Ron Rosenbaum

The O.J. Book: Preliminary Thoughts

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.