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Libra

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  13,735 ratings  ·  811 reviews
From the author of White Noise (winner of the National Book Award) and Zero K

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
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Paperback, 480 pages
Published May 1st 1991 by Penguin (first published 1988)
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Average rating 3.99  · 
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 ·  13,735 ratings  ·  811 reviews


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Paul Bryant
Oct 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
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Michael Finocchiaro
This book of DeLillo was a brilliant dive into the background of Kennedy's presumed assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald (with a cameo of his killer Jack Ruby). It is well-written and well-paced and a great read. I would put it on the level with Mao II and White Noise but below Underworld. So an essential DeLillo as long as you have UW under your belt already.
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
Agnieszka
Jun 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-a-copy, 2013, reviewed

One can read Libra as a political thriller or a voice in the discussion about who actually stood behind one of the most notorious political assassinations of the twentieth century. Shots in Dallas proved that this an event can not be easily interpreted, it melts in the mist of conjectures and hypotheses and still is a breeding ground for more and more daring conspiracy theories. (I’m not a huge fan of conspiracy theories, neither in books nor in real life. In fact we, in Poland, have enough th
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Megha
Apr 14, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews

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
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Håkon
Jul 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Rating:78/100

As the young Lee Harvey Oswald was speeding through the underground railways of New York, my plane-ride was speeding down the line and leaping off the ground, with its final destination being the beautiful city of Wroclaw, Poland. Both of these acts happening simultaneously, reflected the enormous speeding forces of history that I was about to witness in this novel, moving toward its endpoint. It would of course be much more poetic if the plane also landed at the same time as this n
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Ian "Marvin" Graye
I Believe All That I Read Now

"I believe all that I read now
Night has come off the corners
Shadows flicker sweet and tame
Dancing like crazy mourners."


Howard Devoto, "Motorcade"

Plots That Move Toward Death

"Libra" has one of those plots that, in the words of Don DeLillo himself (from “White Noise"), “tends to move deathwards”.

Here, DeLillo repeats and elaborates on his aphorism:

“Plots carry their own logic. There is a tendency of plots to move toward death. He believed that the idea of death i
...more
Perry
Jan 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
" There's always more to it. This is what history consists of. It is the sum total of things they aren't telling us. "

The novel is a tragic, speculative account of the people, places and things leading to the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy. Delillo uses many of the actual words of Oswald and his mom Marguerite, as well as numerous documented facts surrounding the life and times of Lee Harvey Oswald, so that I had difficulty discerning where the public records stop and the fict
...more
Sean Blake
Aug 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, fiction
“Facts are lonely things.”

American history is profoundly dark in its timeline. From the slaughtering and near genocidal extermination of the Native Americans to the 9/11 attacks, American history presents itself as an almost constant struggle for survival. History has not been so kind when it comes to America. Inevitably, and understandably, it is so very interesting, and the American people are also equally interesting. Their history is internationally relatable due to the ancestral voyages
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Lee Klein
Sep 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Sentimental Surrealist
This fucking book, man, it just leaves me at a complete loss for words. I've heard people discredit the terrific work DeLillo did to make Oswald a compelling and complex character - maybe DeLillo's most compelling and most complex character - because Don was working with a real person and therefore had plenty of raw material to go with, but I insist that it takes just as much talent to sculpt what is known of Oswald (his upbringing, his politics, his time in the war) into a real and weirdly rela ...more
SAM
Sep 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first foray into the JFK Assassination was the superb Oliver Stone film. I watched it without any prior knowledge of the conspiracy and became fascinated. After this i read Plausible Denial by Mark Lane, which at the time i was in awe of but i’ve since realised is probably a bit fanatical. Plus Mark Lane went way down in my opinion since i’ve read of his involvement in Jonestown.

Libra is a speculative fiction/non-fiction novel that follows Lee Harvey Oswald during his short life from his scho
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Brian Michels
Apr 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
So, I like to read, and I want to fancy myself as a writer. After finishing Don DeLillo's Libra, I can honestly say that I am still a reader. If anything has changed in that department, maybe, I'd say I'm now a flabbergasted reader. As far as me being a writer, this here book has certainly made me question that, at least as far as whether I am a great writer or not. Don DeLillo certainly is an excellent writer. His book is a weird and suspenseful folding of fiction and reality surrounding the Ke ...more
Ned
Aug 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
There are a number of reasons I chose this one to occupy a couple of weeks of reading time in my life. First, I wanted an introduction to DeLillo since I understand he can be difficult to read, yet I wanted to be entertained. The subject matter is near and dear to my heart, as the Kennedy assassination spawned perhaps the greatest assortment of conspiracy theories in our nation’s history. Most of the story occurred during the period of history in which I was born (1960) and marks and colors a su ...more
Jack
Dec 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Part fact, part fiction, 100% mesmerizing, Libra is the place where the political thriller and slightly "trippy" literary fiction intersect. No spoilers here, but I will confirm that the book is indeed DeLillo's rendering of the JFK assassination.

