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The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by…

The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir (edition 2017)

by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich (Author)

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1452082,607 (3.88)10
Title:The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir
Authors:Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich (Author)
Info:Flatiron Books (2017), Edition: First Edition, 336 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:memoir, true-crime

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The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich



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Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich combines the genres of true-crime and memoir to explore the nature of the stories we tell others and ourselves. She uses the legal doctrine of “proximate cause” to understand the origins of her own problems growing up while citing similar issues in a murder case she was exposed to as a legal intern.

The law assesses blame by discovering the most relevant cause for a crime, while ignoring all of the lesser facts that may have had some more distant bearing on the case. Marzano-Lesnevich argues that proximate cause is a flawed legal doctrine because it oversimplifies what we humans actually do when we assess blame. In effect, personal reality colors all of our decisions. Thus THE FACT OF A BODY is less about leveling blame and more about the endless possibilities for cause.

As a law student, Marzano-Lesnevich delved into the 1992 murder of six-year-old Jeremy Guillory in Louisiana. Ricky Langley, a 26-year-old confessed pedophile, was convicted of the crime. Marzano-Lesnevich was shocked by her reaction after viewing a taped interview of Ricky. She confesses, “Despite what I’ve trained for, what I’ve come here to work for, despite what I believe, I want Ricky to die.”

After examining Ricky’s court records, she became aware that his background showed multiple probabilities for his pedophilia and the ultimate murder. He was conceived while his mother was in a full-body cast following a harrowing accident that took the life of his young brother. A distant mother who abused drugs and alcohol also marred his childhood. The judge may have been biased. Jeremy’s mother pleaded with the court to show lenience to Ricky. Ultimately Marzano-Lesnevich realized that her negative feelings toward Ricky might have been colored by her own childhood, which was marred by sexual abuse by her grandfather and a conspiracy of silence by her parents. Not unlike Ricky, she also experienced blowback. In her case eating disorders and depression were the sequelae.

Telling her story along with Ricky’s is an intriguing way to explore cause and effect while abrogating the notion that proximate causes can be identified in the absence of the rest of subjective reality. The result is a narrative that tells two related and suspenseful stories along with a satisfying intellectual exercise on the slipperiness of facts. Unfortunately, Marzano-Lesnevich seems to stumble over one of the cardinal challenges of memoir writing—to tell the truth in an artful way. Her candid childhood memory of sexual molestation by her grandfather and her parents’ denial is indeed artful and represents a powerful story on its own. Despite also being artful, her handling of Ricky’s story smacks of contrivance. She spent minimal effort in trying to understand Ricky or to probe his motives. Instead she based his story mainly on the record and used so many fictional flourishes that the result is more fiction than true-crime. ( )
  ozzer | Oct 12, 2017 |
A fascinating, beautifully written study of empathy. It's something to consider all the time: the snapshot of a story is a two-dimensional picture without the context and the context is a lifetime - many lifetimes. ( )
  DonnaB317 | Sep 13, 2017 |
This is a unique memoir, at once confessional, psychological treatise, and morality tale. A death sentence trial, a young legal intern, and her own personal history blend together and pull in the reader. At times difficult to read, the writing pulls the reader on. Additionally, the memoir offers a glimpse into the way the legal system at once wipes out the "real" story, yet has loopholes for jurors to insert their own humanity. ( )
  hemlokgang | Sep 12, 2017 |
The Fact of a Body is Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich's book about her childhood and how it affected her adult life. It's also a story about a murderer, his life and crime and how the criminal justice system dealt with him. Both stories are interesting. Marzano-Lesnevich was molested by her grandfather from the age of three, until she finally spoke up many years later. Her family believed her and reacted by never allowing the grandfather to babysit or spend the night again. But they continued the normal visits and dinners with him and never spoke of what happened. Marzano-Lesnevich was left to deal with these multiple rapes on her own and without any support system. She encounters Ricky Langley's case as a legal intern working in on capital case appeals in Louisiana. Langley murdered six-year-old Jeremy Guillory and, once arrested, quickly confessed to the crime. His own childhood was not a good one, and Marzano-Lesnevich looks at the family history, the crime and the investigation and at the subsequent trials, in the hopes of understanding his motivations. Langley was a pedophile and the author hopes that if she can understand him, she might understand her grandfather.

The two halves are good on their own but lose intensity and focus as they are alternated and mashed together. The connections between the two are tenuous at best, and in trying to give the criminal case as much life and immediacy as her own personal recollections, the author resorts to making up the content of conversations she has only the broadest of outlines of. She's upfront about this, but it does lessen the reliability of the work she's doing in telling Langley's story. ( )
  RidgewayGirl | Sep 6, 2017 |
This isn't really "true crime" but more a study of why a crime was committed- specifically trying to understand why pedophiles are what they are. It's extremely well written and I would definitely read other books by this author. ( )
  sarahy531 | Aug 16, 2017 |
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[I]t is always possible that the solution to one mystery will solve another.
for my parents
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Prologue: There is a principle in the law called proximate cause, taught to first-year law students through the case Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Co.
Chapter One: The boy wears sweatpants the color of a Louisiana lake.
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