Libra by Don DeLillo – a VAR Controversy

Libra by Don DeLillo, published in 1988, is an imaginative reconstruction of events surrounding the assassination of President Kennedy in November 1963.

It might seem unlikely, but one of the first things that came to mind whilst reading Libra, was VAR, the Video Assistant Referee, which was supposed to take the controversy and doubt out of refereeing decisions in football. Did it? No. Instead the controversies just concentrated themselves on ever more subtle distinctions. And there isn’t really time for forensic analysis of video footage in the middle of a game of football, which after all is what people have paid to see. A recurring thread in Libra involves a CIA historian sitting in a room with vast amounts of mounting evidence. The assassination of President Kennedy is like a deadly serious and endlessly complex VAR controversy. Time moves on rather than freezing itself on one moment, leaving the historian gathering more and more information, not getting any nearer a conclusion, the conclusion becoming of academic interest only, as the events under study slip into the past.

Libra reads like an arty thriller, and it works well like that. But there is a lot to think about with this book. It is very relevant to contemporary concerns regarding conspiracy in its various forms – from the self-centred idea that certain people claim to see truth hidden to normal people, to that vague feeling of life itself seemingly pushing you in a certain direction through coincidence and unlikely twists of fate – which is where the somewhat ironic reference to astrology in the title comes in.

Anyway I will leave my evidence there. Gathering more won’t make the picture clearer. I have to make a call and not interrupt the run of play – so, yes, a compelling, interesting book, exploring typically modern dilemmas.

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