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Columbine (book review) Dave Cullen

290115: it has taken me a few days after reading this to be able to write this review. this is an excellent portrayal not only of the infamous events now named for that school, that day, 20 April 1999- but also of the way it continues to effect victims, the way media reported it, the response of the police changed since, the horror brought to an affluent suburb, which is now a historical incident. do you remember where you were that day? there have been mass killings in america since- too many- but like the recent assault on sandy hook elementary- what must be remembered: these were children. children were victims. children were killers. and the best we can do is try to limit access to the weaponry used, be aware seriousness of warning signs, be alert to psychopaths in our world, err on the side of caution dealing with threats, with 'jokes' when nothing is funny...

and for me, the other effect of this book, was an engagement of how this is fictionalized, how realism in any art starts with chosen abstraction- as in geometry when we simply ignore, or abstract, any aspects of figures that do not interest us, such as the width of a line or thickness of a plane. for me, the abstraction i sense, the abstraction i feel required is kind of a 'reduction', a move to concentrate on 'what happened' and to hold 'in brackets' everything else from society to psychology. for me, the most effective parts of the story are journalistic recounting acts before and during the killing, just the acts, not the words, not the presumed psychology, nothing but being placed, vividly, inescapably, there. this work is obviously product of ten years research. this is how readers can be alerted to media appropriations, errors, lies. how readers can see how one false martyrdom story can propagate until even those who are relatives of victims, will try to profit in some manner, spiritual, material, from this loss. but this aspect of this long book least interests me, this attempt to divine and present thoughts of all then or later- in the way something becomes a 'novel', deploying 'realism' as familiar techniques, such as magically entering into the mind of this or that person, but perhaps this encourages most readers to continue: these are people just like you...

so would this as a 'novel' work? not as a 'novelized history'? everyone seems to be invested in trying to seize control of the narrative, from the usual politicians and media and religious voices to the woman who decides her daughter's death only has some meaning if it can be presented as evangelical triumph. but still, this requires the story of columbine to have historical veracity: that it is something that happened, that, in aristotle's terms, shows the arbitrary reality of 'what happened', of 'history' and many voices want to cast it as 'what should have happened', as 'poetry'. if it had not happened, would we believe it? if all it could present was the acts, would we narrative animals need it to 'mean' something, even at the price of well-researched truth? if the theme could only be the ultimate 'meaninglessness' of the killings, would it seem plausible, would it be effective, be believable? i read this in two sittings. i only wonder these thoughts today as i offer this review. this is a five...

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