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Blake Morrison attended the 1993 trial of two 10-year-old boys in Liverpool, England, who were accused of killing a 2-year-old; he wrote about the case for the New Yorker. Three years later, the case was still haunting him, so he returned to the subject to examine its impact on a more personal level.
More than anything, Morrison wanted an answer as to why the murder happened. He had started out (naively) believing that this was a question the trial would answer, and was dismayed to find that it was the one issue the court never addressed. Do the boys themselves know why? "I don't think they'll ever know," Morrison writes. "The further they go from it and the more they talk to therapists, the more they will develop a story about what happened. But whether that's a true story is very debatable... There isn't going to be the single answer that we all crave."
And so Morrison turned inward to look for answers, mulling over his own experiences of being a child and being a parent. As If (named from the expression he hears his children using to express skepticism) is an extended personal essay on the nature of childhood, including aggressive and sexual feelings that children have and those that other people have toward children. With its flurry of quotations and ruminations, this book won't be to everyone's taste, but it does illustrate an intriguingly personal approach to understanding a crime. --Fiona Webster [via]