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Iphigenia in Forest Hills: Anatomy of a Murder Trial Paperback – November 20, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (November 20, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300181701
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300181708
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5.1 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #120,045 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"'In Iphigenia in Forest Hills, Janet Malcolm turns her excellence in first-person reportage to the American justice system... A gripping read.' Marcel Berlins, The Times 'Malcolm is an excellent observer, with a good eye for detail.' (Lynn Barber, The Sunday Times) 'This new book does for the courtroom what Malcolm's previous books did for biography, journalism and psychoanalysis. It shows that in a high-stakes trial nobody, least of all the judge, is an entirely disinterested player.' (Jonathan Bate, The Sunday Telegraph) 'As soon as I read this bizarre murder story, I felt impelled to read it again. It is impossible to put down.' (Julia Pascal, The Independent) 'Malcolm's interpretation is astonishing... Under her brilliant gaze, a seemingly incidental detail shines suddenly with meaning.'" (Elizabeth Gumport, The Guardian) 'If you have never read Malcolm, you are in for a treat. All her books are short and sharp and fiercely intelligent: as one of her colleagues put it, her 'blade gleams with a razor edge" (Craig Brown, The Mail on Sunday) 'Malcolm has written a fascinating story her essay's after effect is entirely disproportionate to its brevity. The disquiet stays with you. It's there in the pit of your stomach.' (Rachel Cooke, The Observer)"

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.

Customer Reviews

The book was totally disjointed.
Peter from Long Island
There was certainly some interesting commentary about Bukharan Jews that I found entertaining, but was left unfulfilled about the details of the case.
su
This is a good book if you enjoy the law genre.
KP

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 MJS on May 6, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is not a true crime book and Janet Malcolm is not an author who seeks to entertain. Nor is she the sort of author who fades into the background of her writing. More often than not, a critique of any of her books becomes a critique of her. Fortunately Malcolm is as ready to rumble as any star of the WWE. To read any of Malcolm's work for a dispassionate recitation of events is to be disappointed and to, well, miss the point. She seeks to understand what the events reveal about us. She does not stand on the sidelines and pretend to be unbiased - she has an opinion and she draws conclusions.

The bare facts are: Mazoltuv Borukhova is accused of hiring an assassin to murder his husband in front of her. Borukhova and the hired killer are put on trial, a highly imperfect trial in Malcolm's estimation. Her idiosyncratic take is on every page: "But rooting is in our blood; we take sides as we take breaths." It takes a bold writer to indulge in this herself: "That's what I think was going on. No one will ever be able to prove it. But that's exactly what happened."

Malcolm wants readers to see that we all impose our own interpretation on the testimony. We construct our own narrative, based on our own experiences and prejudices. We may seek the truth, but our version becomes the truth. "We explain and blame. We are connoisseurs of certainty." She offers her own version and, be warned, she is sympathetic to Borukhova. Malcolm wants to know what drove events and expands her search beyond what is said in court.

If you haven't like Malcolm's earlier books, you won't like this one. I have a soft spot for a writer who can sidle up to a prospective interview and offer the following reporter's come on "I went up to him and asked if Anna Freud's project ...
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