks me people assumes that one lone crazy bastard killed Kennedy but just ignore the fact that the Presz was a drug dealer.


message 27: by James (new)

James I just read MAFIA KINGFISH,
I had never accepted the Warren commission's whitewash
and in this book many of questions I had asked were answered.

The probability is that Oswald didn't kill kennedy and that's why Ruby was sent in to kill him.

Maybe he wasn't a "degenerate little shit" after all


Jeffrey Keeten James wrote: "I just read MAFIA KINGFISH,
I had never accepted the Warren commission's whitewash
and in this book many of questions I had asked were answered.

The probability is that Oswald didn't kill kenne..."


Maybe...I've read that there are theories that he was actually working for the CIA and warned them that an attempt was eminent on Kennedy. He was shocked to learn that the motorcade was still scheduled. The truth is hard to come by.


Jeffrey Keeten Kat wrote: "Jeffrey wrote:"I'm off to turn my time travel machine, nearly finished, back into something a little less dangerous to the world like a cappuccino machine."

Good idea. And might I suggest that you..."


Modifying my life for the kids is a daily occurrence (ha), but with this latest cold snap even I have thoughts of a nice cup of hot cocoa.


Kumari It's called the second amendment. Any idiot too cowardly to fight with his bare hands can use a gun to have all the power he can dream of. Help us to repeal this amendment!


message 23: by Praveen (new)

Praveen Nice review.

"If there is love, smallpox scars are as pretty as dimples." This is one of my personal favorite in Japanese Proverbs. I guess like i love this proverb, i will love this book as well. Planning to give a try.


message 22: by Cathy (last edited Jul 04, 2013 06:57AM) (new) - added it

Cathy DuPont Jeff: As you may remember, I'm not much on Stephen King (although I love and respect the man.) But I do have a hard time passing up five stars.

Loved the review; well-written, thoughtful and it gave me a clear feeling for the book. (Yes, I am one who is intimidated by big, thick books, so doubly appreciate your comment.)

While not a book I would usually read, your review put it in another light for me, checking the "TBR" button. Got it on my BOLO list.

Once again, great job.


Jeffrey Keeten Cathy wrote: "Jeff: As you may remember, I'm not much on Stephen King (although I love and respect the man.) But I do have a hard time passing up five stars.

Loved the review; well-written, thoughtful and i..."


Thank you CD! The politics of this book will really appeal to you. Seeing a world if JFK had lived, with unexpected results, is all deftly handled by King. Thinking of King...I need to fit a King in on this long weekend. I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did.


message 20: by Christian (last edited Mar 29, 2014 04:38AM) (new)

Christian Orr "There are piles of documentation showing that Kennedy had no intention of escalating the war in Vietnam. As he proved with The Cuban Missile Crisis, he was a man that understood the bluff without committing the hardware. He was a man that had been to war, and I find it hard to believe he would have committed American kids to die in the jungles of Southeast Asia."

Yet we're talking about hte same JFK who created both the Army Special Forces ("Green Berets") and Navy SEALs, and sent Special Forces "advisors" to 'Nam. Also, LBJ inherited JFKs foreign policy advisors, and those advisors steered LBJ on the path to an escalated war.

Now, I think it could be reasonably argued that JFK might not have sent large-scale *conventional* forces to Vietnam, but being the quintissential Cold Warrior that he was (this assessment cotradicts idealized and romanticized liberal notions of JFK as some sort of pacifist), he probably would've continued the *unconventional* covert war that he'd already started before his death.


message 19: by Christian (last edited Mar 29, 2014 04:38AM) (new)

Christian Orr Argh, sorry for the typos, folks, where's the bloody "Edit" button when you need it!?!?


Jeffrey Keeten Christian wrote: ""There are piles of documentation showing that Kennedy had no intention of escalating the war in Vietnam. As he proved with The Cuban Missile Crisis, he was a man that understood the bluff without ..."

I have never heard a liberal or anyone even the GOP ever refer to JFK as a pacifist. I'm not sure where you are getting that information. I've never read it anywhere either.

I just finished a book recently called Lessons in Disaster about McGeorge Bundy here is the link: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...
Bundy says that it would have been extremely difficult to get Kennedy to escalate that war. He worked for both men and it was interesting to see his view of both presidents. Yes Kennedy sent advisers which seems to be the whole hanging chad that his detractors use to assume that he would have escalated the war. Maybe he would have, but I haven't read anything by reliable sources that would convince me he would.

