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Book-ended by two heavy-hitting true crime series, The Jinx and Making a Murderer, 2015 (and ’16) saw a lot of journalists grappling with the draw of these programs and true crime as a genre. These documentaries were cinematic, following those accused of crimes but with hazy details that either led to them being imprisoned possibly wrongly (Steven Avery) or free (Robert Durst). There is an ambiguity with these real-life narratives that allows filmmakers to create engaging documentaries that grapple with inconsistencies, problematic ideologies, and injustices. Both series quickly became rulers for filmmakers as more highbrow-aesthetic true crime films are showing up on Netflix and HBO. More… “TV Departed”

Melinda Lewis has a PhD in American Culture Studies. She knows more celebrity gossip than basic math and watches too much television.

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Jimmy Yee cannot kill himself.

It’s certainly not for a lack of effort. Hanging doesn’t work. Slitting his wrists is useless. Shooting himself in the head, overdosing on pills . . . nothing he tries gives him the exit into oblivion he so clearly craves. Each time he succumbs, he witnesses a glowing ring of light, then awakens once again in his motel room. At least it seems like his motel room. What is going on? Maybe if he throws himself in front of a truck . . .

That’s the opening sequence to Demon, Jason Shiga’s bloody brilliant (or brilliantly bloody) action comic, a no-holds-barred assault on good taste and timidity that proves to be as hilarious and captivating as it is incredibly violent and profane. Originally serialized both online and via print pamphlets by the author, Demon is now being “officially” published as a four-volume series of books by First Second. The first volume was released late last year, the second just last month — volumes three and four will be coming out by the end of 2017. More… Demon am I”

By day, Chris Mautner is the mild-mannered social media producer for PennLive.com. By night, he writes about really nerdy things for The Comics Journal . . . and this site. He is one-quarter of the podcast Comic Books Are Burning in Hell.

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The internet is saying farewell to Bookslut after 14 years. We dug back into our archives to find you lovely readers some gems from Jessa Crispin’s time here at the Smart Set.

Leave James Joyce Alone!

[W]hen scholars and biographers complain about the gatekeepers to the estate, especially when those are family members, what do they expect? Biographers may claim noble and spotless intentions, but for the most part they deal in gossip. Stephen saw the people who raised him reduced to cartoon figures. He watched as the biographer of his very troubled aunt, who had recurring periods of madness and spent most of her life in an institution, hailed as not schizophrenic but merely artistic and damaged by her father’s sexual love for her. His grandfather was called a liar and a cheat. His parents, private figures both, faced a scrutiny they did not deserve. Stephen’s father, Joyce’s son, was called a worthless layabout for never really having a career, and his mother was called mad. If I were Stephen, I would have started to burn documents, too.

I’ll admit it: when it comes to murder, I’m a sexist.

“Think,” I told them. “What would cause a 12-year-old girl to wipe out her entire family? What would cause her sister, when pushed, to say they all got what they deserved?”

As we retread the book carefully, with this question as a lens, I started to feel that maybe I was betraying the book, taking it off in a direction it did not necessarily want to go. I was imposing my own agenda on the novel, using it to prove that, while it’s almost accepted wisdom that adolescent boys are rage-filled thunder gods, ready to wreak death and destruction upon any around them, a girl must have a pretty good reason to lash out. Maybe instead I should have felt it was natural for a 12-year-old girl to poison the sugar.

Walk Like a Man

We stopped freaking out about the “Oh my god, women want to wear pants!” thing a really long time ago. Women wandered into the traditionally masculine realms of self-expression and ambition and now it’s just normal.

Not so with masculinity. It is still as rigid and well defended as ever, despite a few David Bowies or Johnny Depps in the mix. Just look at last year’s total freaking meltdown about a J. Crew catalog that carried a photo of a woman painting her young son’s toenails. . . . When a girl is boyish, or even claims she’d rather be a boy, it’s cute. She’s a tomboy. When a boy is girlish, wanting to wear dresses or try on some makeup, it’s a mental disorder and needs an immediate medical intervention.

