THE EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN

The Atlanta child murders comprise the starting point for this virtuoso polemic against racism in America. Baldwin writes bluntly: "Others may see American progress in economic, racial and social affairs—I do not." It is this distinctive Baldwinian voice of outrage that powers his penetrating examination of why color still divides America. Baldwin thinks that Wayne Williams, the black man accused of the murders of 28 black children over a 22-month period, was railroaded. No matter that his conviction was presided over by a black judge in a Southern city governed by a black mayor. Williams was prosecuted under intense pressure to close a case that might tarnish Atlanta's reputation as a "city too busy to hate." A black administration's presence, says Baldwin, did not change the fact that the legal system served the commercial interests of a booming Southern city. To consider this only as an issue of class, contends Baldwin, is a denial by blacks and whites alike of America's legacy of slavery. He writes that ". . .this country, in toto, from Atlanta to Boston, to Texas to California, is not so much a vicious racial caldron—many, if not most countries are that—as a paranoid color wheel." By sketching the emergence of the black middle class and its complicity in maintaining the "white" rules, and the white flight from the city to the suburbs—leaving a mostly black, impoverished city. Baldwin describes how the wheel goes round. And its consequence remains: How do you become "white" enough to get up and out of the ghetto? Ironically, it was the rage of the parents of the murdered children that set Atlanta's color wheel spinning. Once they provoked national attention, according to Baldwin, the pressure to solve the crimes began. Until then, no one was ". . .compelled to hear the needs of a captive population."Baldwin delivers his judgment in cranky, idiosyncratic exposition that links the state of race relations with the prosecution of Williams. He details the official maneuvering that brought Williams to trial and the extraordinary legal decision to charge him with the murders of two black men, but permit the accusations and evidence of all the children's murders to be discussed at his trial. Baldwin has penetrated a sensational crime with his considerable novelist's skill for seeing things the rest of us don't. In the process, he's delivered a stinging indictment of racial stagnation.

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1985

ISBN: 1568495757

Page Count: -

Publisher: Holt Rinehart & Winston

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1985

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Told with mettle and intelligence, Sebold’s story of fierce determination to wrest back her life from her rapist will...

LUCKY

A stunningly crafted and unsparing account of the author’s rape as a college freshman and what it took to win her case in court.

In 1981, Sebold was brutally raped on her college campus, at Syracuse University.  Sebold, a New York Times Magazinecontributor, now in her 30s, reconstructs the rape and the year following in which her assailant was brought to trial and found guilty.  When, months after the rape, she confided in her fiction professor, Tobias Wolff, he advised:  “Try, if you can, to remember everything.”  Sebold heeded his words, and the result is a memoir that reads like detective fiction, replete with police jargon, economical characterization, and film-like scene construction.  Part of Sebold’s ironic luck, besides the fact that she wasn’t killed, was that she was a virgin prior to the rape, she was wearing bulky clothing, and her rapist beat her, leaving unmistakable evidence of violence.  Sebold casts a cool eye on these facts:  “The cosmetics of rape are central to proving any case.”  Sebold critiques the sexism and misconceptions surrounding rape with neither rhetoric nor apology; she lets her experience speak for itself.  Her family, her friends, her campus community are all shaken by the brutality she survived, yet Sebold finds herself feeling more affinity with police officers she meets, as it was “in [their] world where this hideous thing had happened to me.  A world of violent crime.”  Just when Sebold believes she might surface from this world, a close friend is raped and the haunting continues.  The last section, “Aftermath,” has an unavoidable tacked-on-at-the-end feel, as Sebold crams over a decade’s worth of coping and healing into a short chapter.

Told with mettle and intelligence, Sebold’s story of fierce determination to wrest back her life from her rapist will inspire and challenge.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-684-85782-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1999

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At times slow-going, but the riveting period detail and dramatic flair eventually render this tale an animated history...

THUNDERSTRUCK

A murder that transfixed the world and the invention that made possible the chase for its perpetrator combine in this fitfully thrilling real-life mystery.

Using the same formula that propelled Devil in the White City (2003), Larson pairs the story of a groundbreaking advance with a pulpy murder drama to limn the sociological particulars of its pre-WWI setting. While White City featured the Chicago World’s Fair and America’s first serial killer, this combines the fascinating case of Dr. Hawley Crippen with the much less gripping tale of Guglielmo Marconi’s invention of radio. (Larson draws out the twin narratives for a long while before showing how they intersect.) Undeniably brilliant, Marconi came to fame at a young age, during a time when scientific discoveries held mass appeal and were demonstrated before awed crowds with circus-like theatricality. Marconi’s radio sets, with their accompanying explosions of light and noise, were tailor-made for such showcases. By the early-20th century, however, the Italian was fighting with rival wireless companies to maintain his competitive edge. The event that would bring his invention back into the limelight was the first great crime story of the century. A mild-mannered doctor from Michigan who had married a tempestuously demanding actress and moved to London, Crippen became the eye of a media storm in 1910 when, after his wife’s “disappearance” (he had buried her body in the basement), he set off with a younger woman on an ocean-liner bound for America. The ship’s captain, who soon discerned the couple’s identity, updated Scotland Yard (and the world) on the ship’s progress—by wireless. The chase that ends this story makes up for some tedious early stretches regarding Marconi’s business struggles.

At times slow-going, but the riveting period detail and dramatic flair eventually render this tale an animated history lesson.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2006

ISBN: 1-4000-8066-5

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2006

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