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I just finished re-reading "11/22/63". For those not familiar with it, the premise is this: a man finds a portal (he calls it a "rabbit hole") to early September 1958. At first he goes back and forth using it to buy cheap beef for his diner. Later he decides to do something important - stay in the past for five years until 1963 and save JFK from getting shot. Unfortunately he comes down with lung cancer and dies, but not before passing on the secret of the "rabbit hole" and the task of saving JFK to the main character of the book. I love time travel and alternate/speculative history, so I thought this book was great! The first time I read it (last year) I didn't think much past the plot. Does he succeed in saving JFK? Do things change in the future? How much? Is anyone in the past going to find out he's really from 2011? I am not going to answer those questions to avoid spoiling the book for anyone. If you want to know, go read it!

This time I gave more thought to some of the national background events that happened over the course of the book. Bay of Pigs is mentioned in passing, and the Cuban Missile Crisis is mentioned a lot more. Of course JFK getting shot is central to the plot. I'm aware of all these things. I learned about them in various history classes. But that's all they are to me: things I read about in history just like ancient Rome and the pharaohs of Egypt. Of course intellectually I know the events in "11/22/63" are a heck of a lot more recent than ancient Rome or Egypt. It's still all in the past though. I think what really made me realize that were the discussion questions at the end of the book. The first one was, "Where were you when Kennedy was shot?" Well... mom and dad weren't even going to meet for over ten years. Mom was in high school and remembers being in Spanish class. The French teacher came and told the Spanish teacher what had happened. So I was nowhere. But mom and dad were around for all of this. To them it isn't history, it's their lives.

I started asking them questions. According to the book people were very divided over JFK. Some people seemed to see him as the second coming of Jesus, and other people seemed to think he was a communist who was going to kill them all. Mom said that seemed fairly accurate. I had not been aware of that fact. I thought most people loved him. I also asked mom and dad if they were worried about nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Dad said he wasn't too worried. At the time he hadn't realized how precarious things were, and he was more shaken by what *could* have happened after the fact when he learned details. Mom said she wasn't educated enough at the time to be really scared, but she did know some people who were stock piling things they thought might become scarce should the worst happen. Mom also wrote a report about it as a current even in Spanish class. She still remembers the title.

In addition to being around for the Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile Crisis, and JFK assassination mom and dad were also around for the all the slang, music, dances, and cultural things that were happening at the time. They were about the same age as some of the high schoolers in the book. Again, these things are things I've read about but not things I actually lived through. So what's the point of me writing about all these things and whether I lived through them or not you ask? It makes me wonder if someone who lived through all this would have a different reaction to the book than I do. It also makes me wonder if I'm not getting all I could out of it because I wasn't around for any of the events. I could also be giving this way too much thought, but I can't help but wonder.

Date: 2013-07-12 09:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
All I remember was the air-raid siren tests, scaring the fertilizer out of me. My parents told me nothing (I was 7).I've asked my eldest sister what it was like for her as, her being 15 at the time she must have had some level of awareness of the matter at hand. But, like anything else I ask her about times long past, she throws up her hands & blurts "I don't know!!!". I sometimes wonder just how much wacky 'baccy she did experiment with in her early twenties, what with the memory thing.

I have read the book; a friend a little older than her believes there were a few anachronisms in the narrative ("Did they have ribbed condoms, then?"). And when teacher-lady becomes freaked when the protagonist sings a 'Stones song that won't be recorded for another 5 years & has disconcerting lyrics, I thought the "What universe are you from?" remark from her would have been anachronistic as well, as the average jOe was not an SF reader so the idea of mulitple realities would have been somewhat outside her ken.


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