Sometimes I feel like Zelig. I was there at Woodstock, and across the street from the Twin Towers on 9/11. But the historical event that first shook and shaped my world was during my college years, when President Kennedy was assassinated. From this side of a lifetime, it was the first of many horrific events still to come. But from that side, it was the first time, for me, that the unthinkable could happen. And it set us down a road of increasingly unthinkable happenings.
But the thought has occasionally occurred to me-what if Oswald had been stopped? I will admit to many years of conspiracy theorizing, but at a fifty year remove, despite the incredible bungling on all sides that has now been revealed, I am left with the belief that it was just Lee Harvey Oswald who changed history. I am not the only one who has wondered how it might have been otherwise, however. Stephen King has put his doubts and suppositions into a gripping new novel, called “11/22/63.”
Stephen King? Surely not Stephen King! I loved his early books, “Carrie” and “Christine.” He even managed to make me afraid of that raging car. But then killer dogs and clowns turned me off, and I stopped being interested in his massive output and tomes.
Recently, however, I read and very much enjoyed “Duma Key,” and then “On Writing” which is his guide for writers, with an autobiography wrapped around it. My favorite rule was the one banning adverbs.
Today I am deeply, surprisingly, immersed in “11/22/63” in which the first person narrator travels through a time portal to prevent Oswald from killing President Kennedy. Time portal makes it sound like science fiction, but it is in fact a well-researched historical novel. Very well-researched. I lived through that time and was both gratified and appalled to be reminded of so many of the things I had forgotten.
Garterbelts, yes, and segregated toilets. Mmmm. And corsets and pillbox hats. Hats! And incredibly cheap prices and puritan attitudes.
Perhaps the best thing about this long, long book is the suspense King manages to build. I know that there cannot be a “successful” ending, first, because Oswald did kill Kennedy, and then, because this is a novel of fiction. And there are no time portals. But King has created a page-turner, nevertheless, and I have to go now and get back to my reading. Hope you will join me.