- Books, Literature, and Writing
Stephen King's 11.22.63
11.22.63 - Stephen King's question
If you were browsing in a bookshop, glancing at the back cover of Stephen King's novel 11.22.63, you are faced with a question. If you had the power to do so, would you change history? That's what I saw and I had to buy the book.
Stephen King has been pondering this for many years as it's a question that characters in previous books of his have mentioned. Indeed, in the afterword of the book he described how he started thinking about writing this novel in 1972. He says that he was simply daunted by the amount of research that would be needed to write the book properly.
Most librarians and bookstores would catalog a Stephen King book in the 'horror' genre but in this novel there are no malevolent cars that drive themselves, no airline passengers that disappear mid-flight and not a single vampire in sight. And yet this book has its own horrific aspect.
You see, another reason why Stephen King didn't write this book in 1972 was, as he says in the afterword 'the wound was still too fresh'; the wound of a real and genuinely horrific event...
The 1963 assassination of President John Kennedy.
Going back in time
Many writers, when faced with the task of writing a book in which a character goes back in time, would have created a fanciful and elaborate time machine with controls to allow the time traveler to set their ultimate destination. This wouldn't do for Stephen King at all, obviously.
Jake Epping is a 35 year old schoolteacher and the owner of his local diner, Al, has discovered a 'rabbit hole' in time. Al has traveled back in time on many occasions and eventually realized that he could - and should - prevent the killing of Kennedy. But he has become too old and too sick. He tells Jake about this and wants Jake, who is younger and healthier, to go back to 1963 and prevent Lee Harvey Oswald assassinating President Kennedy.
The problem is that Jake will have to live in the past for five years - the 'rabbit-hole' always takes the time traveler back to the exact same moment in September, 1958.
Can the past be changed?
This is the question Jake asks himself. Before he commits to living for five years in the past, he needs to know that it is possible. At the school where he teaches, the janitor has told him about his past. When the janitor was a boy, his own father murdered his entire family - the janitor was the only survivor. As a test case, he decides to go back in time to see if he can save the janitor's family.
Jake goes back to the era of cars with chrome fins, the lindy hop, ladies who wear hats and teenagers who call male adults 'sir'. Back in the fifties, he tried to discover whether history can be changed.
Jake discovers that every time he returns to the present day - and then goes back into the past - it causes a complete re-set. This means that if he is ultimately able to prevent the assassination of President Kennedy, he can never return to the past without undoing his work.
Buy the book
I hadn't read a Stephen King novel for years when I saw this one at a book-stand.
We were at the airport with an eight hour flight ahead of us and I needed something to read. Although I felt that I'd read enough King novels I was captivated by the concept of going back in time to change history?
Could this be done? What would the future be like if Kennedy hadn't been assassinated? Would our world today be the same?
Stephen King has certainly matured as a writer since his early days - the characters in this book have so much more depth than those in earlier novels.
Yes, I read the book on the flight and shortly afterwards, started reading it again...
Living in the past
With his new identity of George Amberson - with credentials carefully supplied by Al - Jake goes to embark on his mission. He establishes a life for himself in 1958, knowing that he has to wait for some years before he could try to stop the assassination.
He knew from history that Lee Harvey Oswald, Kennedy's killer, would be in Russia until 1962 so he had no chance of doing anything to prevent the assassination until then.
But he decided that when Oswald returned to the USA, in order to prevent the killing of the president, he would instead kill Lee Harvey Oswald.
In the meantime, he gets a teaching job but once Oswald is back in the country he spends time stalking and following him to learn more.
He needs to be 100% sure that Oswald is the killer.
After all, he is a school teacher and not James Bond. In 2011, when he left his own time, there was still speculation that Oswald had not acted alone, or that the killer was someone else altogether.
Oswald had a wife and a baby - Jake could not kill him in cold blood unless he could be sure that by doing so, the president would live.
But time is running out
History, it appears does not want to be changed - it fights back. Even though Jake has established beyond doubt that Oswald killed the president, events are against him. He has complicated the issue by falling in love with a fellow teacher, Sadie. She has been married before and is violently attacked by her husband. Jake has to put his plans on hold so that he can look after her. Then Jake himself is brutally attacked and seriously injured - it seems that history does not want to change and is doing everything to prevent him.
As the 22nd November 1963 approaches, time is running out.
Jake goes to Dallas just before the president arrives on his ill-fated visit. He's had to leave it until the last minute because history is against him. Sadie finds him in Dallas and together they desperately try to make it to the Book Depository overlooking Dealey Plaza before the presidential motorcade arrives, where Lee Harvey Oswald sits in wait for his target...
Kennedy commemorative coin collection
Stephen King is correct when he asserts that the 22nd November 1963 changed the world.
Probably one of the most intriguing parts of the book is what happens when 'George' returns to his own time.
This of course is King's interpretation of how the world could have changed if Kennedy had not been assassinated.
Do you have any Kennedy memorabilia?
That fateful day - which many of us remember so well - is now firmly in the history books. And yet the magnificent piece you see on the right is available to purchase today.
Yesterday I was listening to an expert on the radio talking about memorabilia of this sort and he said that it is only of any value (now and in the future) if it's from a highly reputable source. There are always shady companies who want their share.
With this piece, you can be assured of its quality as it comes directly from the renown Franklin Mint.
Image © vendor and used with permission.
22 November 1963, DallasClick thumbnail to view full-size
- Marina and Lee: The personal life of Lee Harvey Oswa...
They seemed to be just an ordinary young couple - living a hard life and bringing up their two babies. But the husband wasn't ordinary at all - he was the man who shot JFK. What about the wife?
- Top Down: The Kennedy Assassination
We still don't know the truth about the Kennedy assassination. But this novel brings to light one little-known true fact that, although seemingly a minor detail, had a huge impact on the outcome.
- Jackie Kennedy: She Almost Became a British Baroness
Jackie Kennedy's life was well-documented but a little known story is that she could have become a member of the British aristocracy. Before she married Onassis she was tipped to wed a British lord.
Any items to do with Kennedy - or the assassination - can command tremendous prices these days. And prices will continue to increase. Memorabilia and artifacts from the nineteen sixties are highly in demand and are often outside the reach of most of us these days as they are snapped up by dealers who recognize how much their value will increase in years to come.
Click the image on the left or on the link below to see more items that can be purchased at a very reasonable price including framed prints, DVDs and other goods such as the wonderful pocket watch that you see here. I think that you'll be amazed by the incredibly reasonable price, especially when you consider its historical significance, plus the fact that it is an antique of the future.
Image © vendor and used with permission.
The New York Times
Another interesting memorabilia item it this one - a framed copy of the New York Times, the edition the day after the assassination. Somehow, the way it is presented - in stark black and white - somehow makes it more chilling.
Particularly poignant is the famous photograph of Johnson being sworn in as president aboard Air Force One; not because of him but because Jackie Kennedy standing next to him. She must surely be in shock.
You'll remember that she refused to change from her blood-splattered suit when she left the hospital after Kennedy had died because she wanted the world to see what had been done to her husband.
This replica newspaper page is available in poster form of, at extra cost, in a variety of frames and is a powerful reminder of events of another age.
Image © vendor and used with permission.
© 2013 Jackie Jackson