11.22.63

Colin Kidd writes:

The cultural consequences of 22 November 1963 are far more interesting than the events of the day itself. Historians like me tend not to find much of interest in the killing of one person by another, especially when the killer seems to have been a dysfunctional misfit. Of course, the assassination had puzzling aspects: Lee Harvey Oswald’s lengthy stay in the Soviet Union during some of the hottest years of the Cold War; the unlikely trajectory of one of the three bullets fired from the Texas School Book Depository, the ‘magic bullet’ which passed through the president’s neck and then through the body of the Texas governor, John Connally; and Oswald’s own murder while in police custody at the hands of Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner. Despite these anomalous features, Kennedy’s assassination was – conceptually speaking – a straightforward event. While academic historians have had plenty to say about his politics and legacy, they have largely ignored his death. That subject – perhaps the canonical event in amateur historiography – has largely been left to a laity of assassination buffs.

(LRB 1 December 2011)

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