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The Murders And The Journalists

More than 40 years after the "Fatal Vision" murders, Errol Morris's new book re-investigates a case once covered by the likes of Janet Malcolm and Joe McGinniss:

"In February 1970, at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina, a pregnant woman named Colette MacDonald and her two children, Kimberley, 5, and Kristen, 2, were slaughtered in their home. Colette's husband, Jeffrey MacDonald, a 26-year-old doctor and Green Beret at the time of the crime, was convicted of the murders in 1979. MacDonald faces the next of countless court dates on September 17, still seeking exoneration. The MacDonald case has been an object of obsession and controversy for more than four decades and the subject of high-visibility journalistic debate. But respectable opinion has always vastly favored the jury verdict of guilt. Errol Morris is trying to change that.

"In one highlight of his career as a documentary filmmaker, Morris' 1988 investigative documentaryThe Thin Blue Line led to the release of Randall Dale Adams, who had been serving a life sentence in the killing of a Dallas policeman. After many years of reporting, Morris has written a new book, A Wilderness of Error, that argues that Jeffrey MacDonald, too, was wrongly convicted. Morris directly challenges prior accounts by Joe McGinniss and the much-revered Janet Malcolm. Morris' book, published yesterday, infected me with the virus of his fascination with the case and sent me to consult other sources. Can Morris be right? Is a man who tried and failed to prevent his family from being killed now serving three consecutive life terms for the crime?"
PUBLISHED: Sept. 5, 2012
LENGTH: 22 minutes (5670 words)

The Architect, The 'It' Girl And The Toy Pistol That Wasn't

Stanford White and Harry Thaw's battle for the heart of model and chorus girl Evelyn Nesbit in 1906:

"One warm June night in 1906, Albert Payson Terhune could be found engaged in battle for a telephone booth in the old Madison Square Garden while wearing a tuxedo. He had forcibly removed a man mid-conversation, and now, as he shouted into the phone, he kicked out a leg and swung his free arm to fend off the displaced caller and another man wielding a chair. Moments before and one floor above, Terhune, filling in as a drama critic for the New York Evening World, had been a witness to the crime of the century, and he was calling in the scoop.

"The movie version of his half of the conversation would go something like this: 'Right, yes, that Stanford White. It’s about Evelyn Nesbit!'"
PUBLISHED: Jan. 18, 2012
LENGTH: 6 minutes (1701 words)

Just Kids

When Jeffrey Eugenides moved to New York, he was 28 years old and things were not looking good. After graduating from Brown in 1983, he and Rick Moody, a college friend, had driven out to San Francisco with no real plan other than making a go of it as writers, and lived together awhile on Haight Street, listening to the sound of the electric typewriter coming from the other room. … That same summer, Jonathan Franzen, also 28, was living in Jackson Heights, Queens, and feeling “totally, totally isolated.” The neighborhood was an immigrant jumble, and Franzen was a solemn, intellectual guy from St. Louis without much occasion to leave the house. He had gotten some attention and money for his debut novel, The Twenty-Seventh City, but the axis of the planet had not obediently shifted. He was frustrated with living in “shared monastic seclusion” with his then-wife, he says, when he got a fan letter from a writer he knew of but had never read. David Foster Wallace, then 26, was having dire troubles of his own and wrote to praise what Franzen had done in a “freaking first novel.”
PUBLISHED: Oct. 10, 2011
LENGTH: 17 minutes (4371 words)

The Shocking True Tale Of The Mad Genius Who Invented Sea-Monkeys

As anyone sold by the Sea-Monkey ads could tell you, it was hard to say exactly where von Braunhut was walking on the terrain between truth, embellishment and con. That was his gift. He convinced us to look at the jazz hands and lose sight of the footwork. Von Braunhut’s inventions were not quite what they seemed to be. Neither was he.
PUBLISHED: June 28, 2011
LENGTH: 8 minutes (2096 words)