Dave Cullen’s “Columbine:” Extraordinary Scholarship and Journalism

I don’t have the time just now to do a complete review that would do justice to Dave Cullen’s extraordinary book Columbine.

But as I watch all the “Best of 2009” lists include Dave’s amazingly  insightful and thoughtful book, I wanted to make sure that my students know just what is possible when an immensely talented journalist and scholar takes the time to understand an event sometimes dismissed as inexplicable.

Dave’s Columbine is the virtual opposite of the standard shlocky true-crime book. In fact, I hate to even mention it in the same breath as those overnight rush-jobs by self-styled criminologists who throw in every rumor and sensational news story and call it a book.  Dave examines — with uncommon care and empathy —  all of the many lives and social forces that came together at that horrible moment and the result is easily the best work about a  sudden act of mass violence I have ever read.

I can’t recommend it strongly enough.

2 thoughts on “Dave Cullen’s “Columbine:” Extraordinary Scholarship and Journalism

  1. Cullen , who first reported on the story for the online magazine Salon, acknowledges in the book’s source notes that thoughts he attributes to Klebold and Harris are conjecture gleaned from the record the pair left behind.

    Jeff Kass takes a more straightforward approach in “Columbine: A True Crime Story,” working backward from the events of the fateful day.
    The Denver Post

    Mr. Cullen insists that the killers enjoyed “far more friends than the average adolescent,” with Harris in particular being a regular Casanova who “on the ultimate high school scorecard . . . outscored much of the football team.” The author’s footnotes do not reveal how he knows this; when I asked him about it while preparing this review, Mr. Cullen said he did not necessarily mean to imply that Harris was sexually active. But what else would such words mean?

    “Eric and Dylan never had any girlfriends,” the more sober Mr. Kass writes, and were “probably virgins upon death.”
    Wall Street Journal

  2. Thanks for that really nice piece, Steve. I just stumbled upon it from another blog today.

    There’s much more about the book and the tragedy on my Columbine site. And for kids, I created a Students Page there, and several videos. (Some of them are designed for book clubs or classing, covering topics like the structure of the book, and my choice of characters.

    FYI, for schools and book clubs, I’m offering to skype in for 20-30 minutes this fall/summer.


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