Saturday, May 7, 2011

Jim Rasenberger's "The Brilliant Disaster"

Jim Rasenberger is the author of  America 1908 and High Steel – and has contributed to the New York Times, Vanity Fair, Smithsonian, and Wilson Quarterly, among other publications.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Brilliant Disaster: JFK, Castro, and America's Doomed Invasion of Cuba's Bay of Pigs, and reported the following:
I am pleased to discover that page 99 falls at the start of a new chapter-- Chapter 8, as it happens-- in The Brilliant Disaster. It’s almost as if my 99 was determined to be conspicuous, not tossed into the middle of a chapter like any old page. I am not superstitious or especially obsessive-compulsive, but I always embrace coincidences of pagination, or really any little structural symmetries that occur in my books. (How excellent, for example, that Chapter 15 of The Brilliant Disaster covers events that occurred on April 15, 1961!) Such things can provide a kind of literary feng shui. They give me faith in the architecture of the work. They help get me through those what-the-hell-am-I-doing moments.

But to the page itself: my 99 is worthy. It introduces a pivotal new element into the history of the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961. The chapter begins with John F. Kennedy placing a phone call to Allen Dulles, director of the CIA. The date of the call is November 9, 1960, one day after Kennedy’s election to the presidency. Kennedy calls to ask Dulles to stay on at the CIA, despite the fact that Dulles is a lifelong Republican and is already beyond retirement age. It's a fateful call, one Kennedy will come to regret almost the moment he hangs up the phone. When Kennedy enters office in January of 1961, Dulles will immediately begin pressuring him to proceed with a plan, developed under President Eisenhower, to send a force of Cuban exiles to Cuba to oust Fidel Castro. The invasion at the Bay of Pigs will fail epically and nearly cripple Kennedy's new presidency. Kennedy will fire Dulles within a few months and threaten to shatter the CIA “into a thousand pieces.”
Learn more about the book and author at Jim Rasenberger's website.

--Marshal Zeringue