Oswald's Tale An American Mystery

Oswald's Tale An American Mystery[PDF / Epub] ☆ Oswald's Tale An American Mystery By Norman Mailer – Oaklandjobs.co.uk In perhaps his most important literary feat Norman Mailer fashions an unprecedented portrait of one of the great villains—and enigmas—in United States history Here is Lee Harvey Oswald—his famil An American ePUB ☆ In perhaps his most important literary feat Norman Mailer fashions an unprecedented portrait of one of the great villains—and enigmas—in United States history Here is Lee Harvey Oswald's Tale Kindle - Oswald—his family background troubled marriage controversial journey to Russia and return to an “America waiting for him like an angry relative whose eyes glare in the heat” Based Tale An American ePUB ☆ on KGB and FBI transcripts government reports letters and diaries and Mailer’s own international research this is an epic account of a man whose cunning duplicity and self invention were both at home in and at odds with the country he forever altered  Praise for Oswald’s Tale   “America’s largest mystery has found its greatest interpreter”— The Washington Post Book World   “Mailer is fierce courageous and reckless and nearly everything he writes has sections of headlong brilliance From the American master conjurer of dark and swirling purpose a moving reflection”—Robert Stone The New York Review of books   “A narrative of tremendous energy and panache; the author at the top of his form”—Christopher Hitchens Financial Times   “The performance of an author relishing the force and reach of his own acuity”—Martin Amis The Sunday Times London   Praise for Norman Mailer  “Norman Mailer loomed over American letters longer and larger than any other writer of his generation”— The New York Times   “A writer of the greatest and most reckless talent”— The New Yorker   “Mailer is indispensable an American treasure”— The Washington Post   “A devastatingly alive and original creative mind”— Life   “Mailer is fierce courageous and reckless and nearly everything he writes has sections of headlong brilliance”— The New York Review of books   “The largest mind and imagination in modern American literature Unlike just about every American writer since Henry James Mailer has managed to grow and become richer in wisdom with each new book”— Chicago Tribune   “Mailer is a master of his craft His language carries you through the story like a leaf on a stream”— The Cincinnati Post. “Did Oswald do it? If one’s answer is to come out of anything larger than an opinion it is necessary to contend with uestions of evidence In that direction however one encounters a jungle of conflicting expert estimates as to whether Oswald could fire the shots in time was a good enough marksman was the only gunman in Dealey Plaza and on one can go trying to explore every last reach of possibility only to encounter a disheartening truth Evidence by itself will never provide the answer to a mystery For it is in the nature of evidence to produce sooner or later a counterinterpretation to itself in the form of a contending expert in a court of law It will be obvious to the reader that one does not and should not respect evidence with the religious intensity that others bring to it” Norman Mailer Oswald’s Tale An American MysteryThere’s an old saying the shortest distance between two points is a line; the longest distance between two points is Norman Mailer Okay I made that saying up But I stand by the truth Norman Mailer does not do things the easy way He does them the Norman Mailer way Case in point when you open up the cover to Oswald’s Tale Mailer’s nearly 800 page deep dive into the tangled lives of Lee Harvey Oswald you are greeted by these lines “When Valya was three years old she fell on a hot stove and burned her face” Who is Valya? Well eventually after about seventeen pages – spent learning about her upbringing her loves her life – we discover that she is the aunt of Marina Nikolayevna Prusakova the woman we now recognize as Marina Oswald It is pretty extensive background for a minor character in the casting call of Oswald’s life Not long afterwards Valya pretty much disappears from the story and is seldom heard from again That is Oswald’s Tale in a nutshell It is not a book that takes a lot of diversions and digressions; rather the meandering diversions and digressions are central to the book’s structure It is actually how Oswald’s Tale is constructed This is an absolute marvel I mean that Oswald's Tale is a frustrating exasperating compelling mesmerizing reading experience It defies easy description So what kind of book is it? It’s hard to explain so I’ll let Mailer explain it himself even though Capote already beat him to this particular punch Let me propose then that a mystery of the immense dimensions of Oswald’s case will in the writing create a form of its own somewhere between fiction and non fiction Technically this book fits into the latter category – it is most certainly not fiction The author did his best to make up no dialogue himself and attribute no private motives