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True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa Paperback – Bargain Price, August 15, 2006
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In True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa, disgraced New York Times writer Michael Finkel recounts the story of the murderer who assumed his identity and examines the reasons for his own fall from journalistic grace, in a memoir that is gripping, perceptive, and bizarre. In 2002, Finkel, a rising star at the Times, was fired for fabricating a character in a story about child laborers in Africa. Just as the story of his downfall was about to become public, he learned that a man named Christian Longo, arrested in Mexico for the murder of his wife and three small children in Oregon, had been living under an assumed identity: Michael Finkel of The New York Times. Sensing a story--and an opportunity for redemption--Finkel contacted Longo, initiating a relationship that would grow increasingly complex over the course of Longo's trial and conviction.
Finkel makes no excuses for his actions. Nor does he deny his own narcissism--a narcissism that allowed him to rationalize his own lies as surely as Longo rationalized his crimes. Ultimately, Finkel says, his year with Longo taught him "how a person's life could spiral completely out of control; how one could get lost in a haze of dishonesty; and how these things could have dire consequences." The lesson, Finkel need not add, applies as much to the disgraced writer as it does to the killer. --Erica C. Barnett --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In 2001, Finkel fabricated portions of an article he wrote for the New York Times Magazine. Caught and fired, he retreated to his Montana home, only to learn that a recently arrested suspected mass murderer had adopted his identity while on the run in Mexico. In this astute and hypnotically absorbing memoir, Finkel recounts his subsequent relationship with the accused, Christian Longo, and recreates not only Longo's crimes and coverups but also his own. In doing so, he offers a startling meditation on truth and deceit and the ease with which we can slip from one to the other. The narrative consists of three expertly interwoven strands. One details the decision by Finkel, under severe pressure, to lie within the Times article—ironic since the piece aimed to debunk falsehoods about rampant slavery in Africa's chocolate trade—and explores the personal consequences (loss of credibility, ensuing despair) of that decision. The second, longer strand traces Longo's life, marked by incessant lying and petty cheating, and the events leading up to the slayings of his wife and children. The third narrative strand covers Finkel's increasingly involved ties to Longo, as the two share confidences (and also lies of omission and commission) via meetings, phone calls and hundreds of pages of letters, leading up to Longo's trial and a final flurry of deceit by which Longo attempts to offload his guilt. Many will compare this mea culpa to those of Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass, but where those disgraced journalists led readers into halls of mirrors, Finkel's creation is all windows. There are, notably, no excuses offered, only explanations, and there's no fuzzy boundary between truth and deceit: a lie is a lie. Because of Finkel's past transgression, it's understandable that some will question if all that's here is true; only Finkel can know for sure, but there's a burning sincerity (and beautifully modulated writing) on every page, sufficient to convince most that this brilliant blend of true-crime and memoir does live up to its bald title. 4-city author tour. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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Top customer reviews
Longo's struggles to be a decent human being did not come through this story - what you hear is a story developing as does his non-existent character. Because Longo is devoid of any human characteristics. He is nothing more than a pathological liar that decided to rid himself of his family - killing those poor children and discarding them into the murky waters boarding the Oregon Coast so that he may start a new chapter in his life.
I find the relationship between Finkel and Longo to be similar, but Finkel uses the illustrations as a way to apologize for his actions working for the New York Times, and I understand the stress he put himself through plagiarizing his story. The connection is there, and at times made me sick to my stomach.
Yes, and the two of them embarked on a long-term correspondence which is the story in this book. Very well written and just as bizarre as you might imagine. And a great insight into the true nature of a psychopath.
As for the rest of it, I really liked it. I enjoyed both the book and the movie. I find the Longo murders to be very interesting, and Finkel's relationship with Longo himself is fascinating. It's like you're right there with Finkel, along for the ride: is Longo a good guy who made some bad choices? Or is he playing everyone?
This is a great read. Highly recommended for true crime buffs.
Becoming his friend for most of the story really took away from the objectivity that he had and also caused him to not confront Mr. Longo with his crimes.
Really I was not interested in reading about their cozy relationship and how Mr. Longo was a nice guy and liked the author. I was looking more for insight into why he did these terrible deeds
Kinkel does his subject, and himself, true justice.