The public reaction to O.J. Simpson’s literary endeavors continues to beggar sense. A book that no one should have protested was shouted down, and the book that everyone should be protesting is raising nary a peep.
Round 1. Word that Simpson has penned (with ghostwriter and Simpson prosecution witness Pablo Fenjves) a memoir/confession titled If I Did It causes a public uproar so severe that Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp., whose HarperCollins unit is to publish the book, cancels publication and deep-sixes a taped Fox interview with Simpson conducted by the book’s editor, Judith Regan. Simpson is finally ready to confess (albeit “hypothetically”) to murdering Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, a gesture that, double jeopardy notwithstanding, couldn’t possibly be in his legal interest. (Simpson’s lawyer, Yale Galanter, has said that Simpson kept him in the dark until it was a fait accompli, and that had he known he would have told Simpson that even a “hypothetical” confession was too risky.)
Regan says the book’s key chapter (“The Night In Question”) amounts to a real confession. (“This is an historic case, and I consider this his confession.”) So, more elliptically, does Fenjves. (“I was sitting in a room with a man I knew to be a murderer, and I let him hang himself.”) So does the working title (I Did It) that Simpson bestows and later withdraws in favor of the more cautious If I Did It. So does Newsweek’s Mark Miller. (“A seeming confession in Simpson’s own voice.”) So does Vanity Fair’s James Wolcott (“a shameless yet ingeniously opaque cockteaser of a cash-in confessional”), though Wolcott makes the error of attributing “poetic license” to Fenjves, which is what Simpson alleges, when in fact Fenjves has made clear to me that any poetic license in Simpson’s account would be Simpson’s alone. (“He thinks I wrote that chapter. He also thinks he didn’t kill Nicole and Ron.”)
But I digress.
The point is that a consensus emerges that this is a real murder confession. Yet an outraged public tells Simpson it does not want to hear his confession, which conceivably could provide prosecutors an opportunity to put Simpson behind bars. (To be sure, not for murder. He beat that rap. But there are other avenues.)
Result: Simpson gets most of HarperCollins’ blood money anyway (as I read the book contract, Simpson received $655,000 to $750,000 of his $1.1 million advance; Goldman’s family, which has a $33.5 million civil judgment against Simpson, is suing to recover these book payments). Yet Simpson won’t have to publish his self-incriminating book after all. The book’s nonpublication also moots HarperCollins’ hosing Simpson—who in addition to cutting out Galanter seems to have eschewed the services of an experienced literary agent—on the schedule for royalty payments. Why care about the royalty payments now that there aren’t going to be any?
Round 1 to Simpson.
Round 2. Galanter starts peddling a second Simpson book, this one an account of Simpson’s life with Nicole, and this time Simpson has taken his lawyer’s advice and left out the murder. Almost certainly this second book is simply If I Did It minus “The Night In Question,” repackaged as a new book. And guess what? This time out, the public does not go into an uproar. In fact, it scarcely notices. Galanter tells ABC News that his phone is “ringing off the hook” with offers. After HarperCollins canceled If I Did It, not even the sleaziest bottom-feeding publishers dared express interest. Now, according to Galanter, “Everybody … is interested.”
The new book will not generate cheap thrills by recounting the night of the murder. Presumably that’s why it passes muster. But minus a murder confession, any account by Simpson of his life with the wife he physically abused and then finally killed lacks any shred of redeeming value. The portions of If I Did It relating Simpson’s relationship with Nicole are apparently quite ugly. Here’s Wolcott’s description (he’s read the entire book):
She’s the instigator, the initiator, the catalyst, the live wire, the active volcano, the electric cattle prod. … He’s trying to keep it together and get on with his life, and she’s cat-and-mousing him, mind-gaming him, tugging on the hook. As he tries to move forward, she’s stuck in self-destructive reverse, acting and dressing like a teenager with her twat in a snit and, rumors reach him, hanging with a bad crowd.
“[S]ince dead blondes tell no tales, her side of the story isn’t available for airing,” Wolcott notes. One might further add that a man who murders his wife in a jealous rage will surely go the extra mile to demonize the victim. This “new” book, then, will be a continuation of the abuse that Simpson subjected Nicole to while she was still alive. That really is obscene and indefensible. Whoever publishes If I Did It-lite will become Simpson’s accomplice in spousal battery. Why isn’t the public outraged about that?
Round 2 to Simpson.