to his real characters unless he was careful to label all such as speculation Still it is a peculiar form of non fiction since not only interviews documents newspaper accounts intelligence files recorded dialogues and letters are employed but speculations as well The author’s musings become some of the operative instrumentsThe result can be seen therefore as a special species of non fiction that can be put under the rubric of mystery That is because all means of inuiry have to be available when one is steering one’s way through a cloud There is a lot of unpack in that description a lot of pomposity to wade through The most interesting thing about that passage though is that Mailer delivers it roughly 350 pages into his narrative That’s what I mean about structure It’s as though Mailer wrote his entire book and then threw it in the air allowing the currents of the wind to do his editing Mailer starts in Russia with his long introduction to Valya finally pivoting to the arrival of the young American Lee Harvey Oswald a former Marine intent on giving up his American citizenship The research here is enormous Mailer and his investigators appear to have talked to everyone who ever came across Oswald’s path Instead of simply relating what they had to say – which is what a normal author would do in a normal book – Mailer provides thumbnail sketches of each one of these participants They all get the Valya treatment so that long before you know the simplest thing about Oswald – such as his date of birth – you have learned about dozens of Soviets The portrait of Oswald that emerges from this techniue is vague and pointillist Indeed it stresses one’s patience and the only thing that kept me going was the fascinating picture of Soviet life that it formed In due course Mailer starts to tighten his narrative grip He hones in on Marina and Lee’s troubled marriage making extensive use of Soviet wiretaps to give us a long glimpse at the sheer domestic drudgery of their marital existence If nothing else Mailer proves without having to underline the point that Oswald did not work for Soviet intelligence because they had enough intelligence to steer clear of the man whose only real ability was his absolute inability to understand his limitations At the midpoint Mailer does his transition thing partly excerpted above where he talks about how his creation is sui generis and meditates upon the search for truth As an aside this uest for verity includes Mailer uoting from his CIA novel Harlot’s Ghost I have nothing but respect for an author with the temerity to uote from his own awful fiction in a book purporting to define reality It is only after this point that we circle back entirely to learn about Lee Oswald’s early life It is in these pages that we meet Oswald’s mother Marguerite an incredible character who manages to stand out even in a crowded field of colorful egotistical slightly off balance self myth makers She is a good example of one of the major strengths of Oswald's Tale Mailer's fine eye for people He has a real sensitivity for the complexities of humanity which he took too far in glorifying the two bit killer Gary Gil in The Executioner's Song and he clearly enjoys this haughty conceited woman who went to her grave fiercely believing that the world owed her much than she ever received As he warned Mailer uses a great deal of speculation though he does a good job of making you aware of that This is especially true during Oswald’s Marine Corps time when he continually accuses Oswald of being a spy while following every accusation with an admission that there is no evidence Along with guesswork Mailer utilizes wiretap transcriptions book excerpts especially Priscilla MacMillan’s Marina and Lee and testimony from the Warren Commission which he criticizes constantly while uoting from liberally This is not a book directed at conspiracy buffs Mailer does not run down every single theory Indeed I don’t even recall him mentioning the grassy knoll He follows Oswald after all and Oswald was in the Texas School Book Depository what he was doing there is an ongoing debate Discussions about possible conspiracies involving others are beyond the ken of Oswald’s Tale The only time Mailer gets into the weeds of doubt to hint that it took than Oswald to kill John Kennedy is during the chapter on Jack Ruby Unfortunately any attempts to link Ruby to Oswald and Oswald to a broader conspiracy fail at the same stress point What conspiracy would use a bum such as Oswald as an assassin and then use a bigger bum like Ruby to tie off loose ends? This is a rhetorical uestion I don’t actually want to debate this on the internet Ultimately though Mailer grudgingly accepts a couple things First that Oswald was the killer Second that he killed alone He has to come to this conclusion After all at the end of all his interviews his digging all his sniffing the ground like a bloodhound that’s where the evidence – even if Mailer does not necessarily trust evidence – leads The did he or didn't he debate however is not really the point