Author Topic: Oswald's Tale/Libra  (Read 2015 times)

Oswald's Tale/Libra
« on: August 17, 2020, 08:39:07 PM »
Read Harlot's Ghost recently and, going against the general opinion, really enjoyed it.  I knew beforehand it ended with 'To be continued', but even so I assumed that such a huge novel would pretty much be a complete work in its own right.  Nope: the story stops halfway through, and we're never going to know the rest.

So I was left hungry for some more Mailer/CIA type stuff and his book about Lee Harvey Oswald seems to fit the bill.  I've also bought Don diLillo's Libra, another book about LHO.  Anyone here read both?  Which should I go with first?

Re: Oswald's Tale/Libra
« Reply #1 on: August 20, 2020, 10:17:20 PM »
Well, I decided to start with the DeLillo.  I'm about 80 pages in.  His writing is sometimes vivid but often effortful.  He puts me in mind of Roger Ebert's observation that the mark of a nearly great writer is that the reader is always aware of the author's hard work.

The edition I'm reading is part of a series called Penguin Essentials.  On the very first page, as is usual, is a short biography of the author.

Don DeLillo was born and raised in New York City.  He has written fifteen novels and three stage plays and has won many honours including the National Book Award for White Noise, the International Fiction Prize for Libra, the PEN/Faulkner award for fiction for Mao II, the Howells Medal for Underworld, the Jerusalem Prize and the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction.

OK, much as you'd expect.  But below that is another biography, this one for Hassan Rahim.  Who the hell is he?  Well, he designed the cover of the book for this edition.  His biography is twice as long as the one for DeLillo - he only wrote the book after all - and it is in equal parts jaw-dropping and hilarious. 

Hassan Rahim is an art director, artist and designer originally from California, now working out of New York.  His aesthetic deals in stark, esoteric imagery; it doesn't recoil from darkness.  Often as distinctive and boundary-troubling as he himself is, his work embodies far-flung but carefully steeped influences arranged into thrilling new harmonies.  His willingness to forge new aesthetics rooted in but not tied to his own perspective has won Rahim venerable status as a thought leader, specifically among young black artists interested in nuance and subculture.  As an autodidact, Rahim's work is all the more emboldening.  His example is part and parcel of a movement that is affecting art, music, fashion, and culture in profound ways.

It's as if Alan Partridge had decided to relocate to the US and conquer the art world.  Rahim must have written it himself, but who the hell signed off on this pompous, semi-literate spasm of self-aggrandizement?  Perhaps it was cut down and toned down from something even more insane.

Oh and the cover is actually quite good.  Here's a link, though my edition has better typography, so Rahim's work evidently didn't extend even to that.


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Re: Oswald's Tale/Libra
« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2020, 09:50:20 PM »
And he's modest too.

Re: Oswald's Tale/Libra
« Reply #3 on: February 17, 2021, 07:58:37 PM »
Several months on - I can only take so much Oswald - and I've started on the Mailer.  I'm halfway in, and it is far superior to DeLillo's book as a reading experience.  It's reportage rather than a novel, and is based on interviews Mailer conducted himself.  The first half of the book is about Oswald's time in Russia and is full of riveting detail about what life there was like for ordinary people circa 1960.  Not just information about food, entertainment, etc, but the psychological experience of living in that society.  Mailer does go off on tangents - there is far too much speculation on Marina Oswald's sex life, and the very first chapter is a gripping but thoroughly irrelevant account of the wartime experiences of Marina's aunt - but it is a superb book.