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What follows is an encapsulation of "Waiting to be Heard" and this week's airing of CNN's "Amanda Knox: The Unanswered Questions." If you have any interest in the case, I also recommend checking out the Rolling Stone piece: "The Neverending Nightmare of Amanda Knox."
Up until a week ago, I had followed the Knox case with a certain degree of interest, and I approached it in roughly the same way most Americans seemed to: callously intrigued by an attractive lady involved in a murder mystery. I kept thinking that there was something more interesting about the case (particularly after watching a documentary I only vaguely remember, but managed to sample in this song), and it turns out I was right. Here's why, and what I learned from the book and the special (if you're interested but don't want to commit the time):
- The actual facts of the case are astonishingly uninteresting. (As in, you probably could not make an even moderately gripping dramatization out of them).
- In my opinion, she is obviously not the murderer in this case or a murderer in general.
- The prose of the book is pretty good. It's probably not ghostwritten, and it's neither flattering nor conspicuously self-deprecating.
- I would not be surprised if it turned out she falls somewhere on the autism spectrum (though obviously am not trying to diagnose or presume any knowledge of her mental health). But it would explain the whole "cold, calculating demeanor" thing. Take this cost-benefit-based consideration of suicide, for example: “There was swallowing shards of glass from a compact mirror or a broken plastic pen, hitting your head against the wall until you beat yourself to death, and hanging yourself... Less effective but, I thought, more dignified was bleeding yourself to death. I imagined it would be possible to get away with enough time in the shower. The running water would deter cellmates from invading your privacy, and the steam would fog up the guard’s viewing window.”
- I am terrified of going to Italy now.
- The book starts out seeming like a trashy cash-in, with some really funny quotable lines. One that stood out was her discussion of talking about bringing a vibrator with her to Italy, and then ending the chapter with: "This turned out to be a very bad idea."
- It is not ever made clear why bringing said vibrator to Italy was a "very bad idea." I guess it was either because it was briefly mentioned in one of the 8 million trials or simply that it made her more sexual to those painting her as "Foxy Knoxy."
- “Foxy Knoxy” was a nickname her soccer teammates gave her as an adolescent. It is not something coined by the media after the murder.
- The only actually random person she makes out with in Italy is a guy named Cristiano who gives her oral herpes. Despite (or perhaps because of?) this, she declares: “Cristiano was a game changer.”
- There are a few really dark moments that break the uninterestingness of the procedural pace. One such moment comes when a police officer delivers Amanda a false HIV positive test result, then says: “Don’t worry. I’d still have sex with you right now. Promise me you’ll have sex with me.”
- The book reminded me a lot of "A Wilderness of Error," Errol Morris' deconstruction of Jeffrey McDonald's saga of woebegone justice. Perhaps this made me more sympathetic, but it seems more likely that prosecutors just often suck.
- The comparison with Morris' book is all the more striking considering he had 40 years of data and public records to work with. Conversely, Knox managed to document her own, similar judicial miscarriage while imprisoned.
- The notion of translation being used as an incrimination technique is fascinating. Knox's retranslated Italian statement highlighting ambiguity-enhancing word-bending made me feel genuinely universe-fucked.
Initial statement: “Unless Raffaele decided to get up after I fell asleep, grabbed said knife, went over to my house, used it to kill Meredith, came home, cleaned it off, rubbed my fingerprints all over it, put it away, then tucked himself back into bed, and then pretended really well the next couple of days, well, I just highly doubt all of that.”
Alleged retranslation of the police’s Italian translation: “That night I smoked a lot of marijuana and I fell asleep at my boyfriend’s house. I don’t remember anything. But I think it’s possible that Raffaele went to Meredith’s house, raped her and then killed her. And then when he got home, while I was sleeping, he put my fingerprints on the knife. But I don’t understand why Raffaele would do that.”
- She seems more interested than the average person in the shit that she saw in the toilet shortly before the discovery of Meredith’s corpse. She lets it go eventually (“Why would I make up a story about disappearing shit?” Why indeed!) but it still clearly haunts her, kind of like everything.
- Remember how I said the book started out feeling trashy and fun? By the end it basically feels like Schopenhauer or something.
- "Number of nightmares you've had, about getting that call, saying there's no double jeopardy, you have to go back to Italy?" - paraphrased actual 'unanswerable question' posed to Amanda Knox.
- I can easily imagine a future where Amanda Knox uses personal tragedy to propel herself to cable news stardom a la Nancy Grace. But she could also probably do something significantly better because she's extremely smart and is now essentially unfuckwithable (a legal term meaning "invulnerable to all aggressors due to absolute comprehension of the futility of human endeavor in all its forms").
- If I ever made crass or asinine comments about Amanda Knox's attractiveness, or propensity for murder, or very bad ideas, on Twitter, I shamefully retract them. Primarily because of this quote from the CNN special: "There are not-normal people who are fixated on me. And I don't know what they're capable of."
The thought of being one of those people -- or even thinking it is funny to pretend to be one -- makes me shudder after ingesting all this. Read the book.