of Oswald’s Tale This may be a mystery but solving the mystery does not rate high on Mailer’s list of priorities Or maybe I’m focusing on the wrong mystery Because the thing that interests Mailer that animates him on this epic sleuthing expedition is to understand this man this Oswald with his scrawny body and smug face his modest abilities but enormous ambitions his confused political philosophy and inscrutable aims The match between author and subject between Mailer and Oswald is uncannily perfect Both have towering senses of self worth both aimed extremely high both – unfortunately in the case of Oswald – hit their mark Oswald’s Tale is a remarkable work a demi classic where Mailer’s artistic achievement nearly attains the same height as his literary ego This book grabbed me right from the start Where does it start? Russia and Belorussia precisely Leningrad and Minsk We learn first about Lee Harvey Oswald’s wife’s aunt with whom Oswald’s future wife comes to live Then it zooms in on Marina she who will become his wife He marries her on April 30 1961 during his two and a half year’s stay in the USSR I mention this because the book does not state until much later who these people are and how they come to be related to Oswald I think this is helpful to know All the time we are learning about him and about her This part reads as narrative non fiction but is solidly based on fact The book’s central topic is of course Lee Harvey Oswald Yet it also gives an excellent depiction of life in the Soviet Union during the 50s and the early 60s It is worthwhile to read just for this This part is thoroughly engaging It is chockfull of details and people Here is what is known so now what shall we make of it? kind of writing Writing that pushes you to think and draw your own conclusionsOnce into volume two Mailer begins to insert his views The setting has shifted from the USSR to America We shift our gaze from Oswald’s wife her family and their friends to Oswald’s own mother and brothers and earlier acuaintances We look at his experiences in the Marine Corps trained in the US and later stationed in Japan Then we shift to the period between June 1962 when Oswald departed from Minsk with wife and daughter through to November 1963 and the assassination of Kennedy Lee Harvey Oswald’s subseuent assassination by Jack Ruby two days later follows Much has been written on Oswald Kennedy and Ruby The book presents a thorough review of what is known and what has been speculated KGB and FBI transcripts recorded dialogues from Oswald’s bugged apartment excerpts from Oswald's letters from the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee on Assassination are sited Sections from Priscilla Johnson McMillan’s Marina and Lee Case Closed Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK by Gerald Posner ad other books are directly uoted A multitude of known facts are presented Strengths and weaknesses of viable speculations are presented weighed and discussed Conspiracy theories Haitian and Cuban international affairs and mob involvement are covered in uite great depth I did not understand everything but I learned a lot That Oswald was the assassin seems pretty clear to me You do not get definitive answers on whether Oswald worked alone or in conjunction with others nor why he targeted Kennedy I don’t think you can expect than what has been deliveredChristopher Lane does a fantastic job with the narration of the audiobook; his narration I have given a full five stars Perfect speed perfect everything He captures each person’s voice wonderfully but at the same time he doesn’t insert himself into the tale His performance is excellent because you do not even notice he is there Oswald's Tale An American Mystery 4 starsMarilyn 3 starsThe Naked and the Dead TBR First a bit of on the ground reporting from someone who has admittedly never touched a loaded firearm There I was in August 2016 on a warm clear day that would later turn to Biblical rain as tends to happen in the south in summer From the spot where Zapruder had stood I watched a guy wait for the light to turn then jog out to one of the Xs so his friend could take a picture; cars were already turning left from N Houston and slowed down as the tourist sprinted back to the sidewalk You're gonna be the second person who died here his friend calledSomeone has written on the fence above the grassy knoll Bill Hicks was right about everything and on the sixth floor of the former book depository now museum the glassed in window is still as Hicks described They have it set up to look exactly like it did on that day; and it's really accurate you know because Oswald's not in it I'm talking painstaking detailIt’s true that you can’t get to the window but you can look out the adjacent one and try to gauge the distance for yourself for whatever that’s worth As I did I remembered a detail that had impressed me in Oliver Stone’s  JFK; that if Oswald had been the shooter it would have made a lot sense for him to shoot Kennedy when the motorcade was on N Houston a straight shot The