8.28.2013

Looking for a scapegoat

Personally, I always blame the goat.
Yesterday, Nigel Duara of The Christian Science Monitor reported on the death of a young man in Oregon. This young man was suicidal, but the article reports that he may have been inspired by the actions of Chris McCandless as depicted in Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild.

I'm not going to write about Jonathan Croom. I'm going to write about the scapegoating of books.

After John Lennon was killed and Ronald Reagan was shot, reporters and other theorized that the killer and attempted assassin were both inspired by The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Duara's article reminds me of those same efforts to find an explanation for something that probably can't be understood by a logical mind.

I might describe a book as having "blown my mind" or "gutted me" when I've been extremely moved by a book. But unlike a lot of devoted readers, I don't say books changed my life. (I tend to doubt the truth of that statement anyway. I suspect other readesr mean the book sparked an epiphany, otherwise we would have a lot more active social crusaders or pro bono advocates or Peace Corps volunteers. It's cynical, but there you go.) Readers gravitate to books that suit their state of mind. In the case of Jonathan Croom or Mark Chapman or John Hinckley, if they hadn't picked up Into the Wild or The Catcher in the Rye we'd be talking about different books. Blaming the book is no different than blaming video games or hardcore metal music when teenagers commit violent crimes.

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