Colin Kidd writes:

Stephen King’s new novel, 11.22.63, combines a variety of genres, being a JFK assassination thriller, a story of time travel, a variation on the grail quest, a novel of voyeurism, a love story, a historical novel, a counterfactual historical novel, and the chilling tale of a sinister animate universe, a form which can be traced back to the ghost stories of M.R. James. King’s protagonists, Al Templeton, the owner of a diner, and Jake Epping, his loyal customer and friend, take a dispassionate and calculated view of the assassination. At the back of his pantry in a small town in present-day Maine, Al finds a wormhole which comes out in September 1958. At first he uses it for his own ends: buying up cheap burger meat at 1958 prices and bringing it back to the present so he can undercut his local rivals. The only trouble is, he sells his burgers too cheap, and the locals decide that Al’s Famous Fatburger can’t really be beef, ‘not at a dollar-nineteen’. Al then decides to use his access to the portal to further the public good, and to stay in the past until 1963 so that he can prevent Oswald from killing Kennedy. But Al is not quite sure, from his observation of Oswald, that he was acting alone when he unsuccessfully attempted to assassinate General Edwin Walker in April 1963.

(LRB 1 December 2011)

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