idea impressed me just a little less while standing at the window only because I was able to see that the distance the motorcade would have traveled on N Houston is extremely short As I watched the street there couldn't have been than five seconds between the time any slow moving car turned right on N Houston from Main Street and then left on Elm It's hard to imagine that even someone ready and waiting would have had time to take aim and fire Also as Mailer writes It is a direct head on shot with the target growing steadily in sizeon the other hand trained professionals are staring at the Book Depository windows from the lead car in the motorcade and police on motorcycles are scouring the building with their eyes A sniper’s instinct would probably pull him back into relative darkness But Mailer begins about four years earlier with Oswald's arrival in the USSR in October 1959 which has the effect of encouraging readers to temporarily forget what we know or think we know about Oswald and to see him as the Soviets must have inexplicable And then we remember that he is inexplicable that the ambiguities of his life have never really been resolved In the early 90s after the end of the Soviet Union Mailer traveled to both Moscow and Minsk to read declassified KGB documents and to interview people who had known Oswald 30 years earlier There are some interesting anecdotes here; a former co worker of Oswald’s for example remembers that they’d once gone rabbit hunting together; when a rabbit jumped out unexpectedly from a bush Oswald became startled and shot into the air missing the rabbit by a wide margin Bill Hicks might have found that interesting But then again as Mailer puts it later Why should we ascribe any consistency to a man with a gunthan we would expect from a professional basketball player whose accuracy often varies dramatically from night to night? When Oswald arrived in the USSR the KGB of course immediately suspected that he was an American agent Just imagine here was a former Marine radar operator who claimed to be a Marxist although he demonstrated only a superficial knowledge of Marxist Leninist Theory Upon being told that he would have to go back to the US Oswald slashed one of his wrists in a suicide attempt that the doctors who treated him later expressed skepticism about he only slashed one wrist and the wound wasn’t deep enough to be fatal; but his subseuent hospitalization coupled with the possibility that he was genuine led to his being allowed to stayunder heavy surveillance naturally KGB agents were pretty bewildered however; what kind of CIA man  was this after all? Did the Americans deliberately send over someone neurotic and unstable to see how we would react? There are plenty of memorable characters here I particularly enjoyed reading about the circumscribed lives of the KGB agents assigned to spend their days listening to Oswald and Marina's conversations trying to figure out if Oswald knew about Marxism than he was letting on or if perhaps he understood Russian better than he seemed to Later there are two consular officers at the Soviet embassy in Mexico City who could have starred in a Cold War sitcom They grow 'Mexican style moustaches' and drink in the local cantina; when Oswald shows up in distress with a loaded gun they're forced to miss their team's championship volleyball game against the local GRU officers But Oswald's life also had it ended differently could have made a good Cold War sitcom especially when he goes back to the US and the Americans as is only natural suspect that he’s been turned by the KGB; but why would they try to utilize such a clearly unstable person? What kind of KGB man  was this after all?What kind of man was this? Oswald owned all the properties that belong to a ghost Mailer writesambition deceit a sense of mission and the untold frustration of an abrupt death just as a long held dream of personal prominence is about to unfoldHis mother could have driven just about anyone to murder or at least to eastern Europe but in many ways he's pathetic He's a narcissist a burden to every person and agency he comes in contact with the officers' volleyball team even lost to the GRU and he physically abuses his wife Marina His political and ideological convictions seem to change on a dime but it's always got to be something; an absolute conviction a crusade As Eric Hoffer wrote of his archetypal true believer he is a homeless hitchhiker on the highways of the universe thumbing a ride on any eternal cause that drives by He cannot be convinced only converted He also seems to fit FBI profiler John Douglas's assassin personality the misfit whose alienation precedes any ideological conviction who assigns himself a mission out of desperation The most sympathetic person in the book has to be Marina who left her family friends and country to be with him Who could ever have imagined the infamy? What is left of what was once her beauty Mailer writes are her extraordinary eyes blue as diamonds and they blaze with light as if in divine compensation for the dead