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Wednesday, May 1, 2013 - Page updated at 08:00 p.m.
Knox's memoir: Says she was "a lost, pathetic child"
By Michiko Kakutani
The New York Times
“Waiting to be Heard: A memoir”
Harper, 463 pp., $28.99
“She’s a complete blank,” the playwright John Guare once said, trying to explain the public fascination with Amanda Knox, the University of Washington student accused (along with two men) of killing her housemate Meredith Kercher during a sex escapade gone awry in Italy. “You can project anything on to her. Is she Henry James’ Daisy Miller, an innocent young girl who goes to Europe for experience? Or is she Louise Brooks, the woman who takes what she wants and destroys everything? Or is she Nancy Drew caught up in Kafka?”
The self-portrait Knox draws in her meditative memoir, “Waiting to Be Heard,” published Tuesday , is very much that of an all-American student whose junior year abroad went off the rails through a series of unfortunate mistakes and misunderstandings. She emerges from these pages less a Jamesian heroine or Kafka-esque protagonist than a naive, impetuous, somewhat quirky girl who suddenly found herself caught up in a Hitchcockian nightmare.
She and then-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were initially convicted in a 2009 trial that caused an international uproar, then were acquitted by an appeals-court jury in October 2011, after which Knox returned home to Seattle. (The murder conviction of a third defendant, Rudy Guede, in a separate trial, was upheld on appeal.) Just last month Italy’s highest court ordered a new trial after prosecutors and lawyers for Kercher’s family challenged the acquittal.
The author describes herself here as a frightened “mouse in a cat’s game.” She says she was “a lost pathetic child” who, at 20, “still had a childlike view of people” and who didn’t have as good a command of Italian as she liked to think. Of her early dealings with the police, she writes: “I didn’t want them to think I was a bad person. I wanted them to see me as I was — as Amanda Knox, who loved her parents, who did well in school, who respected authority.”
Large portions of her account of the murder case and trials will be familiar to readers who have followed the story.
Knox tells us she thought about what it might be like to commit suicide, that she was told by a doctor she was HIV-positive (this turned out to be false), and that she was subjected to lewd comments and an unwanted advance by a guard.
She gives a detailed account of what she remembers doing the night of Kercher’s murder: the marijuana, watching the movie “Amélie” and reading a Harry Potter book in German with Sollecito.
Knox argues that the couple of flings she’d had with men in Italy — which detractors seized on to underscore an image of her as a dangerous femme fatale — were simply attempts to be more grown up and comfortable with the casual sex others of her generation practiced.
Knox acknowledges that she did behave somewhat oddly after the murder: For instance, when she went with the police to the crime scene and put on protective bootees and gloves, she sang out “Ta-dah” and thrust out her arms “like the lead in a musical.” It was an attempt, she writes, “to ease the tension for myself, because this was so surreal and terrifying.”
As for signing a statement in Italian that implicated herself and an innocent man, Patrick Lumumba (who was her boss at a bar where she worked), she says she was confused and exhausted and terrified after being interrogated by the police for hours and being slapped by an officer.
Knox spent a lot of time in prison writing journals, poems, stories, letters, even lists of what she would do with her life (i.e., things she would do if she got out immediately, or things she would do if she were 46 when she was released). All that practice and all that introspection have given her an ability to convey her emotions with considerable visceral power — the shock of feeling the supremely ordinary morph into the utterly surreal, the vulnerability of being on trial in a foreign country in a language she had not completely mastered, the isolation of being in prison and at the center of a swirling media storm.
If, as Knox tells it, she was too gullible and naive about people when she first arrived in Italy, she seems to have developed sharp powers of observation during her years in confinement.
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