Friday, March 11, 2011

An Open Fan Letter to Wired's Amy Wallace*

Dear Amy Wallace,

Not a second of your time has been wasted.

I imagine that when you wrote The Fury you spent some time on it. It seems to me there must have been some reading to do, some research, phone calls, travel maybe, talking to people, writing, rewriting, rewriting. That must have taken you some time, and I’d like to thank you for spending that time, every second of it, on this piece.

If I heard about Amy Bishop in 2010, I didn’t care. I don’t remember, and it largely doesn’t matter. It may have been a headline I skimmed past, a channel I changed, or a tweet I passed by in search of more interesting news. Now, in 2011, you have put her on my radar once and for always.

I’m a Wired subscriber. I relish the moment it comes to my mailbox, and I delight in ripping its plastic skin and turning right to Clive Thompson (although now I will look for your name). I roll it up and stuff it in my backpack for my commute, stealing a quick glance at an article on my 7-minute bus ride, and then delving in once I board the Metro. I usually go cover to cover, infuriated that some juicy articles are interrupted by ads or—the horror!—continued on a later page after an intervening feature.

Who knew when I got on the train last night at Gallery Place/Chinatown that I would arrive at my stop at Greenbelt (luckily, it’s the end of the line) fully transported into another sphere of knowledge, and irrevocably drawn into the world of this woman I have nothing in common with and will never meet. How could Amy Bishop have entered my consciousness with such a slam that I had to avoid my neighbors at the bus shelters and pretend to be waiting for a different route just so no one would interrupt my tear though the last three pages. Of course, I had no idea how much was left because this was the type of transcendent reading that I, an avid reader and librarian, wouldn’t dare spoil by looking ahead.

I found a bus and hid in the back, aware enough of some people I knew that I donned my anti-social reading cloak and dispelled them with my obvious and undivided attention to the glossy mag in my grasp. It seemed like they wouldn’t shut up and I wanted only to crawl under something into isolation so I could keep reading.

You wove in the novel passages so beautifully. You must have read all 900 pages and I cannot believe you took the time to do that and yet it was so very necessary. I was having the same reaction I had to movies like Monster and A Clockwork Orange and Pulp Fiction—that criminal people are people, and that any time spent demonstrating their humanity is time well-spent, even when, and perhaps especially when, the portrait drawn adds nothing toward a claim of guilt or innocence but simply and evenly tells us who this person is or was.

And there were details. Tooth fragments in airways and a long-overdue block party by well-meaning people who’d had a difficult neighbor. I know about the world of Amy Bishop now, can’t shake it, and yesterday at this time I was just going about my business in the world, oblivious.

How do you do that? How did you know it would work so well?

I didn’t really care where my bus was going, but I managed to get off in the relative vicinity of my house and run the last few blocks in my leaky boots. My husband greeted me briefly with a puzzled face as I lumbered up the stairs because I just had to “finish this great article. Just hold on!” I lay on my bed in my raincoat, covering up the last few paragraphs with my hand, waving my galoshes off the end of the bed and realizing that you can only read something for the first time once. You never get a second chance at that first delicious read, so it had better be damned good. The Fury was.

Where the world was once just looking through a tiny, ragged hole into another room, you’ve made us take a giant step back and actually see the hole, and the wall holding it.

*The article in question is available online, but I highly recommend subscribing and reading the print version.

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