Shock and Awe
About a month ago, I wrote about this image and its function as book cover art. At the time, Joe was reading it and when he finished, he warned me that it’s an upsetting but fascinating read. I waited for a couple of weeks, deciding if I was really up for that kind of emotional book–a raw, true story of mass murder. But though I was apprehensive, the book still exerted a kind of pull for me, sticking out from the bookshelf each time I walked by. So I picked it up last week. And have not been able to put it down since.
The book is nearly 500 pages of exhaustive detail about the Columbine shooting, the teenaged killers, the victims, and the community. Dave Cullen does an excellent job of discounting the myths created by the media and painting a human portrait of not only the victims, but their families, and the families of the killers, and even the killers themselves. The shooting happened in the spring of my junior year of high school and I remember hearing about it, being frightened by it but not truly shaken because it seemed remote and far away from my tiny world. I believed what I saw on the news, which was that the killing was perpetrated by two outcast teenage boys who never fit in, dressed strangely, and were taking out their anger on jocks, pretty girls, and other popular students. In reality, the story was far more complicated–the boys were pretty well-liked and probably had more friends than I did in high school. Their motives weren’t as clear-cut as hatred of the popular clique. In fact, it was a much more general (and terrifying) hatred for humanity.
It’s also surprising just how gripping the story is. Part of me feels sick at how much time I spend reading the book–in the morning while I have my coffee, on the train, on my lunch break, before bed. What is this morbid fascination with such a horrible event? Am I a weird person because I am enjoying reading this book? Can this experience even be called enjoyment, or is it something different?
We all read depressing books, watch horror movies, and listen to sad songs. I know that. But for some reason, this feels more deliberate.
What are your thoughts? Do you ever feel guilty for feeling fascination with horrible events or stories?