Yesterday I went to the library, and I emerged into the bright winter sunshine clutching four Clarice Lispectors and a Gertrude Himmelfarb. If we consider only the writers’ names, it was one of my most spectacularly gratifying borrowings. I have not yet begun to read any of the books, but when I do I shall be sure to share with you lot anything startling I come across.
The reason they must remain set aside for the time being is that I am immersed in my current reading. Like a mad person, I am deep into Reclaiming History : The Assassination Of President John F. Kennedy by Vincent Bugliosi. This majestic if preposterous tome weighs in at over 1,600 pages and comes freighted with a CD-ROM containing the equivalent of a further 1,000 pages of notes. Bugliosi’s aim is to prove conclusively that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, and that the multiplicity of conspiracy theories are a disservice to history. To achieve this, the magnificently grumpy prosecutor hammers away at every last detail of “what did happen” and tears to shreds every ditzy bit of fanciful doo-dah of “what did not happen”. In theory, of course, the book, published in 2007 after over twenty years’ work, would be the final word on the subject. But Bugliosi knows that in spite of his mightiest efforts, the nutcases will not be silenced. As he writes (page 444):
unfortunately we know that the notion of a conspiracy in the Kennedy assassination will be alive and well for centuries to come. I suppose it is a given that there will be [others] who will breast-feed the conspiracy loonies for generations to come with their special lactations of bilge, blather, and bunk.
I have been obsessively interested in the assassination since, as a ten-year-old, I borrowed from the library the JFK issue of a long-forgotten and never-since-seen series of historical works for children. These were not books, but pocket files crammed with information sheets, facsimiles of historical documents, and – in this case – a cardboard cut-out model of Dealey Plaza for assembly by the awestruck tot (me).
I can only conclude, with Thomas Mallon, that I may not be “of the Grassy Knoll”, but I am most certainly on it.