The papers

“After Oswald, men in America were no longer required to lead lives of quiet desperation. You apply for a credit card, buy a handgun, travel through cities, suburbs and shopping malls, anonymous, anonymous, looking for a chance to take a shot at the first puffy empty famous face, just to let people know there is someone out there who reads the papers.”

Have you ever read a book with a paragraph that was so powerful that it made you think the author wrote the entire novel just for that passage? I think Libra was written by Don DeLillo solely for the purpose of these two lines. Lines which so painfully expose Lee Harvey Oswald’s impact on modern culture, in which terrorism has become a reality show, played out in front of us in mass media.

Libra was written in 1988, but its dark thesis is still alive today. After this week’s attack in London, Anthony Lane wrote for The New Yorker: “The only surprise is that these attacks don’t come along more often, given how frighteningly simple they are to stage, and how hard they must be to police and prevent. If you wish to spread terror, these days, you don’t have to know how to handle a weapon or to construct an explosive device. All you need is a vehicle, or a blade, or—as in this instance—both.”

In 1839, the pen was coined to be mightier than the sword, but nowadays the camera rules supreme.