The Journalist and the Murderer by Janet Malcolm
(Vintage)

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Synopsis

In two previous books, Janet Malcolm explored the hidden sides of, respectively, institutional psychoanalysis and Freudian biography. In this book, she examines the psychopathology of journalism. Using a strange and unprecedented lawsuit as her larger-than-life example -- the lawsuit of Jeffrey MacDonald, a convicted murderer, against Joe McGinniss, the author of Fatal Vision, a book about the crime -- she delves into the always uneasy, sometimes tragic relationship that exists between journalist and subject. In Malcolm's view, neither journalist nor subject can avoid the moral impasse that is built into the journalistic situation. When the text first appeared, as a two-part article in The New Yorker, its thesis seemed so radical and its irony so pitiless that journalists across the country reacted as if stung.

Her book is a work of journalism as well as an essay on journalism: it at once exemplifies and dissects its subject. In her interviews with the leading and subsidiary characters in the MacDonald-McGinniss case -- the principals, their lawyers, the members of the jury, and the various persons who testified as expert witnesses at the trial -- Malcolm is always aware of herself as a player in a game that, as she points out, she cannot lose. The journalist-subject encounter has always troubled journalists, but never before has it been looked at so unflinchingly and so ruefully. Hovering over the narrative -- and always on the edge of the reader's consciousness -- is the MacDonald murder case itself, which imparts to the book an atmosphere of anxiety and uncanniness. The Journalist and the Murderer derives from and reflects many of the dominant intellectual concerns of our time, and it will have a particular appeal for those who cherish the odd, the off-center, and the unsolved.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
 

About Janet Malcolm

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Janet Malcolm is the author of "The Journalist" "and the Murderer," "The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes," and "Reading Chekhov," among other books. She writes for "The New Yorker" and "The New York Review of Books" and lives in New York City.
 
Published June 22, 2011 by Vintage. 178 pages
Genres: Business & Economics, Education & Reference, Professional & Technical, Law & Philosophy, Political & Social Sciences, Biographies & Memoirs, Crime. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Journalist and the Murderer

Kirkus Reviews

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The journalist is Joe McGinniss.

Nov 02 2011 | Read Full Review of The Journalist and the Murder...

Publishers Weekly

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In a work that sparked controversy when it first appeared in the New Yorker, Malcolm suggests that journalist Joe McGinniss may have betrayed convicted murderer Jeffrey MacDonald in McGinniss's bestse

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Slate

It’s 1998, and by sheer chance, Kirn is thrown into the orbit of an eccentric named Clark Rockefeller—a peevish, slender man with an astonishing art collection and an autistically impressive recall of historical facts and “persons.” Even before meeting Rockefeller in the flesh, the writer in Kirn...

Mar 04 2014 | Read Full Review of The Journalist and the Murder...

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