I'm not sure how creating the Green Berets and the Navy Seals makes Kennedy a warmonger. We needed specialized trained soldiers for a changing world. Maybe the problem here is that you based your comments off assuming that I thought Kennedy was a pacifist.

I thought he was brilliant during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He certainly wasn't a pacifist there.


message 17: by Christian (new)

Christian Orr Fair enough. Okay, you're not calling JFK a "pacifist," but nor am I calling Jack Kennedy a "warmonger" either. I supposed I could've worded it better, to make the point that had he lived to see a second term, he wouldn't necessarily have had a totally hands-off policy toward Vietnam as far as U.S. military involvement was concerned.

You mention McGeorge Bundy; as you no doubt already know, Robert McNamara also worked for both JFK and LBJ, which further adds to my belief that he still would've kept some sort of military presence there; in his autobiography "First Seal," Lieutenant Commander Roy Henry Boehm (USN, Ret.) speculates that Kennedy would've likely done a better job than Johnson of fighting the Vietnam War, by keeping it as a SpecOps War instead of the "conventional" warfare route that LBJ embarked on.
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43...

Of course, needless to say, it's all speculation and an academic discussion of "What if....?" postulations on all our parts here.


Nathaniel Karr It was published on my birthday


René I just finished this book and I loved it. I am a huge Kennedy fan (partly because I was conceived 11/23/63... I guess a comforting each other gone wrong leading to almost being put up for adoption by bio Mom, adopted by new Dad...etc so it was a plot point in my life story that has always intrigued me) and I enjoy a well-told alternate reality story. I keep thinking about the fact that in the Kennedy not killed story line, civil rights was set back. I am still trying to figure out why. My only thought is that Johnson was in part the impetus for civil rights marches and the push to keep it moving forward. While theoretically with JFK, it was a little better so there was less of a fight. This sounds less plausible when I see it in print. Anyway, I know your review is from 2012 but I always respect your viewpoint. I thought I'd see what your understanding is about this. Thanks!


Jeffrey Keeten René wrote: "I just finished this book and I loved it. I am a huge Kennedy fan (partly because I was conceived 11/23/63... I guess a comforting each other gone wrong leading to almost being put up for adoption..."

President Johnson is a complicated man. It would be so easy if one were to just listen to his rhetoric to categorize him as a racist and a sexist, typical of most white males of his era, but what it really comes down to is that Johnson was an ambitious man coming up through the political swamp of a Southern state. I think he was who he had to be to get elected. Once he assumed the presidency with the country and both political parties still reeling from the death of Kennedy he was able to push through legislation that smashed Jim Crow. Ending twenty years of Johnson voting down every piece of Civil Rights legislation that come up. He was who he needed to be to gain power, but then once he had it he revealed his true feelings about where he felt America needed to be to be The Great Society. Johnson initiating and passing civil rights legislation lost the South for the Democratic party. Still to this day the South continues to vote Republican.

If Kennedy had not been assassinated chances are that Lyndon Johnson would never have been president of the United States and civil rights might have taken much longer to be fully realized.

I've never really liked Johnson, but I'm constantly having to reassess him. I need to read the brilliant Caro biographies of him.

Kennedy gave that great speech in June of 1963 that set off a powder keg in the South. The Kennedy brothers were alarmed at the reactions of black people across the South that showed the impatience (understandably) they had to achieve equal rights. I think Kennedy wanted a more gradual series of changes partly for political reasons. The South after all had been a major player in electing him President and he had another election looming in front of him. Johnson was placed on the ticket to reassure the South and also to for sure swing Texas for Kennedy. Kennedy had the narrowest of margins to win in 1960. He certainly didn't feel comfortable losing any friends in the South. In a second term Kennedy could become more aggressive about initiating social changes. I don't know if I completely buy King's scenario, but it isn't implausible. It certainly gave me pause and gave me much to consider.


message 13: by Paul (new)

Paul V. If you research the JFK assassination, you'll find that Oswald had nothing to do with it and was, in fact, the patsy that he claimed to be.


Jeffrey Keeten Paul wrote: "If you research the JFK assassination, you'll find that Oswald had nothing to do with it and was, in fact, the patsy that he claimed to be."

