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As If: A Crime, a Trial, a Question of Childhood Hardcover – August 15, 1997

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 209 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (August 15, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312167776
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312167776
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #584,241 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

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

From Library Journal

When toddler James Bulger was abducted and killed by two ten-year-old boys in Liverpool, England, the question asked around the world was how could such young children commit such a crime. Morrison (And When Did You Last See Your Father? St. Martin's, 1995) covered the trial for the New Yorker and in this volume describes not only the crime and the trial but includes ruminations on such varied topics as The Children's Crusade, parenthood, and the debate about age and responsibility. The writing is excellent, and Morrison ties all his wide-ranging thoughts seamlessly back to the courtroom events, the accused, and the victim. He writes of his own dark thoughts as a parent who worries for his child's safety and of his concern about the larger problem of crimes committed worldwide by children. A thought-provoking, often disturbing book. For all library collections.?Christine A. Moesch, Buffalo & Erie County P.L., N.Y.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Currie-Knight TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 27, 2006
Format: Paperback
In Liverpool, two ten year old boys have murdered a two year old boy. They encountered him - they did not know him before - in a shopping square, took him by the hand, walked him two miles to the train tracks, and bashed his skull in with bricks (and some suspect, sexually abused him). The two year old boy allegedly did not put up much fight the entire way. He was two, and two year olds are trusting.

Blake Morrison, an Englishman and father of three, was asked by the New Yorker magazine to cover and write about the trial. Morrison is interested first and foremost in one thing: the Why. What would make two ten year old boys (both were troublemakers) decide to kill a two year old stranger? Is the answer in their family history, their genetic predisposition, the movies they were watching (Child's Play 3), or what? That quest to find The Why is what this book is primarily about.

Along with an account of the very short and relatively unclimactic trial we get ruminations on childhood, parenting, the 'nature' of evil, and even the justice system. Morrison is quite good at this, and where many would come off sounding like an amalgamation of plattitudes, Morrison really does have something to say on all of these subjects.

Yet, what bugged me - and bugged me it did - was that Morrison is too 'literary' for his own good. Every sentence finds Morrison trying to be witty and poetic, outdoing the last. There is a time and a place for this kind of spakly writing, but, to my eyes, this was decidedly not the venue for it (at least, keep the floweriness in moderation!).

The other complaint was that while Morrison is an above-average ruminator, anyone looking for a 'trial story' will be disappointed by this book.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Georgeann M. Jolley on December 26, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Blake Morrison's "As If" was this reader's favorite find of the year. Morrison finds himself compelled to view the unfolding of Liverpool's James Bulger murder trial, and in doing so is forced to assess his own life in relation to what it means to grow up "normally". Who is truly guilty or innocent in this shocking act of two ten-year olds murdering a two-year old? He says he must determine the "why" of the crime. As we sink with him into the morass, we find that the answer becomes more and more elusive, and we wonder how different these families are from yours or mine.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 26, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I bought this novel in the summer while I was in England. A few weeks ago, when I was looking for a book to read, I came across As If on my book shelf. Since then I have read it three times. Morrison made me ask questions of myself and of society that I would have never asked otherwise. He explains the trial, not only in a factual manner, but in an extrordinarily philosophical way as well.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Judy Croome on June 20, 2013
Format: Paperback
The 2* rating I've given AS IF in no way reflects on the excellence of the narrative, which leads one to read compulsively from page to page.

Rather, my rating of this book is to highlight what is mostly forgotten in this book: that a society, which forgets the victims of a crime in its concern for the rights of the perpetrators, is neither liberal nor civilised, but merely sliding from one unhealthy extreme of human nature to another.

Yes, as Morrison so eloquently calls for in the last chapter of AS IF, to be considered civilised, we must move away from a lynch mob mentality, which demands retribution with no thought or consideration of understanding the WHY of a seemingly unpardonable act. But that does not mean society should move to the opposite pole either, where thinking becomes so liberal that no individual, however violent, has to take responsibility for the consequences of his/her actions.

This is what AS IF does. An elegant and intellectual essay exploring the WHY behind the James Bulger murder, AS IF has one fatal, fundamental flaw: the author's blindness to the fact that, in his strong identification with Thompson and Venables (more about the WHY of *that* later), he forgets to understand the fears and feelings, limitations and troubles of another young child and his family.

Several other reviewers of this book have indicated that Morrison focused too much on his own feelings to the detriment of the book. Although, at times, the prose is to consciously literary, too consciously long-winded (he likes his long lists, he does), it's so lyrically emotional that this interiority of the well-written prose is what makes it such an interesting read.
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