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Iphigenia in Forest Hills: Anatomy of a Murder Trial Hardcover – March 29, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; First edition (March 29, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300167466
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300167467
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #659,915 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Iphigenia in Forest Hills is a garden of forking paths where at every turn new and contradictory narrative byways open up. . . A brief book but immense if measured by the implications that can be teased out of its sentences." —Geoffrey O'Brien, New York Review of Books
(Geoffrey O'Brien New York Review of Books)

"Janet Malcolm has produced another masterpiece of literary reportage"—Geoff Dyer, FT.com
(Geoff Dyer FT.com)

"Reading [Malcolm], you have the sensation of encountering a mind at once incredibly blunt and terrifically precise: a sledgehammer that could debone a shad. That rare and strange effect could only be produced by an intellect as formidable as Malcolm’s."—Kathryn Schulz, Boston Globe
(Kathryn Schulz Boston Globe)

"This is shrewd and quirky crime reporting at its irresistible and disabused best."—Louis Begley, Wall Street Journal
(Louis Begley Wall Street Journal)

"Malcolm eschews the pretense of certainty that most journalists adopt; instead, her process of probing the ambiguities, of investigating exactly how much she knows and does not know, becomes crucial to her narratives. . . . In the rigor of her investigation [Malcolm] reaches a different kind of truth." —Ruth Franklin, New Republic
(Ruth Franklin New Republic)

"A curious, compelling, and somewhat bedeviling book. . . . Malcolm is wonderfully equipped for the task of anatomizing the dynamics of the legal process. Her oeuvre of books has mixed clear-eyed reporting with rigorous investigations into the lures and snares of narrative, and she writes a precise, unflappable prose that seems purpose-built to chart the inflationary theatrics of a high-stakes trial."—Eli Gottlieb, Forward
(Eli Gottlieb Forward)

"It would be hard to pinpoint a common link between Janet Malcolm's many books, other than their consistent brilliance. . . . In Malcolm's hands, this isn't just the story of murder trial; it's a disquisition on the theater of justice. . . . Suffice it to say, after reading Iphigenia in Forest Hills, you are not likely to view future criminal trials in the same light."—Alan Bisbort, The Sunday Republican
(Alan Bisbort The Sunday Republican)

"Iphigenia in Forest Hills is a garden of forking paths where at every turn new and contradictory narrative byways open up."—Geoffrey O'Brien, The New York Review of Books
(Geoffrey O'Brien The New York Review of Books)

"[Malcolm] is obviously a talented journalist who obtains a great deal of information and offers it to her rapt readers with considerable flair. Malcolm raises acute questions about out trial system. . . . Her perceptive analysis provides readers with a great deal to ponder."—Morton I. Teicher, The Buffalo Jewish Review
(Morton I. Teicher The Buffalo Jewish Review)

"Janet Malcolm’s new book, Iphigenia in Forest Hills, is a slim little volume. If it is a cold night and you don’t mind a few wrinkles, you can read the entire thing in the bath. If it is not a cold night, it will feel like one by the time you finish."—Kathryn Schulz, Boston Globe
(Kathryn Schulz Boston Globe)

"Iphigenia in Forest Hills is an incendiary book that begins and ends—like any good epic must—in medias res . . . . It's a story that discomfits as much as it explains. Not for Malcolm the journalism of 'reassurance' or 'rhetorical ruses,' her small book with big stakes and mythic underpinnings flies close to the sun. It unsettles and scorches and soars."—Parul Sehgal, Bookforum
(Parul Sehgal Bookforum)

"Absorbing . . . . Iphigenia in Forest Hills casts, from its first pages, a genuine spell—the kind of spell to which Ms. Malcolm’s admirers (and I am one) have become addicted."—Dwight Garner, New York Times Book Review (Dwight Garner New York Times Book Review)

"In brave and crisp language, Malcolm formulates a verdict to resonate beyond the courtroom."—David Astle, ABC Radio (Au), The Book Show
(David Astle The Book Show)

"So well written...you not only get the facts of the sensational murder and riveting trial, you get the conflicts and the doubts too. Both intellectual and emotional precision are the guiding forces in this tale of justice."—Jewish Book World
(Jewish Book World)

Finalist for the 2012 Book of the Year in the True Crime category, as awarded by ForeWord Magazine.
(Book of the Year Finalist ForeWord Magazine)

About the Author

Janet Malcolm is the author of Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice, which won the PEN Biography Award, The Journalist and the Murderer, The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, Reading Chekhov, Burdock, and other books. Malcolm writes frequently for the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books. She lives in New York City.

