The Warren Commission Report (by James Joyce)

As Salon recently reminded readers, September 24th marks the 40th anniversary of the publication of the Warren Commission Report, the official government document that announced that the assassination of JFK was the work of a lone gunman–Lee Harvey Oswald–and that he worked alone. In other words, there was no conspiracy.

Salon reports that many current and former high-ranking government officials, including Presidents Johnson and Nixon, doubted the Warren Commission’s conclusions, suspecting that there was indeed a conspiracy against Kennedy, and even more insidious, a successful conspiracy to coverup the first conspiracy.

If you’ve never had a chance to read the report, rush out now and do so. (Or just stay online and read it at the National Archives). It’s fascinating, but even more fascinating–and astounding–are the 26 volumes of materials from the Warren Commission Hearings. These 26 volumes include every word of testimony from Oswald’s wife, mother, and brother, as well as testimony from a wide assortment of government and law enforcement officials. The last 10 volumes of the hearings are devoted entirely to artifacts used as exhibits during the hearings, including a clip of Lee Harvey Oswald’s hair, his “historic diary” (as he called it), and even a copy of Oswald’s school records from the first grade (so there is a “permanent record”!). These 26 volumes were boiled down into the more portable Warren Commission Report, which is still in print, in fact.

The amount of material dredged up for the hearings, the depth of research into one man’s life is astonishing and nearly a work of art. In Libra, Don DeLillo’s fictionalized account of Oswald’s life, DeLillo calls the Warren Report the “megaton novel James Joyce would have written if he’d moved to Iowa City and lived to be a hundred.”

That pretty much sums up the Warren Commission. More fiction than fact, a modernist extravaganza.