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Norman Mailer's


Ostensibly a Book Review
by Dan Armstrong

"If we obtain nothing else, we can count on gaining a greater understanding of the dominant state of our political existence in these decades of Cold War, for Oswald, willy-nilly, became one of the leading actors in this tragicomedy of superpowers who, with limited comprehension, lived in dread of each other." -Norman Mailier, Oswald's Tale: An American Mystery (1995)

Why in the damned world would anyone want to jump back into the morass of lies and suspicions surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy? Does it really matter any more who pulled the trigger or triggers in this most awful of American tragedies? Thirty-two years (at time of book's publishing) and a million hours of research have intervened since that black day in Dallas and still no presiding scenario has been resolved. Shouldn't we just let this ugly little sore in American history heal up and scar? Shouldn't we just move on? Why must we keep picking at this scab, causing it to bleed again and again? Why should Norman Mailer, arguably the most important American journalist of the last fifty years, invest his reputation and that of Random House Incorporated to worry upon this old bone?

"One stimulus to the writing of this book was an offer from the Belarus KGB to allow a look into their files on Oswald," writes Mailer as he begins volume two of his 791 page non-fiction novel, Oswald's Tale: An American Mystery. To Assassination nuts and conspiracy fiends alike this is reason enough to exhume this old bone. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the gradual opening, veil by veil, of clandestine Russia, there should be considerable interest, to some, about what the KGB might have thought about this ex-marine's tentative defection to the Soviet Union. Add to this Mailer's own invariably comprehensive reportage and his unique capacity for psychological investigation, and much like his exploration of convicted killer Gary Gilmore in the Pulitzer Prize winning Executioner's Song, we have a fascinating and involving piece of writing for just about anyone who likes a good who-done-it.

click to read entire review as PDF


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