Libra Background

Libra Background

Libra is a 1988 work of speculative fiction by Don DeLillo which tells the story of the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The work began as a piece of straightforward non-fiction by DeLillo published five years earlier in Rolling Stone magazine. DeLillo actually grew up in the same Bronx neighborhood as Lee Harvey Oswald without ever actually meeting and his novel presents a biographical history of Oswald as well as introducing several prominent figures that keep popping up in the various and increasingly ridiculous conspiracy theories that continually ignore the most obvious explanation.

Libra was a finalist for the National Book Award and a main selection for the Book-of-the-Month Club. After nine novels in a critically distinguished career, Libra also became the first book to land DeLillo on the New York Times bestseller list. The novel is structured as a dual narrative. In addition to the mainly non-fictional historical re-invention of Oswald’s biography, intervening chapters are presented as an investigation and analysis by retired CIA agent Nicholas Branch of the massive amount of information collected on those various conspiracy theories that surround the investigation and serve mainly to darken the murkier waters of doubt and unanswered questions that obstruct so many from realizing that all roads eventually lead to Oswald, his rifle and the Texas Schoolbook Depository.

DeLillo himself neither sets out nor arrives as a final answer as to the question of whether or not a conspiracy existed to kill JFK. Nevertheless, the fact that so much of his book inexorably aligns with the official conclusion of the Warren Reporter makes Libra just one addition to the mountain of evidence pointing to that conclusion as ultimately the most likely sequence of events as well as remaining the only one not subject to having been dismantled by the evidence.

Although Libra has been in development as a motion picture practically since being published, an adaptation has yet to actually go into production. Jonathan Demme had originally signed on to direct a film version, but that production was allegedly thwarted by Oliver Stone at the time he was making his film JFK. In the wake of the release of that film, actor John Malkovich was reportedly ready to make his directorial debut with an adaptation of DeLillo’s novel, but that, too, was scuttled. Several attempts since then have been mounted to bring the book to screen, but as of 2017 all had collapsed at some point before principal photography could begin.

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