Today is the 46th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. I just finished reading Four Days in November: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, by Vincent Bugliosi, an engrossing minute-by-minute narrative of November 22-25, 1963, encompassing Kennedy’s assassination, LBJ’s swearing in, the arrest and questioning of Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby’s killing of Oswald, and JFK’s funeral. It’s written in the present tense, which increases the sense of immediacy.
Four Days in November is actually an excerpt of a much, much larger book by Bugliosi, Reclaiming History, published in 2007, in which Bugliosi aims to shoot down all the conspiracy theories surrounding the Kennedy assassination, one by one, and prove that Oswald did it and that he acted alone. Having finished Four Days in November, my interest is piqued, so I’ve decided to try reading the whole thing, or at least as much of it as I can before I get tired of it. So I took the big kahuna out of the library the other day.
I certainly won’t be able to carry it around with me on the subway. According to Amazon.com it weighs 5.6 pounds. And yes, it is massive, almost three inches thick. Maybe I’ll buy the Kindle version (just $12.55) and read it using the free iPhone Kindle app.
How many pages is Reclaiming History? Well, the Four Days in November portion of the book, which took me a week and a half to read, is 317 pages. But the entire book is more than 1,500 pages. More than 1,500 pages! (Excluding the bibliography and index.)
Oh, but wait! The book comes with a CD containing two PDF files, the Source Notes and the Endnotes, since the book was already so big. The Source Notes are 170 pages of citations, which are basically just one-line citations that don’t contain substantive information. But the Endnotes? The Endnotes run to 958 pages! And they are substantive, providing various asides on numerous topics for those who want it. One of those endnotes, perhaps the longest in the book, is 66 pages.
So if you include the book’s Introduction (36 pages), the main text (1,510 pages), and the Endnotes (958 pages), that’s 2,504 pages. As Bugliosi writes in the Introduction, “if this book (including endnotes) had been printed in an average-size font and with pages of normal length and width, at 1,535,791 words, and with a typical book length of 400 pages, and 300 words per page, this work would translate into around thirteen volumes.” Maybe more like eight volumes, since Four Days in November is about an eighth of the total, but that’s still massive.
Not to mention obsessive. But there are a lot of conspiracy theories to deal with.
I’m a novice when it comes to all the assassination conspiracy stuff, but it seems to me that it’s all bullshit and that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. Of course, I know barely anything about the topic, so my opinion doesn’t count for anything. But conspiracy theories just seem silly.
For one thing, there are tons of conspiracy theories about the Kennedy assassination. Reams of books have been written. But as Bugliosi points out in his well-worth-reading Introduction, if one of the conspiracy theories is correct, then all the rest of them are incorrect. And if that’s so, then the tons of people who claim to have uncovered evidence or witnesses or inconsistencies that prove or support their pet theories are simply wrong. Therefore, there’s no reason to give credence to one of these theories just because someone puts forth what seems to be a well-argued case.
For another thing, the Warren Commission, which examined the assassination, did not conduct a superficial investigation. It was massive, including interviews with more than 500 witnesses, trips to numerous locations over several months, and examinations of evidence. And it did not have a predetermined goal in mind; it was open to finding conspiracies. It found none. Most people who discount the Warren Commission’s conclusions (and apparently that includes a majority of Americans) have not read the Warren Commission’s report, let alone the 26 volumes of supporting testimony and documentation, which together run to more than 18,000 pages. Most people don’t even know how extensive the investigation was. If the victim had been an ordinary person instead of the President of the United States, such a thorough investigation would convince most people. But because it’s JFK, his death apparently has to be a result of sinister forces.
I have only begun to dip into Bugliosi’s book, in which he claims to have settled the issue once and for all. And yet… I go online and find numerous criticisms of his book by conspiracy theorists who say he ignored this and ignored that. It actually upsets me. Not physically or emotionally, but intellectually. Because if Bugliosi can devote more than 20 years to this enormous volume and pick apart conspiracy theories one by one, and yet people can respond, “That idiot is totally ignoring X and Y and Z,” then what am I, a novice who is only a fraction of the way through this book, supposed to think? It just makes me frustrated.
I don’t know why I should even bother dipping my toes into the most obsessively studied one-day event in American history, an event people have devoted their entire lives to examining. All I can say is that I find it interesting, and I’ll read this book until I get sick of it. And then I’ll move on to something else.