If I did it : Confessions of the Killer by O.J. Simpson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is likely the only time I will give such a high rating to a book I couldn’t read past page 19.
Bookshelves: true-crime, memoir, sleep-with-the-light-on, trigger-warning, nonfiction, heebie-jeebies, somebody-get-the-slime-off-me, in-the-news, controversial, abandoned, ghostwritten, dnf
For anyone who has survived an abusive situation, there are some serious triggers here. I spent a stomach-queasy, sleepless night after reading as far as I did. I trudged off for work overtired and still shaken and trembling and wondering if I’m not, finally, outgrowing my fascination with true crime. It doesn’t help to recall that Simpson could be paroled from prison later this year. This book is, of course, the as-dictated-to-a-ghostwriter “hypothetical”* story of OJ Simpson and the ghastly murders of Ron Goldman and OJ’s ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson.
When I read in the news about this publication some years ago, I was put off by the whole premise and judged the actions of the Goldman family as cashing in. I apologize. I see, now, that they only had two options here: Let a murderer pile narcissism upon evil and allow him to profit from brutally slaughtering two people, or fight tooth and nail to take that profit away and use the killer’s own self-serving even-if-I-did-kill-them-it’s-all-her-fault word vomit against him. Forced to choose between “maybe this isn’t quite right” and “this is flat fucking wrong,” they did the right thing. After winning the rights, they took top billing as the author, and (what I think is the best touch) stylized the title by placing the “If” in tiny letters inside the “I,” so at casual glance it reads “I Did It.” And I don’t doubt he did.
It’s still sick-making, though. I couldn’t take anymore about how OJ was the perfect all-American success story and the world’s best husband, plagued by a slutty, druggie, batshit-crazy wife whose shiner and other bruises must have been self-inflicted during their “little scuffle” because he certainly didn’t hit her. How could anyone think he could do something like that? He’s a great guy, a stand-up guy, and he just loved her so so so much! Perhaps this presentation of Simpson’s sociopathic I’m-the-real-victim-here literary diarrhea can do society some good. First, perhaps someone living with abuse, and being blamed for their own abuse, will hear their abuser in OJ Simpson’s verbal masturbation and realize they need to get out, not when the kids are a little older, not after they’ve tried one last time to get their abuser to change, but now. Second, the money that a killer hoped to use “to pay his bills” is going instead, in some part, to Nicole’s children and to help other victims of violent crime.
This book’s unreadability is, paradoxically, due not to lousy writing but to writing that is stellar. Ghostwriter Pablo F. Fenjves steps right into a demon’s head and perfectly renders the voice of a self-entitled, stone-cold butcher. Don’t blame the messenger. If anyone had offered me the chance to talk with OJ Simpson and write about it, I’d have said, “Hell yeah!” (But only with a S.W.A.T. team backing me up.) That’s what writers do; sometimes they make things up and sometimes they tell the truth, horrific as it may be. Fenjves can write his ass off. It’s what makes this so hard to read.
*Those are great big huge exaggerated air quotation marks around “hypothetical.” Before putting the book down forever, I peeked ahead to Simpson’s version of the murders. Revoltingly predictable.
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