Pictures at an Execution

Wendy Lesser, Author
Wendy Lesser, Author Harvard University Press $34.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-674-66735-8
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-674-66736-5
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``Murder literature forces us, or lures us, or invites us to identify with the murderer. It is an invitation we readily accept,'' declares Lesser in this alternately stimulating inquiry. Editor of The Threepenny Review , Lesser ( His Other Half: Men Looking at Women Though Art ) here takes as her theme why we are drawn to murder as real-life spectacle and in art. A 1991 San Francisco trial in which KQED-TV sued San Quentin prison's warden for denying the station permission to broadcast the execution of a convicted murderer forms the centerpiece of Lesser's meditation; she views capital punishment as state-sanctioned murder. Shuttling between fact and fiction, she offers a rarefied analysis of murder as depicted in a vast array of movies, novels, stories, mysteries, TV shows, true-crime books, plays and photojournalism. Ranging from Poe to Joe McGinniss and Norman Mailer, from Macbeth to Silence of the Lambs , her searching essay will appeal most to intellectual murder buffs. First serial to Los Angeles Times Magazine. (Jan.)
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