There are some interesting theories out there regarding that thought. I haven't completely embraced it yet but there are certainly some compelling evidence that would indicate that Oswald very well may have been working for the CIA the whole time even when he was in Russia. It is so frustrating that Ruby killed the one person that could have connected all the pieces.


René Thanks Jeffrey for that thoughtful answer. I have been watching many documentaries on JFK and the sixties. I just wasn't sure what King was proposing with that scenario regarding civil rights. Your answer was very helpful.


message 10: by Hanneke (last edited Mar 30, 2015 06:47AM) (new)

Hanneke Very nice review, Jeffrey. I am considering reading this book. Did you ever read Norman Mailer's book on Oswald? Pretty interesting. It is a new journalism sort of book. Describing Oswald's life in the Sowjet Union and later on his return to the States. Oswald must have been a strange sort of guy. Anyway, it is a while ago that I read the book, but I recall that Norman Mailer was very vague about it whether he thought Oswald shot JFK. I think you might like to read it.


Jeffrey Keeten Hanneke wrote: "Very nice review, Jeffrey. I am considering reading this book. Did you ever read Norman Mailer's book on Osvald? Pretty interesting. It is a new journalism sort of book. Describing Osvald's life in..."

I haven't read the Mailer, but have thought about it. I also have Libra that I hear is really good as well. Oswald was certainly a strange duck. Thanks Hanneke!


cameron Some of these comments seem so odd. This is a STEPHEN KING novel. It has little to do with specific politics or conspiracy theories or LBJ. Instead it is a fast and outstanding read (and I don't like a lot of Stephen King).
It's about fate and destiny and control. It's about timing and changing reality and the course of history and the ripple effects if that were actually possible. It's creepy and chilling but no monsters or crazy cars.
Lighten up and enjoy.


Jeffrey Keeten cameron wrote: "Some of these comments seem so odd. This is a STEPHEN KING novel. It has little to do with specific politics or conspiracy theories or LBJ. Instead it is a fast and outstanding read (and I don't li..."

If I get any lighter I'll float away. Cameron I was just trying to answer a few questions regarding the politics that could support King's assertion that if Kennedy had lived...maybe...civil rights would have been put off longer. Conspiracy theories are always interesting to float around as well. Last I knew I had the right and the ability to decide if I want to read a STEPHEN KING novel and think about some deeper implications to what he suggests. Thanks for the dash of cold water I guess I was getting CRAZY!


message 6: by Sarah (new) - added it

Sarah Great review for an awesome book. I was a little disappointed in the ending though, because like you I think the world would have been a better place with JFK. It was surprising from him too, everything I've heard about him says he's a liberal democrat. Maybe that's why he ended it like that. Either way, great review. Loved this book, it was my first Stephen King and wasn't my last.


Jeffrey Keeten Sarah wrote: "Great review for an awesome book. I was a little disappointed in the ending though, because like you I think the world would have been a better place with JFK. It was surprising from him too, every..."

He may have been making the point that things don't always work out the way we expect them to. Also sometimes things happen for a reason. It is sort of terrifying to think of anyone especially a government achieving the ability to go back in time. Thanks Sarah! This is the best SK I've read in a long, long time.


message 4: by Gail Reda (new)

Gail Reda I agree it had been a very moving story from first page to last. I give it 5 stars easily.


Louie I think for the sake of the story, King had to go with Oswald as the lone assassin because chasing after multiple gunmen would have made for a rather confusing book, especially if all the timelines of the individuals would be changed. There would be too many factors to put into a story. Besides, this is a work of fiction. Most of us have accepted that LHO couldn't have acted alone, or even if he was the real LHO.


Jeffrey Keeten Louie wrote: "I think for the sake of the story, King had to go with Oswald as the lone assassin because chasing after multiple gunmen would have made for a rather confusing book, especially if all the timelines..."

I agree Louie. It certainly kept the plot on course besides he had other fish to fry.


message 1: by Christian (new)

Christian Orr Louie wrote: "I think for the sake of the story, King had to go with Oswald as the lone assassin because chasing after multiple gunmen would have made for a rather confusing book, especially if all the timelines..."

Yeah, the Oswald lone gunman angle helps keep things simple, as was the case with Stanley Shapiro's "A Time to Remember" back in 1987.


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