While I take a break between my old series on popular phrases and the new one I’m hoping to start in the next few weeks, I’m going to catch up on some reviews of books I’ve been reading lately – in part to practice for my new (volunteer) position reviewing books for Seattle’s award-winning street newspaper Real Change. It’s a great paper that keeps readers informed of social justice issues, the struggles of the poor and homeless in this city and advocacy/activism opportunities for those with a heart toward the least and the last of society. But I digress. It’s book review time:
I’m from Littleton and was in lockdown at a nearby middle school when the horrors of Columbine were unfolding in April of 1999. It wasn’t until the shooting at my own school (SPU) in early June 2014 that I began to even start approaching and processing this – as in, come out of denial that I wasn’t living in a world where such a thing as Columbine could possibly happen. I appreciate Brooks’ candor and unique voice and identified with much of what he said about the desperation and hopelessness of our generation (and beyond, at this point), the failure of The System to do what it purports to do and the “underside” of the otherwise solemn but still neatly packaged mainstream story of Columbine. It’s clear that he’s angry but I can’t blame him. At any rate, I didn’t find his emotion or tone distracting but refreshingly honest in a way not many are willing to do (“honest” does not mean “rant” or “cynicism” as so many social media users like to think it does).
In much of what I’ve read of the Columbine material thus far, I’m getting the impression that Eric was the psychopathic ringleader and Dylan was the badly depressed follower (not that they aren’t both equally responsible for this madness); I sort of wish Brooks had spoken a bit more to that specifically but I wouldn’t want to advocate that Brooks tells a story other than his own. Additionally, I’ve come across a number of sources that relay Mark Taylor and Richard Castaldo feeling slighted by Michael Moore during the making of “Bowling for Columbine” and that Moore was not exactly honest with either Mark or Castaldo. Brooks’ book didn’t give me that impression so I’m sort of left with a question there.
Overall, I appreciate this book and would recommend it to anyone interested in the Columbine case; his story needs to be part of our attempts to understand and grapple with Columbine not just because he personally knew the perpetrators but also to hold in tension with all the other stuff out there. I’m not saying that Brooks trumps all, of course – there’s a lot of information and misinformation about this high-profile tragedy – but for anyone still haunted by it, Brooks’ perspective is a must in the Columbine conversation.