weight of all that will not cease to haunt her she has been granted a spark from the hour of an apocalypse others have not seenAnd 30 years after her husband slept through his alarm he almost always woke up before and turned it off so as not to disturb her and without telling her left his wedding ring in a cup on the dresser she can't let it go She wants to know Mailer’s opinion Did Lee do it? Oswald’s being an assassin personality and generally unstable is not mutually exclusive with the idea that someone or than one person tried to push him in the ‘right’ direction It's even possible that his erratic personality would have made him an appealing candidate Of all government bureaucracies Mailer writes the CIA probably bears the greatest resemblance to an organism that is its analogical stomach mind lungs and limbs while capable of communicating with each other often need to do so no than minimally large parts of the CIA function almost entirely out of communication with other large parts To assume that the CIA as a whole was interested in Oswald is to alienate oneself from understanding likely possibilities It is safer to assume that word of mouth concerning Oswaldmade him a figure of interest to particular enclaves of the Agency who by December of 1962 were no longer welcome in the Director’s office Mailer goes on to note that the Mafia and the CIA had together made an agreement to assassinate Castro “perhaps the most important and secret aspect” of what was called Operation Mongoose; Kennedy’s decision to cut back on Mongoose a byproduct of his agreement with Khrushchev following the Cuban Missile Crisis “opened a schism in the CIA Small groups of officers feeling betrayed by the President’s new policy began to function in concealed enclaves” Unlike the monolithic conspiracy posited by the Oliver Stone film Mailer suggests that it could have been a conspiracy hatched by a few members of one of these enclaves or even people who successfully convinced Oswald that he would be working in some official or semi official capacityBut towards the end of the book Mailer uotes from Oswald's notesI wonder what would happen if someone would stand up and say he was utterly opposed not only to the governments but to the people to the entire land and complete foundation of his societyAll the motivation for shooting Kennedy Mailer writes is in that sentence He said later in an interview that he thought Oswald “probably” did it a different uestion from whether he did it alone Why? It was the logic of his life This might not amount to much in a courtroom but I think I know what Mailer meant It seems to be true on one hand that Oswald expressed a degree of approval towards Kennedy at times It's also now fairly well established that earlier in the year 1963 Oswald attempted to shoot retired General Edwin Walker member of the John Birch Society staunch anti Communist and extremely rightwing who would seem to have been some distance away from Kennedy on the ideological spectrum But it may not have mattered Mailer tries to imagine Oswald's rationaleKennedy had the ability to give hope to the American ethosKennedy was not as American Presidents went a bad President; therefore he was too good The world was in crisis and the social need was to create conditions for recognizing that there had to be a new kind of societyBut even this contorted logic may have been justification for something that fell even shorter of great ideological or historical vision It is doubtful that Oswald wanted to debate such a uestion with himself Mailer continuesHe may well have possessed an instinct that told him he had to do something enormous and do it uickly do it for his own physical well being The murderer kills in order to cure himself which is why murder is properly repudiated It is the most selfish of acts With anger such as ours murder—most terrifying to say—could prove the cure for all the rest Norman MailerWe live in times when men are encouraged to get therapy so that they would not aspire to the toxic side of their masculinity I've seen guys on social media who said Salinger would never have written Catcher in the Rye if he had only taken an appointment with a therapist Norman Mailer had a fascination for men who could not contain themselves Men who surrendered to what was inside them That thing that was eating away at them If you're a man you know what I am talking about Devilish thoughts torment us from the time we wake up every morning Some asshole slighted you in the lift the previous day Some prick a better man at work cut in on the woman you like Men from another tribe ganged up and insulted you You cannot get any of this out of your head It is eating away at you You suspect if you don't do something about it there is no point in going on Mailer wrote a 1100 page tome about Gary Gil a murderous criminal who lived on pure instinct He wrote another big novel about Hitler Oswald's Tale well Mailer called it a mystery and it is But it is actually Mailer the pompous boring genius sadist ogling at the life of an ordinary man