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
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This volume seeks to expose the hollowness of condemnation divorced from understanding in relation to the Bulger murder trial. People have almost become desensitized to random murder. It is often explained away by madness, sexual fantasy or rejection. One murder in recent times reduced every person to silence: the abduction and beating to death of a helpless infant by two ten-year-old boys. How and why did two innocent boys kill another? Is childhood innocence a myth? And what punishment could fit such a crime, assuming that children are fit to stand trial for murder? Blake Morrison went to the trial in Preston, and discovered a sad ritual of condemnation with two bewildered children at the centre. He looked for possible explanations in the boys' families, their dreary environment, their fantasies, their exposure to violent films. He evokes the worst feats of parents through candid and raw memories of his relations with his own children, and delves into his own childhood to reveal the worst thing he has ever done, to show how easy it is to go along with cruelty.
Blake Morrison is the author of two collections of poetry, "Dark Glasses" and "The Ballad of the Yorkshire Ripper", and is co-editor of "The Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry". His memoir, "And When Did You Last See Your Father?" won the Waterstone's/Esquire Award for non-fiction and the J.R. Ackerley Prize for Autobiography in 1993.