Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

September 20, 2007

The O.J. Book: Preliminary Thoughts

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 6:37 am

Okay let’s get the disclaimer out of the way: it’s a hateful document by a lying murderer.

But on the other hand there’s something fascinating about it and I am kind of stunned that I’d want to write about it, and in fact, this may be the last or the first of several posts on the book, on our fascination with O.J., on tabloid sensationalism and what we can and can’t learn from it.

And since none of the money goes to the killer but rather to the relatives of his victims, including the children, I have to say I didn’t feel guilty buying it. I did feel somewhat guilty reading it, because it is the amazing mesmeric power of narrative to tempt you into sympathy with the devil, if the devil is the narrator.

In this case I felt no sympathy but I did find far more to think about than I imagined. It’s almost like a poorly written Crime and Punishment for our time. Of course O.J.’s ghost writer is no Dostoevsky but something about the voice in which “O.J.” purportedly tells the story sounds like a real, if despicable, person.

To me the difficult question it raises is this: how one goes from being an ordinary jerk to an evil killer. I don’t think anyone would argue that O.J.’s life up to the point of the murder (and his lying defense of his “innocence”) indicated he was at heart an evil person. Just a slacker ex jock exploiting the perks of his long ago championship seasons.

So what’s puzzled me, what I’ll (maybe if I can stand it) try to puzzle out in subsequent posts, what makes the book worthy of study is this question: how does an ordinary jock-jerk become evil.? Is evil there within us all waiting to seize upon the moment? Can it be explained as an evolutionary process, the result of a poisonous human interaction like a bad marriage and worse divorce, the result, the evil,, in other words of love gone wrong.

It makes me so grateful I have a friendly relationship with my ex-wife. I’ve seen how divorce can transform men, in particular, into hideous shits inexcusably and callously cruel to their ex spouses and children. So that’s a possibility. Or does O.J.’s focus on his post-divorce relationship have nothing to do with it at all? Does this verge on blaming the victim, poor Nicole, who O.J.– in what is perhaps the ugliest aspect of this book–tries to paint in the worst light. But if it’s not that which made him do it–if that’s not sufficient to explain murder—does the book, spurious document though it is, offer any clues.

More thoughts later.

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2 Comments »

  1. There are several interactive elements in the O.J. transformation — and race, at bottom, is not decisive. The marriage and divorce brimmed with the violence of a thousand psychic daggers. Simpson may have always been feckless but his profound jock narcissism was only slightly less evident. Add to that the certainty of drug use that night and the horrific assault loses some of its mystery. Racial polarities always divide Americans but the heart of the matter is a brooding, selfish has-been whacked out of his gourd with jealousy and meth…

    Comment by richard schrader — September 20, 2007 @ 11:46 am | Reply

  2. I guess “evil” is a tough word to use, because it has such a fundamental quality, but describing O.J. Simpson as merely a slacker ex-jock isn’t quite right: he had, after all, a physically abusive relationship with his wife. Does that make him evil? If we step away from the abstract, I’d have to say “yeah, pretty close.” If a friend of mine hit his wife, he’d go from being a friend to being someone I’d cross the street to avoid, in any event.

    A few weeks before the murders O.J. was at a large event in Buffalo, and a friend of mine met him. Even if his luster had largely faded in the rest of the country, here in the Queen City of the Lakes he was still a superstar. She described talking to him about seeing him play when she was growing up, and how awestruck she was. Her husband, who had not been at the event, was dismissive. “He beat his wife,” he said (yeah, it was known back then, just not spoken of). “Is that somebody you think is admirable?” At the time my friend was annoyed at her husband’s petulant-seeming dismissal of her thrill at meeting a childhood hero. It now seems that her husband got it spot-on.

    So, to answer your question, is there evil like O.J. in us all? Maybe– but usually there is more than of a hint of it before it erupts into full-blown horror.

    Comment by Bill Altreuter — September 24, 2007 @ 12:04 pm | Reply


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