who could not contain himself An ordinary man who killed a better man an American president no less with a gun Oswald's Tale is not an entertaining book It is not Raging Bull I silently laugh when people say that Scorsese film is about the perils of toxic masculinity It is the most stylish temple for it But Mailer shows us the dreariness of it all It's really fucking boring Oswald must have died a thousand deaths as a poor kid his time in the marine corps defection to Russia and return to USA to do what he finally did There are no slow motions No great dialog Just a small nasty man who was an asshole to his Russian wife there is something exceptionally tragic about a couple in trouble like Oswald and Marina in this book and Gary and Nicole in The Executioner's Song A mediocrity who could not impress other men That man is there inside us all Oswald's Tale is a warning Mailer the great artist is blowing the fog horn for men who are approaching a rocky coastline Yes Mailer is fascinated by Oswald He is not unlike the sadistic public who wants to know every detail about Oswald But he is also an uncompromising artist It is not an entertaining thriller It is a grave eagerly researched and ultimately depressing book There is nothing else like it because there is only one Norman Mailer In this epic work Norman Mailer shows the complexity that is Lee Harvey Oswald and leaves the reader to determine Did he have the soul of a Killer? Mailer begins with Oswald’s trip to Russia and works backward through Oswald’s early family life then forward with through his return to the US with his Russian wife I took this book on a long flight next trip I’m digital so If I hadn’t been a captive audience I wouldn’t have finished it The early part is almost straight reporting covering in detail Oswald's Russian life previously covered in Marina and Lee The book gets a lot better and held my attention as it progressedThe text is comprised of excerpts from the reports of the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee on Assassination transcripts from the FBI and Russian intelligence services some are conversations from Oswald’s bugged apartment interviews by Mailer and Larry Schiller the work of Priscella McMillan Norman Posner and Edward Epstein and a few other sources Each is introduced with a pithy narrative using the “royal we” that sets the stage or interprets what is to come While Mailer does not give an opinion on whether Oswald did the deed he does have an opinion on its aftermath for the intelligence establishment a trial would be explosive since Mafia CIA FBI links would be revealed Mailer notes throughout that while the 26 volume Warren Commission Report which relied on FBI and CIA staff leaves too many loose ends it does provide a wealth of information on people and life in the US at this time There is important but spotty documentation of dates and activities but as Mailer notes time was spent investigating everyone on the public bus Oswald took to Mexico than Oswald’s pro and anti Castro associates in New OrleansThere is material I had not seen elsewhere For instance there are interviews of Oswald’s acuaintances in Minsk that Mailer and his associates had in the 1990’s showing how just knowing Oswald affected their lives and careers There is insight into the dilemma Oswald’s presence in Russia and his later “fame posed for the KGB Oswald’s stint in the Marines shows possible early on intelligence involvement in Japan While Mailer says too much is made of Oswald's dubious sexuality Mailer shows possible roots of it in the Marines The intent of the book is to assess the character of Oswald but you also get interpretive portraits of his mother Marguerite his “friend” George de Mohrenschildt Marina’s uncle and aunt in Minsk her friend Ruth Paine and of Jack Ruby The description of talk show host William Kirk Stuckey’s treatment of Oswald is one of the many short personality profiles that deliver wider perspectiveThe book badly needs an index On p 703 Allan Dulles seems to be uestioning Oswald while in custody in Dallas I flipped back but could find no context Maybe this was an editorial glitch and the uestions were from the Warren Commission a year later Dulles later appears at a small dinner party given by Jackie Kennedy’s mother and stepfather along with George de Mohrenschildt What it means for a daughter when her mother invites a known friend of her daughter’s husband'salleged assassin is not explored Dulles’s interest in keeping a lid on things would be apparent particularly to anyone who read The Brothers John Foster Dulles Allen Dulles Their Secret World WarI am not sure where this fits in the mountains of material on this topic It hardly makes a notice in material on Mailer and his body of work It is the Mailer voice with his Mailer take and while 20 years old the prose is not dated This book unites many primary sources with insightful commentary After the first 200 pages it kept me occupied on a long flight The problem with reviewing a book by Norman Mailer is that it is a little like reviewing