Jon Krakauer documents acquaintance rape enablement in the book ‘Missoula’

Jon Krakauer documents a dominant and judicial culture that enables acquaintance rape in the book Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town.  As indicated in the preface summary for Missoula on Goodreads, “Krakauer documents the experiences of five victims…These stories cut through abstract ideological debate about acquaintance rape to demonstrate that it does not happen because women are sending mixed signals or seeking attention. They are victims of a terrible crime, deserving of fairness from our justice system.”

Missoula 2 (Jon Krakauer)

My perspective as a male reading this book is that the book is fairly researched, even handed to those suffering at the hands of rapists while also fair in pointing out culpability of different systems of investigating and judging guilt, innocence, and the correct courses of action for those accused of rape in a college setting. Many in the Missoula County Attorneys Office, the University of Montana, and the Missoula city police department strike me as frighteningly unaware and deliberately obsessed with taking a severely unsympathetic to the legitimate sensitivities of the victims of sexual contact without consent.

Emily Bazelon in her April 28, 2015 review of Missoula for The New York Times, under title Jon Krakauer’s ‘Missoula,’ About Rape in a College Town, takes a less flattering view. Quoting from her review:

“Instead of delving deeply into questions of fairness as universities try to fulfill a recent government mandate to conduct their own investigations and hearings — apart from the police and the courts — Krakauer settles for bromides. University procedures should “swiftly identify student offenders and prevent them from reoffending, while simultaneously safeguarding the rights of the accused,” he writes, asserting that this “will be difficult, but it’s not rocket science.””

The book is intense, graphic, and at times quite emotional for both of those reasons. Imagery had to be all those things to truly remove address much of what is taboo or mysterious for people when it comes to crimes against intimacy, trust, and gender. Part of what cannot wring true for ladies reading this assessment, that of a male, is that I have many of the same blind spots about ladies that female reviewers of the book, including Emily Bazelon, readily know and identify. Sharing wisdom taken from Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence–from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror by Judith Lewis Herman strikes me as an excellent educational means to illuminate some of that blindness with knowledge.

Missoula 3 (Judith Lewis Herman about enabling rape)

For those familiar with Krakauer‘s work, I see Missoula as aligning more closely in intimacy and narrative tone to Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith or Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman than Into the Wild.

Overall, the presentation was clearly and forthrightly told. The book is lucid throughout, though perhaps less synthesized from a first person narrative accounting of many ladies. My rating for the book is 4-stars out of 5 stars.

Matt – Tuesday, July 4, 2017

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Elie Wiesel’s “Night” is psychologically graphic and necessary

Elie Wiesel’s Night was an emotionally difficult book to read. The psychological torture of Wiesel’s experience, and so many others like him that had it as bad or worse (not sure what might be worse … American slavery seems at least similar in context and cruelty). That this happened during the lifetime of people I grew up loving brings this particular account and atrocity closer to home; that is likely about anchoring.

The legitimate nightmare and anguish of Elie Wiesel’s experience is psychologically graphic and horrifying. Descriptions including psychologically graphic and horrifying make this book both a necessary and compelling reading. It’s a bit disappointing that my seventh-grade class had us read Seth McEvoy’s Batteries Not Included. This isn’t to diminish McEvoy’s effort; my point is that seventh grade seems like a reasonable time to expose children to questions involving historical and emotional literacy.

For illuminating something for scrutiny that needs to be seen, this book earns 4.5-stars. That the brutality indicated by Wiesel in Night occurred really spells out the crime of what Erik Larson wrote about in his book In the Garden of Beasts.

Matt – Monday, February 6, 2017

The Year in Reading 2016 Part 2 – Nonfiction

Continuing with the example of the New York Times Books (@nytimesbooks on Twitter), this reading list for 2016 includes works of non-fiction read this past year.

  • “Colonel Roosevelt” by Edmund Morris on 9/12/16 – 4/5 stars.

With The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt and Theodore Rex, Colonel Roosevelt completed a satisfying 3-volume look at the life of the 26th president of the United States.

A man of his time, the colorful, multifaceted, military progressive leader was a proponent of projecting military power with a well-read personality. Looking at Roosevelt 100-years later, I see an embodiment of the contradiction of a country wherein he was macho trending to misogyny, a man-of-the-world trending toward racist / antagonist of “hyphenated-Americans,” a naturalist / conservationist that liked to hunt / kill for food, sport, death, and trophy. He also was well-read yet anti-dielectic, progressive yet conservative, insightful about male human nature yet bullying.

As argued in the book, Theodore Roosevelt quite possibly was the most interesting American of his time. The narrative of this three-book biography told an interesting, human story of Roosevelt the man, the leader, the servant, the husband, the father, and the rest. The volumes worked. I recommend them should you be inclined to read them.

  • “Cleopatra: A Life” by Stacy Schiff on 11/08/16 – 4/5 stars.

Quality biography of a time, place, and sensibility of a world, woman, and the circles of a queen that are largely unknowable due to time and tellings lost to the principle that “history is told by the victors.”

The life that can be gleaned is remarkable and presented in today’s terms quite fairly, in my opinion. That a Pulitzer Prize winning woman, Stacy Schiff, tells this story helps the quality of the narrative, in my opinion. Certainly there is context I would have struggled to bring out. Schiff also is talking to an American audience that can appreciate how certain analogies were placed in a context informed by Elizabeth Taylor’s portrayal of Cleopatra.

Some reviews on Goodreads mention finding the writing style somewhat verbose. Taking that further, the decision to not separate paragraphs more was mentioned. I disagree.

4-stars out of five.

 

Matt – Wednesday, December 21, 2016