August 31, 2007
If I Did It: even worse than expected
(I had to create a new category for this post, because there was no way I was going to file it under Literature. Blech.)
Yesterday Slate published a review of O.J. Simpson’s book, If I Did It. The book has been discussed on the blogs already, but this is the first actual review I’ve seen. It seems as if the “speculative” aspect of the book is just as transparent as everyone expected it to be:
The narrator of If I Did It introduces his story not as an exercise in counterfactual speculation but rather as the God’s honest truth. Indeed, the phrase, “to be honest” appears in this book no fewer than 29 times. By comparison, O.J.’s much-touted disavowal of the book’s truthfulness surfaces exactly twice. An “author’s note” up front reads, in full: “If I did it, this is what happened.” And the narrative in the chapter titled “The Night In Question” pauses briefly for the following public service announcement: “Now picture this—and keep in mind, this is hypothetical.” That dispensed with, O.J. relates with gusto some gruesome details about how he killed Nicole and the man he believed to be her lover. The book’s two wan disclaimers are overshadowed by the truth-telling posture that O.J. strikes throughout this book.
Added to that, however, is the fact that the explanation of how the killer “did it” seems to fade into the background next to what might have been the book’s main purpose: to make sure the world knows that Nicole Brown Simpson “was no innocent victim”:
“Nicole was on the fast-track to hell,” O.J. explains with what little calm he can muster, “and she was determined to take me and the kids with her.” The woman was a drug abuser, a tantrum-thrower, and a slut. She was also a ravishing blond beauty. She was a disturber of her long-suffering ex-husband’s peace of mind. “That woman is going to be the death of me,” O.J. remembers thinking one hour before he killed her. The bitch had it coming.
Nice people don’t go around getting themselves knifed to death. [Earlier in the review the author, Timothy Noah, explains that this line is spoken during an argument between O.J. and Nicole “about some ‘marginal characters’ Nicole has befriended, one of whom was stabbed fatally in a rumored drug deal gone sour.” However, as Noah points out, “the words leap off the page nonetheless.”]
Superficially, If I Did It is chiefly an indictment of Nicole’s character and only incidentally the story of her murder. It’s easy to understand why its publication has upset Nicole’s family. By reciting the details of his marriage history, O.J. is, in some ways, committing spousal abuse all over again.
Speaking without having read the book, and with no intention to do so*, it certainly sounds that way. I know that the proceeds from the book are going to a good cause, but it’s still horrifying that the book was written, edited, and published in the first place. I can’t help but wonder about the ghost writer to whom Simpson ostensibly narrated the book. What did the ghost writer expect to accomplish by participating in this project? Was he simply in it for the money? If so, was he paid up front, or was he to get a percentage of the profits? If it’s the latter, is he still getting paid now that Simpson isn’t receiving any of those profits? Curious.
*Okay, I realize this could be construed as something that makes me a bit of a hypocrite. However, I think it’s one thing to hear something about a book or movie and think “Yeah, my impression was that that book/film was going to be a trainwreck, and this review confirms that, so I don’t think I’ll read/see it,” and “I hear that that book/film has something in it I disapprove of, so I must picket it!” Reason and critical thinking skills are what divide those two viewpoints.