The Bible in that most people have heard about it many people have strong opinions that they have shared and of course everyone has heard of the authorBut screw it here’s my two cents worthMailer has written a superb novel split into two parts; the first deals with Oswald’s time in Russia and is based on notes made available by the former KGB The second deals with the “American” Oswald exploring his childhood time in the military and the events leading up to the assassinationPart of my admiration for Mailer is the effortless way in which he can adopt completely different writing styles for each of his works In “Oswald’s Tale” he takes it a step further by writing the first part of the book with a hint of a Russian accent – not the slaughtered tone of a James Bond Villian mind you just enough that the reader is constantly aware of the location The second part is completely different in that Mailer becomes the story teller and refers to primary sources such as the findings of the Warren Commission While this doesn’t have the magic of the first part it provides an almost scholarly yet accessible overview of OswaldI suppose that there are sources where information can be found on the Kennedy Assassination likewise there are books that have tried to “explain” Oswald But this book seems to accept that Oswald cannot be explained with the paucity of information so readers wanting something definitive will be disappointedBut for me the book was magical – a narrative magnificently written by one of the most talented writers of the 20th Century exploring what is possibly the greatest mystery in American historyAnd that combination makes “Oswald’s Tale” a must read The Kennedy assassination was first rud during afternoon recess from Lincoln Junior High School It being Park Ridge Illinois a number of seventh graders took it as good news No one doubted the rumor I was asked by another kid who'd become president now and had to think for a moment before coming up with Lyndon B JohnsonAfter recess we were taken from class to the downstairs auditorium where we were addressed solemnly by Clifford Sweat our principal The teachers all appeared serious very serious probably worried about our sensitivities about how this important news ought be conveyed to a bunch of thirteen and fourteen year olds The snide remarks of the children of conservatives ceased We were sent homeThe next several days my family like many others was glued to the television hearing rumors coalesce into facts; watching Johnson sworn in on Airforce One with the bloodied widow beside him; seeing the putative assassin Lee Harvey Oswald himself assassinated by a former Chicago hood Jack Ruby while in Dallas police custody; witnessing the world historical funeral procession in Washington the burial in Arlington The weeks that followed saw the print media cover the same material with detailed chronologies in Time glossy color photographs in Life The months that followed saw the hurried publication of the Warren Commission Report and the first of the books to uestion it Mark Lane's Rush to JudgmentIt was probably a year or two later that I actually heard Lane himself interviewed on the radio and began my occasional forays into studying the assassination studies which have included the reading of scores of books of which Mailer's is the latestI do not subscribe to Mailer's conclusion that Oswald likely was the sole gunman but then determining the facts of the assassination itself is not his primary concern He and his colleagues appear to be intellectually honest and note many of the contradictions and loose threads which were left by the official accounts of the FBI and the Commission They also attack than once Posner's recent apologetic for the government's story No their concern is for the character of Oswald and on this account they make a valuable contribution primarily by going to the effort to interview many of his associates and the KGB operatives who kept tabs on him from his two plus years in the Soviet Union many of whom have never been interviewed before What emerges is a believable often sympathetic portrait of a person both ordinary in the lower middle class trajectory of his life and extraordinary in terms of the means by which he tried sometimes successfully to transcend his background and conditioningI've read a bunch of Mailer over the years liking his non fiction than his fiction The most recent books of his read have been Ancient Evenings an ambitious failure and his The Gospel According to the Son another rather poor rather uninspired attempt to represent the person of Jesus This biography is worth reading both for the value of its reportage and the high uality of its prose After reading Stephen King's 221163 I thought it was time I finally delved into the Kennedy assassination and through internet searches decided on Oswald's Tale as a good starting and in my case ending point I'd read The Executioner's Song when it first came out but hadn't read anything else by Mailer so I didn't know what to expectThe book is amazing in