Book Report

This is where the action is, after all, the public libraries. And by action I mean bloodletting. It’s perhaps the most vulnerable segment of the American Library Association, dependent on city and state budgets rather than the universities and corporations that find their funding elsewhere. And each year, thousands of the PLA’s 11,000 members descend on a city to set the agenda for the year to come, to commiserate and strategize. And to network for employment, for the more recent victims of the cutbacks.

Secure in the knowledge that libraries are now permanently fucked, I expected to walk in to find a mournful scene. Maybe candlelight vigils for state funding, a designated mourner wailing over grants for arts programs? I was donned in black. I was ready to blend in.

We love you, Bookslut. You will be dearly missed. •

Get in touch with The Smart Set at editor@thesmartset.com.

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If I Did It is an extremely confusing book written by an extremely confused man. That man is O. J. Simpson. He wrote the book as an act of confession. Or, maybe not, since the entire book is hypothetical. O. J. Simpson didn’t even write the book. He told his hypothetical account to a ghostwriter named Pablo F. Fenjves. In fact, the name O. J. Simpson is nowhere to be found on the cover of If I Did It. There is only the phrase “Confessions of The Killer.”

The book refers to that now-infamous night twenty years ago, June 12, 1994, when O.J.’s wife Nicole Brown Simpson was killed along with Ronald Goldman. Ron Goldman was, most likely, a man at the wrong place at the wrong time, a waiter returning a pair of glasses left at a restaurant by Nicole’s mother. Or maybe he was romantically involved… More…

A scene in the “new hit series” The Killing seemed déjà-vu familiar, until I realized it’s a standard moment in crime dramas. The victim’s parents are in the police station to answer some questions, and they accidentally come across the crime scene photos. The warm body of the daughter they knew and loved has become the cold corpse the police treat casually. Maybe they overhear a callous gallows-humor joke made by a detective. Their daughter’s dismembered body is cut into even smaller pieces by the police camera as it zooms in on her bound wrists, her broken nails left bloody stumps from trying to claw her way out of captivity, the petechial hemorrhage pinking the white of her eyes. The viewer is not allowed the same reaction as the parents. What they see as defilement, we see as aesthetics. When the body of the young girl is discovered, her body… More…

Part of Chicago froze in the 1930s. I’ve been thinking of my old home city of Chicago a lot lately, and of my new home in Berlin. The thread that ties them together seems to be that they’re both stuck in time. In the same time. They have one foot in this chaotic contemporary period, but the other is still in the 1920s and early ’30s, each summed up as a Bob Fosse experience (Chicago and Cabaret).

The Girls of Murder City: Fame, Lust, and the Beautiful Killers Who Inspired Chicago by Douglas Perry. 320 pages. Viking Adult. $25.95.

And why not? It was a glamorous age for both. Berlin had its cabarets, Otto Dix, sex, and liquor. Chicago had its speakeasies, gangsters, and gunner girls. With what followed — rubble for one, crime and poverty for the other… More…

Caravaggio was a son of a bitch. He killed people. He drank and brawled and painted and died. We love him for that, for being the difficult genius, for giving us stories. It’s 400 years since he died and the Caravaggio buzz is up to fever pitch. Everybody wants to talk about Caravaggio.

There is no denying that Caravaggio was every bit as bold a painter as he was a fighter. When you look at a Caravaggio — say, a famous one like “Boy Bitten by a Lizard” (c. 1594) — you feel the impact. The painting shows, undeniably, a boy in the immediate aftermath of have been bitten by a lizard. His face is lit up, his shoulder heaves in upward contortion. The immediacy of the painting — the light, the action, the gestures — makes one feel as if the history of previous painting is being blasted apart…. More…

The Roberto Bolaño craze has been in full swing for a few years already. It is to the point that publishers are publishing anything they can find (Bolaño died at age 50 in 2003). Lost works are creeping out of their hiding places. First came Diorama and The Troubles of the Real Police Officer. Now there is a novel about a board game called The Third Reich. All this from the drawers of his desk — God knows what will be revealed should someone finally stumble into the man’s attic or basement.

Morgan Meis has a PhD in Philosophy and is a founding member of Flux Factory, an arts collective in New York. He has written for n+1, The Believer, Harper’s Magazine, and The Virginia Quarterly Review. He won the Whiting Award in 2013. Morgan is also an editor at 3 Quarks Daily, and a winner… More…