An amazing novel...absolutely recommended to one and all.
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
Marc
Nov 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Somewhere along the line I got this notion in my head that DeLillo wasn't for me. I have no idea how that got lodged in my head, but it could not be more wrong. This is only my second of his works (after being quite delighted with White Noise), but between his subject matter (the American zeitgeist) and his writing style (dark, funny, smart, biting, while somehow being lyrical), I think I might be hooked. Some of his passages are simply enjoyable on their own:
The faintly musty smell, the coolnes
...more
AC
Dec 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
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Vit Babenco
Apr 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Dead president's corpse in the driver's car. The engine runs on glue and tar…
“Let’s devote our lives to understanding this moment, separating the elements of each crowded second. We will build theories that gleam like jade idols, intriguing systems of assumption, four-faced, graceful. We will follow the bullet trajectories backwards to the lives that occupy the shadows, actual men who moan in their dreams.”
There is a system and there are those who serve it. There are cats and there are cat’s paw
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kaelan
May 29, 2015 rated it liked it
Preamble.

A few days after finishing Libra, I went out for drinks with a good friend/DeLillo-aficionado and naturally a heated discussion ensued. What follows is largely the result of this conversation.

Review.

In her (or his) first-ever interview, the artist generally known as "Elena Ferrante" attempted to articulate the literary relationship between truth and style:
Literary truth is not the truth of the biographer or the reports, it's not a police report or a sentence handed down by a court. It's
...more
Goatboy
Jul 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Felt like I tore through this with the inability to put it down for more than a few minutes before wanting to get back to it. An engaging re-telling of a well worn tale, located somewhere between Ellroy's American Tabloid and Pynchon's Crying of Lot 49. Like bubble gum with vitamins and antioxidants; healthy but with a whopping good time attached. Riding along on narrative momentum with occasional rest stops of brilliant social analysis.

Libra was on my "to read" list for a long time.
So happy t
...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
Justin Evans
Nov 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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
  LunaBel
The facet DeLillo investigates in this historical crime (the murder of President Kennedy) is the power of plot. Lee Oswald did not work alone. There is a whole facet of the crime that keeps jabbing at the ‘lonesome’ aspect of the murder. Lee did not work alone. He is one piece of the puzzle which was shut down to paralyze investigation.
This novel does not only concentrate on the crime. We are introduced to his family, to the CIA, to Lee’s mistakes and to twists of all sorts. DeLillo wants the r
...more
Dax
Dec 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 4-stars, fiction
The best Delillo work I have read to date (White Noise, Zero K). Conspiracy theories are fun, but the JFK assasination is in a league of its own and Delillo brings it to life beautifully.

In his other novels I have noticed that Delillo spends an unusual amount of time inside his characters’ minds, and this is again the case in Libra. This approach might not work for most writers, but it is Dellilo’s calling card and I love it. Nobody can pry open the mind of his characters quite like Delillo. I f
...more
Cbj
Dec 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Libra is a conspiratorial thriller in which Lee Harvey Oswald is hired by a bunch of ex-CIA spooks with business interests in Cuba to botch up the Kennedy assassination. They hope that the assassination attempt would lead to the US declaring war on Cuba. It is not just any ordinary spy thriller. It is a thriller by a great writer who has interesting views on technology and media and their impact on human nature. I was constantly thinking about Norman Mailer's Harlot's Ghost while reading Libra. ...more
Bam cooks the books ;-)
Excellent! This is the second of Don DeLillo's books I have read and he is quickly becoming a favorite author of mine. LIBRA is an intriguing fictional imagining of how a conspiracy might have been behind the assassination of President John F. Kennedy--"the seven seconds that broke the back of the American century." Richly-detailed chapters alternate between telling the story of Oswald's life while we watch the assassination plot being formed by disgruntled CIA agents and exiled Cubans, angry ab ...more
qtasha
Most people don't like playing with known history facts but its done with so such skill, the getting into Oswald head his serious nature, but living in a fantasy world with his limited skills a Russian wife with the American dream that he can't provide for his leftist political ideals. in spite of the murdering of the president of the united states you get the feeling this guy can't get a break he's like beaten dog. The other character who may or may not be a real person or based on a real perso ...more
Neil
Jan 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Think of two parallel lines," he said. "One is the life of Lee H. Oswald. One is the conspiracy to kill the President. What bridges the space between them? What makes a connection inevitable? There is a third line. It comes out of dreams, visions, intuitions, prayers, out of the deepest levels of the self. It is not generated by cause and effect like the other two lines. It is a line that cuts across causality, cuts across time. It has no history that we can recognize or understand. But it forc ...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

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“Facts are lonely things” 83 likes
“Some nights I need to be held. Tonight I'm a listener. So nice to lie in rumpled sheets and listen. Cover me with words.” 30 likes
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