Monday, June 08, 2009

Almost everything we thought was true is wrong

If you were past the age of reason on April 20, 1999 you'll remember the Columbine High School shooting.

Until recently it was the worst school shooting in history. The media covered it, pundits analyzed it, we all read about it. And what we read was mostly wrong.

The reason it was wrong is fascinating; as is what turns out to be the truth.

How do I know this? Cause I just finished reading COLUMBINE by Dave Cullen. It's illuminating and sad, and terrifying. It's also one of the best books I've read in a long time.

You may have heard of it recently because Oprah taped a segment with the author, then didn't air it. It was "too downbeat." After reading the book I see her point. There's no happy ending here, no moral redemption, nothing even remotely silver lining in the cloud. It's well worth your time to read it though. You'll never think of Columbine in the same way again.


Maya / מיה said...

I remember reading a really fascinating blog post from a book cover artist about the creation of this cover. Can you remind me of the URL for this blog?

In any case, I would love to read this book when I can find it in Israel. It looks fascinating... and thanks for promoting it. How crushing must it have been for the author to make it onto Oprah and then have the episode yanked!

Anna Claire said...

I've been wanting to read this--thanks for posting about it. I was in high school when it happened, and though I live nowhere near Colorado, I remember our school officials freaking out the following week. Metal detectors went up and they even banned students from wearing all black for a if that would stop a school shooting?

Melanie Hooyenga said...

I'd really like to read this. My elementary school librarian later went to work at Columbine and is the librarian who got the students to hang out in the library during their lunch break. (blah -- is there another word for librarian?) Many of the students who died were close with her for that reason. She wasn't in the school at the time of the attack because she'd gone home to walk her dogs, but she was one of the first adults on the scene that was able to help the students as they fled the school building.

Rachael said...

"I remember reading a really fascinating blog post from a book cover artist about the creation of this cover. Can you remind me of the URL for this blog?"

Oh I saw that! That's the post. Two months old now.

I'd really like to read it too. I'll keep an eye out.

Sara Best said...

Maya, I remember that post about the cover of the Columbine book and I wrote about it on my blog.

You can find the link to the Henry Sene Yee post there:

Liesl Shurtliff said...

Oprah thought it was too downbeat? I haven't watched Oprah in a while but come on, half her shows leaves me feeling depressed.

AmyB said...

Well, you sold me. I just bought it from Amazon.

Anne R. Allen said...

That's some cover. Pretty much says the same thing Janet said about the book. Brilliant. Thanks for the link to Henry Sene Yee's blog. Sara's comments too. Facinating to follow the artist's process.

Pamela Hammonds said...

I heard that Oprah thought the show, after it had taped, focused too much on the two gunmen, and therefore pulled it.

I've also heard the book was amazing. Like many life-changing events, I remember where I was when I heard the news. And at times, when I watch my boys walk into their high school, it's all I can do not to call to them to turn around and don't go. Frightens the hell out of me to think of what could happen.

Dave Cullen said...

Janet, thanks for the really kind review. I'm enjoying the comments, too. Thank you all.

Henry did an amazing, cover, didn't he? I was very proud to have that wrapped around my book. And it was interesting to read his blog. I had no idea about his process.

(My editor was great about asking for input from me early and seeing how I felt about the cover, but I had nothing to do with creating it, nor did I know how it came about. Once they had one they loved, they sent it to me, and I was a lucky dog, so that was that.)

Maya, in all honesty, it was crushing when I first got the news about Oprah. We taped Wednesday, they started running TV commercials Thursday and Friday, and it was set to run the next Monday. We had taped it in the middle of the east coast leg of the book tour, so I went straight from Chicago to Miami, then home late Friday night to rest a bit for the weekend. I had to catch up on work all day Saturday, but I gave myself Sunday off, and was going to going out Saturday night to celebrate.

With the book launch, I had not been to the gym for a few weeks, so I worked through the day, then went to work out late Saturday night, at around 7 p.m., and was going to meet friends shortly after.

I had just started lifting, was actually bench pressing, when the phone call came in on my iphone, which silenced the ipod song I was using to get my energy going. I literally did not believe the call at first. I had thought we were so home free by that point. When I hung up, I thought I was going to throw up.

I didn't celebrate, but I met some friends to wallow in it for over an hour. Then I decided that was enough of that. I went home, slept on it, and was pretty OK in the morning.

There were a few more twists to the story, but life went on. The book was doing great regardless, which really cushioned the blow. Yes, I'd be happier if it aired, but hey, you win, you lose. I'm doing pretty well here.

And I have to say that I worked for several weeks with the Harpo producers and I was highly impressed by them. They were sharp, thorough and classy. Oprah was great, too. I got unlucky with a tough decision they felt they had to make. I can't legitimately recast my whole opinion of them because of that.

I appreciate the people who thought about my feelings, though. It was nice to see that here.

And really, taping the show was one hell of an experience. I have eight siblings, and the producers got me eleven tickets so that most of my family could attend. I live a thousand miles from most of them, the ten years on this book put a strain on some of my relationships. It was wonderful to have them all with me to share that day, along with some other news that came in that afternoon. I won't go into everything that happened, but I told them it was the best day of my life, and I meant it.

Nothing that happened afterward can take that away. I'll always have it. I wish I had the TV show airing, too, but I'll take what I got.

Rhu Rho. Did I blab way too long? I've been meaning to tell that story.

none said...

This looks like a book my husband would want to read. Although I wonder how it could not be downbeat....

Crystal Posey said...

Part of me wants to read this, but the part of me that is still struggling with the decision of home school and public school is telling me no. I have a feeling that this book would not help the paranoid side of me that I have to keep leashed.

Sally said...

I think it's a damn shame the show didn't air. I'm not an Oprah watcher, but I would've watched that. I loved the book, and have recommended it to everyone I know. It's very hard to pin down how to explain it to people, though. You start out by saying, "Everything you knew about Columbine was wrong." But you can't really make them "get" it until they read it. Top notch writing, too.