Wednesday, August 12, 2009

"Columbine" by Dave Cullen

Okay, I just can't help myself. I have no reason to write up the books I read anymore, but I feel like I'm slacking off if I skip it. Maybe I'll stop when I get a job...or when I get bored, I don't know, but for now I'll just try to keep them short. I heard of and picked up Columbine (2009) by Dave Cullen when I read a Cannonball Review on Pajiba. I naturally veer away from teary disaster stories that have been constantly exploited by the media--basically anything that Nancy Grace would stick her craw into; so even the thought of this book kind of made me cringe. But I grew up in Boulder and currently live in Denver, so I decided that it wouldn't hurt for me to know something about what happened so close by. I figured that ten years is enough to allow some perspective on the whole thing, even though I was still a little wary as I picked it up.

I was immediately drawn in. I only read some of the stories that came out right after the shooting and then tried to avoid the coverage, so much of the information was new to me. Cullens gives a clear picture of what occurred on the day of the shooting, delves into the past of Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, and discusses some of the fallout after the shooting. I had always thrown Klebold and Harris together, but Columbine delves into their writings and tapes and shows a more complete picture of them-- with some compassion but certainly not excusing their behavior in any way. Eric Harris was a classic psychopath and Dylan a suicidal depressive who probably wouldn't have acted on his own. Also, Cullen has been a part of the media storm that covered the Columbine Shootings since its inception, and I appreciated his honest views of where the media got things wrong and how the picture changed as time went on.

Some things that surprised me include the fact that Detectives had a search warrant executed at the Harris and Klebold homes even before the bodies of Dylan and Eric were found in the library. I was also a little surprised and disappointed that Jefferson County hid information and delayed their final report for so long. The information came out anyway, as it inevitably does, and it made the county look much worse in the long run. The book kind of petered out at the end with less information to go on. There were only a couple sentences written about various lawsuits, but I found the entire thing incredibly interesting, detailed, and fair, and I'm glad I read it.

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