More About the Author

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Customer Reviews

What fascinated me about this book is its connection to Malcolm's best book, *The Journalist and the Murderer*.
Gerald A. Heverly
There was certainly some interesting commentary about Bukharan Jews that I found entertaining, but was left unfulfilled about the details of the case.
su
Usually that is not good in a book but this makes you think and leaves you with a what would you do in this situation feeling.
Christine Parker

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By kevnm VINE VOICE on May 16, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I was initially disoriented by Ms. Malcolm's account, expecting the "anatomy" promised by the subtitle. The word suggested to me an ordered analysis of a system, in this case the justice system. What the reader gets, though, is a deeply felt meditation on the impossibility of objectivity, the very limited "truth" allowed through the strictures of the legal system, the bewildering treatment of children by legal and social service agencies,the petty tyranny of judges, and our indeterminate sense of equality. Incidents and personalities appear, fade, and reappear, eschewing a temporal, linear flow; This is by no means a straight, suspense-filled true crime account. Rather it is a thoughtful (and appropriately disordered) reflection on why no system that involves humans can ever make complete sense or produce fair, coherent results. Malcolm is a clear thinker and an able guide through this dark territory. Scenes from this case will stay with you a long time. Terrific read.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Gerald A. Heverly on June 24, 2011
Format: Hardcover
It's certainly true that Janet Malcolm is not a traditional courtroom reporter. In this case Malcolm carries you with her in apparent skepticism about the guilty verdict, even as she piles on trial details that would--without her mediation--seem clearly to implicate and convict the defendants, Mazoltuv Borukhova and Mikhail Mallayev. Malcolm does everything she can to wring sympathy for Ms. Borukhova, though just about everyone else in this book despises her. We learn that Borukhova has been apparently mistreated by one judge (in a custody battle) and now she is getting less-than-perfect 'justice' from the judge in her murder trial. We further learn that the two keys pieces of evidence against her are dubious (an indistinct, muffled translation of a Russian conversation; and a partial finger print). Whether she is guilty or not I leave to the reader.
What fascinated me about this book is its connection to Malcolm's best book, *The Journalist and the Murderer*. That book revolved around Malcolm's own misgivings about the things that journalists do to get the story. It's a complicated story within a story within a story about one journalist's relationship with a criminal defendant and Malcolm's own relationship with the author. Among other sins Malcolm ruminates about how journalists ingratiate themselves with people they secretly revile--all in the name of getting access to the kinds of details that sell a story.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Martin Chorich on November 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Readers expecting a True Crime potboiler should go elsewhere. Instead, we have Janet Malcolm, a literary journalist strongly influenced by psychology and structuralism inquiring, into the possibility of justice in an adversarial trial system. She analyzes the Borukhova case as matter of competing narratives offered by prosecution and defense with a judge acting in a triple role of ringmaster, spectator, and sentencing oracle. Needless to say, while trials of this kind make for good theater, they have a hit-and-miss approach to getting at the truth of matters. Frankly, the hard evidence points towards Ms. Borukhova's guilt, but the theatrics of the system require the prosecutor to go beyond factual presentation and into layering on the story-telling necessary for the jury to visualize and actuate a guilty verdict. The defense tells stories, too, aimed at disrupting the prosecutor's portrait of the defendant as a stressed-out but legally guilty orchestrator of a murder for hire. Malcolm's post-trial interviews with jury members indicate that their perceptions of the defendant's demeanor, personal appearance, and inability to culturally connect influenced them to accept the prosecution narrative, especially the elements that depart from physical or witness evidence of the crime itself.

On the whole, this makes for an interesting book, but Malcolm has covered this ground before. From a structuralist point of view, she clearly finds adversarial trial system an absurdity if truth telling is important to the legal system. I'd be very interested to see her apply the same analytical framework to European-style inquisitorial criminal justice procedures. Do they do a better job of things, or is human justice impossible?
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Cary B. Barad on July 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is a highly personalized, non-fiction account of an unusual true-to-life murder case, easily read in one sitting and characterized by an exceptional eye for human detail. The victim and the accused were reared in an esoteric immigrant community, the flavor of which Malcolm astutely captures in a colorful, sympathetic fashion.

The author also manages to interject herself into the legal proceedings themselves, which may or may not raise some ethical questions. All things said, this is a very good "court trial book". Many will find it to be a well-written, worthwhile read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Avida lettrice on December 8, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is based on the real story of a murder for which a woman (the wife of the man who was killed) is accused and declared guilty. The entire story revolves around the unique personality of this woman, and the possibility that she killed the husband out of love for her child. Already an interesting story, but even more is the fact that the writer went behind the scenes, trying to find explanations about the somewhat contrasting behavior of authorities, lawyers, judges, relatives, physicians... everyone who was involved in this tragedy. I could not believe it was a real story!
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