its depth detail the research and new light thrown on Oswald especially his time in what was then the USSR Mailer and his colleagues extensively interviewed former KGB agents and other Russians who knew Oswald while he was living there and with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the time gone by were much readier to talk than might have been the case earlier This means there is a wealth of knowledge about how Oswald lived and worked there his relationships with friends and women whether or not he really was a Russian spy and why he decided to return to the States basically he just didn't like living in communist Russia and as I lived there as a child for a short while I can completely understand why The book starts off with Oswald's sojourn in the USSR which threw me a bit as I knew absolutely nothing about him and was expecting the usual biography of he was born then there went to school here studied there etc and so on But it works and I found myself totally engrossed in his storyMailer deals with all the conspiracy theories and in the end concludes that Oswald acted alone Admittedly this is the only accredited account I've read of Oswald's life and death but Mailier's arguments convinced me I especially loved his reasoning that the CIA at the time was so distrustful of itself and had so many factions working independently of each other that it was uite possible one faction thought another faction played a part in Kennedy's assassination and vice versa The same is probably true of the Mafia A great read Reading Oswald's Tale was one of those fantastic reading experiences I'll never forget Mailer made his name initially with The Naked and the Dead which didn't really do much for me I thought The Deer Park was pretty mediocre and hated Barbary Shore An American Dream and Ancient Evenings and think Tough Guys Don't Dance is one of the worst books I've ever read from cover to cover I only finished reading it to find out if it continued to be as bad as I thought it was going to be so none of the other books I'd previously read by Mailer prepared for a book that for me has to be one of the best reads to have hit the shelves in the past few decades Mailer follows Lee Harvey Oswald as he goes to live in Moscow and has love affairsand then we find him becoming disillusioned with the Soviet experience and fleeing to America with his wife only to find that he is unable to fill the fridge I still have the image of Oswald holding a teddy bear in his arms as he tells some official he means to defect Of course the book is not really a novel since the story is given to Mailer in the sense that it's historyand therefore you can't really compare his achievement to Tolstoy's in War and Peace given that Tolstoy assigned a minor role to Napoleon and other historical figures and gave the main roles to the characters he'd invented something which in my opinion is much harder to do That said though Oswald's Tale is one of the most intense reading experiences I've ever had After reading it I got hold of the book that many consider Mailer's best The Executioner's Song and read it and it is also a great bookbut for me Oswald's Tale is his best I've written this uickly and what I'm saying doesn't come close to giving the book justice You need to read it Over the last forty years I have read far too many books on the Kennedy assassination to be considered healthy It is uite easy to be persuaded by presentations of specious evidence and half baked conspiracy theories This book albeit not one of Mailer's best efforts was the last book I ever ever read on the subject The portrait of Oswald which Mailer's paints in broad strokes as he embarks on his own personal pilgrimage through the files of the House Select Committee and the KGB archives is simply irrefutable Whatever he was in fact in spite of his uncanny and precocious associations Lee Oswald was beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty the man who pulled the trigger which ended Camelot And he was a sad little man a wannabe and a naif I shared Mailer's combination of revulsion and empathy for this truly pitiable young man who desperately wanted to matter in a world which took little notice To be frank the smug and lawyerly books of Gerald Posner which thoroughly and definitely document the case against Oswald only managed to piss me off It took Mailer's literary sensitivity to drive the final nail in Oswald's coffin In the end Oswald's guilt becomes self evident in the simple act of leaving his wedding ring lying on the dresser beside his wages on that warm November morning in Dallas forty nine years ago The ballistics and the eyewitnesses and the paper trail only confirm what should have been obvious from the start Oswald was a twenty four year old nobody who went out that day to become history He succeeded but we've all been paying his debts since

Oswald's Tale An American Mystery PDF/EPUB Ò Oswald's
  • Paperback
  • 864 pages
  • Oswald's Tale An American Mystery
  • Norman Mailer
  • English
  • 12 September 2014
  • 9780345404374