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Murder in Mississippi

de John Safran

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2121499,933 (3.58)8
God'll Cut You Down combines an unlikely journalist, a murder case in Mississippi, and a fascinating literary true crime story in the style of Jon Ronson. A notorious white supremacist named Richard Barrett was brutally murdered in Mississippi in 2010 by a young black man named Vincent McGee. At first the murder seemed a twist on old Deep South race crimes. But then new revelations and complications came to light. Maybe it was a dispute over money rather than race-or, maybe and intriguingly, over sex. John Safran, a young white Jewish Australian documentarian, had been in Mississippi and interviewed Barrett for a film on race. When he learned of Barrett's murder, he returned to find out what happened and became caught up in the twists and turns of the case. During his time in Mississippi, Safran got deeper and deeper into this gothic southern world, becoming entwined in the lives of those connected with the murder-white separatist frenemies, black lawyers, police investigators, oddball neighbors, the stunned families, even the killer himself. And the more he talked with them, the less simple the crime-and the people involved-seemed to be. In the end, he discovered how profoundly and indelibly complex the truth about someone's life-and death-can be. This is a brilliant, haunting, hilarious, unsettling story about race, money, sex, and power in the modern American South from an outsider's point of view.… (més)
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Es mostren 1-5 de 14 (següent | mostra-les totes)
A messy but unsettling read -- and a good one, too. If you're not familiar with Safran's somewhat loose style, this might not be the best primer, but his true-crime investigation of the slaying of a confused white supremacist by a down-on-his-luck black youth is quite startling. The killer's identity is never in question, but almost everything else is.

As I said, the book is messy -- that is, a lot of it comes across as taken directly from Safran's notes; it's not edited or overly thematic like, say, that of Capote; and the difference between earlier true-crime works and those of the 21st century - where bureaucracy has more power to elude but social media threatens to devour the truth and make us all masters of our own narratives - sometimes obscures what really happened. Indeed, Safran walks away with only glimmers of insight.

Yet, "Murder in Mississippi" is ultimately a success. That's partly because self-avowed "Race Trekkie" Safran refuses to let the uneasy questions go unasked (and in this, his status as not just an outsider but a foreigner - and a Jewish one at that - makes things much easier, in some ways). But it's also because what we find in the killing of Richard Barrett is a nasty, nasty situation. Barrett was undoubtedly a loathsome man, but as we gradually realise, every impression of him was different - and some were determined not to see racism at all. And the killer, Vincent, is undoubtedly a victim of his society - yet it gradually becomes clear that for all his victimhood, the young man is also severely messed up. More to the point, as Safran's investigation takes in the wider community of Mississippi, he inadvertantly stumbles on much greater questions like: how much does it really take to bring about change? Integration may have been forced on these people by a Yankee government, but every page brings us to new areas of discrimination and petty power plays, a lot of it hidden between an awkward silence and a smile.

As a Melbournian myself, my response to many of the local issues is as bewildered as Safran's; if there are answers, I don't claim to know them. And that's ultimately what this book does well: it asks the questions and lets the murky haze of non-sequiturs hang there, illuminated for at least a moment by his flashlight. ( )
  therebelprince | Jun 24, 2021 |
The major fault is that the more interesting stories, the lady with the horrifying stories of her family's recent past that blinds her into thinking all black men problems stem from a white woman or the murdering Baptist brought down years later brought down by a bumbling, possibly gay, white supremist would both be far more fascinating than this tale. ( )
  illmunkeys | Apr 22, 2021 |
I really enjoyed this book. It was interesting seeing our Deep South through the eyes of an Australian, and the story he chose to investigate for this book offers a valuable perspective on race, class and gender relations in our society, as well as a human, individualized side of a crime that could easily have been dismissed as part of a faceless statistic (and a crime that might easily have been forgotten by everyone but those directly involved, without the influence of this author poking into the story). ( )
  JBarringer | Dec 30, 2017 |
Safran means to write a book akin to the podcast Serial but the source material just fizzles. It's not his fault. It's the risk of a non-fiction account. ( )
  kallai7 | Mar 23, 2017 |
This was a lot like watching a Safran TV show but in book form - entertaining, confronting, ethically dubious, challenging and often funny. Safran tells the story of the murder of Richard Barrett, a white supremacist who he'd played a prank on in an earlier TV series and who was stabbed to death by a young black man. Starting out with a fascinating story about race, Safran quickly realises he's got a fascinating story about race, sex, money and power and he follows every thread to try to make sense of it all. The often contradictory stories and perceptions leave Safran frustrated, but become the key revelation of the tale - nobody really knew Barrett and nobody really knows why he was killed (except the Vincent McGee, the killer, obviously, whose self-serving interviews are strikingly implausible). It's a nicely put together story - part the story of the murder and part the story of Safran getting entangled in everybody's lives. If you're a fan of his various tv series (particularly Race Relations) then you'll definitely enjoy this.

I'm still wrestling with the ethical ramifications of Safran's dealing with McGee - I'm not sure the payoff is worth the pretty exploitative relationship that Safran develops with him. He's well aware of this of course, with one whole chapter reading simply, "What would Janet Malcolm think?" ( )
  mjlivi | Feb 2, 2016 |
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Published under the title God'll Cut You Down: The Tangled Tale of a White Supremacist, a Black Hustler, a Murder, and How I Lost a Year in Mississippi in the United States.
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Wikipedia en anglès (1)

God'll Cut You Down combines an unlikely journalist, a murder case in Mississippi, and a fascinating literary true crime story in the style of Jon Ronson. A notorious white supremacist named Richard Barrett was brutally murdered in Mississippi in 2010 by a young black man named Vincent McGee. At first the murder seemed a twist on old Deep South race crimes. But then new revelations and complications came to light. Maybe it was a dispute over money rather than race-or, maybe and intriguingly, over sex. John Safran, a young white Jewish Australian documentarian, had been in Mississippi and interviewed Barrett for a film on race. When he learned of Barrett's murder, he returned to find out what happened and became caught up in the twists and turns of the case. During his time in Mississippi, Safran got deeper and deeper into this gothic southern world, becoming entwined in the lives of those connected with the murder-white separatist frenemies, black lawyers, police investigators, oddball neighbors, the stunned families, even the killer himself. And the more he talked with them, the less simple the crime-and the people involved-seemed to be. In the end, he discovered how profoundly and indelibly complex the truth about someone's life-and death-can be. This is a brilliant, haunting, hilarious, unsettling story about race, money, sex, and power in the modern American South from an outsider's point of view.

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