From the Stacks
By Carol Ann Robb, PPL Reference Librarian
I had almost finished writing a Thanksgiving-themed post when I realized that next Wednesday is the 60th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, which I think is more deserving of our collective attention this year.
Though I was only 5 at the time, I certainly remember when Walter Cronkite reported the news that November afternoon. I may not have understood the enormity of the situation but knew it was something very serious. It was a definitive moment in American history, one which left many scholars wondering what might have been if Oswald had failed that fateful day in Dallas.
Stephen King used that premise in “11/22/63.” The historian in me has a very hard time with alternate histories and this book was no exception. I’m one of the few people I know of who did not care for the book. My theory is you can’t change history so just head to the Nonfiction shelves to learn what actually happened. You’ll find a number of books dealing with the assassination, from Jim Bishop’s “The Day Kennedy Was Shot” to “Five Days in November” by Clint Hill. I’m rather partial to Mark Lane’s “Rush to Judgment,” only because I heard him speak when I was in college.
But novels can also convey how such catastrophic events affect the national psyche. If you’re not up for a true history lesson, take a look at “Top Down” by Jim Lehrer, “November Road” by Lou Berney, or Stephen Hunter’s “Third Bullet.” But the book I’m most interested in reading is not so much about the assassination itself but of one of the most iconic sights of that day: Jacqueline Kennedy’s pink suit. Nicole Mary Kelby has written a novel—“The Pink Suit”—about the New York boutique that provided much of the First Lady’s wardrobe, including that Chanel outfit that is seared unto my memory.
Although most historians discount the whole Camelot myth surrounding JFK, it’s not difficult to associate the closing words of the song with the youthful vibrancy of his administration—“Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment, that was known as Camelot.”