Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Marina and Lee and Me

A couple of weeks ago I read Stephen King’s 11/22/63.  If you haven’t read it yet – and think you might – STOP READING NOW.  I’ll be giving away a few plot lines ‘cause I’m nice like that.  Skip to the end if you don’t want to know about the book! 

Alrighty – only those people who have read or who aren’t ever going to read 11/22/63 should be reading this now.  First off, this isn’t one of those books that you toss in your carry-on to read on the plane – it’s HUGE.  It’s like 845 pages huge!  Now, if it’s on your Kindle, well, no biggie.  But if you actually went to a book store and bought the book – holy moly!  And the 11/22/63 bit of it is maybe about 25 of those pages!  So, definitely not as much assassination as I tend to like in my books!

Here’s the basic premise (which you already know because you read the book, right?) – what if you could go through a rabbit hole, back through time, and stop Lee Harvey Oswald from assassinating President John F. Kennedy? 

Of course, saving Kennedy won’t be easy because, like so many of us, the past doesn’t like to be changed.  And it’ll do everything in its power to stay the way it’s always been.  So, there are a lot of obstacles (like two facial disfigurements, a beat-down that lands someone in a coma, a bus crash, and on and on) that have to be survived on this quest.  But say you’re successful and you save Kennedy and all of humanity forevermore.  But do you really?  Because see, when the past is changed, so’s the future.  And when you make your trip back through the rabbit hole to 2011, well, Maine’s a province of Canada and things aren’t exactly peachy for the rest of humanity.  The main take away – the past should just stay the past.    

It’s all fiction, of course.  But it’s intriguing because what ifs are always intriguing. 

A few years ago, I met Priscilla Johnson McMillan, the author of the joint biography, Marina and Lee.  Ms. McMillan donated her personal papers to the National Archives and I went to her home in Cambridge, Mass to inventory and box up everything.  Professionally, it was a unique experience – for two and a half days, I worked in a backyard sifting through paper.  Personally, it was amazing.  See, Ms. McMillan happens to be the only person who knew both President Kennedy and Oswald (calling all conspiracy theorists!)  She knew Kennedy when he was a Senator and she later interviewed Oswald when he defected to the Soviet Union.  History certainly has its fair share of strange coincidences, doesn’t it?

There were many times during those couple of days that I stopped and thought what if?  What if Lee Harvey Oswald never defected to the Soviet Union?  What if he defected but decided to live out a long, peaceful life in Minsk with Marina?  What if he wasn’t allowed back into the United States after he decided to un-defect?  What if he never got a job at the Texas School Book Depository?  What if he had a better relationship with his mother?  What if someone had stopped him on November 22, 1963?    

Intriguing, right?  (And as Mr. King so ably proves - great material for a novel!)

1 comment:

  1. What a fascinating experience Denise! I haven't read the bio and didn't know there was anyone who knew both Kennedy and Oswald. What if...??

    As a huge fan of Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander" series and her other related stories, I'm immersed in thoughts of time-travel (I only read her books on audio, and they are LOOOOOONNNNNGGGGG). I have also read a couple by Susanna Kearsley and the first book in a trilogy by Laura Vosika. Some of the authors treat history as more flexible than others, but most come to the same conclusion you do - the past should stay the past.