While they slept

In this Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, Robert Pinsky reviews Kathryn Harrison’s new book, an account of the murder by a 16-year-old boy of his parents and one of his sisters, and the survival of his other sister, who tells Harrison her story.  There’s much that’s compelling in this review, which considers the act of storytelling as a response to immediate horror (the surviving sister remembers, the night of the murder, telling herself that it was happening in a book: “Now, Jody told herself, she was a character in a book, she was the girl for whom things looked bad — very bad — but turned out all right. In the end, they always did turn out. … How did she escape? Jody asked herself. Did the heroine jump out the window?”) and to its aftermath, how one tells the story of a horror, as Harrison herself did in her memoir The Kiss.  I’m sure her own experience with that book informed her observation that “Those of us who insist on speaking what’s often called unspeakable discover there’s no tone reserved for unnatural disasters, and so we don’t use any. We’re flat-affect; we report just the facts; this alienates our audience.”

Good review; sounds like a striking book.


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