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As If [Hardcover]

Blake Morrison
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)

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Book Description

12 Feb 1997
This volume seeks to expose the hollowness of condemnation divorced from understanding in relation to the Bulger murder trial. People have almost become desensitized to random murder. It is often explained away by madness, sexual fantasy or rejection. One murder in recent times reduced every person to silence: the abduction and beating to death of a helpless infant by two ten-year-old boys. How and why did two innocent boys kill another? Is childhood innocence a myth? And what punishment could fit such a crime, assuming that children are fit to stand trial for murder? Blake Morrison went to the trial in Preston, and discovered a sad ritual of condemnation with two bewildered children at the centre. He looked for possible explanations in the boys' families, their dreary environment, their fantasies, their exposure to violent films. He evokes the worst feats of parents through candid and raw memories of his relations with his own children, and delves into his own childhood to reveal the worst thing he has ever done, to show how easy it is to go along with cruelty. Blake Morrison is the author of two collections of poetry, "Dark Glasses" and "The Ballad of the Yorkshire Ripper", and is co-editor of "The Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry". His memoir, "And When Did You Last See Your Father?" won the Waterstone's/Esquire Award for non-fiction and the J.R. Ackerley Prize for Autobiography in 1993.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 245 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books; 1st edition (12 Feb 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1862070032
  • ISBN-13: 978-1862070035
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 14.4 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 506,690 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Blake Morrison was born in Skipton, Yorkshire. He is the author of two collections of poetry, Dark Glasses and The Ballad of the Yorkshire Ripper; of a children's book, The Yellow House; of critical studies of the movement and Seamus Heaney; and is co-editor of The Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry. His bestselling memoir And when did you last see your father? won the Waterstone's/Esquire/Volvo Award for Non-Fiction, and the J.R. Ackerley Prize for Autobiography in 1993. He lives in London. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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"As if this were the start of a dangerous adventure, the small boy puts his hand in the bigger boy's, and they follow a third boy through the square . . ." Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compassion for all involved 11 Dec 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I discovered this book on reading a quote in The Child Who which is a novel with a similar, although not the same, basis as the murder of James Bulger.

Blake Morrison takes us through his days and thoughts while he sat in court where Robert Thompson and Jon Veneables were tried for murder, committed at the age of 10. The trial is intersperced with his thoughts of his own childhood as well as that of his children. His empathy includes everyone, the three sets of parents involved, the three children involved as well as the social workers, the teachers and the city of Liverpool. Don't be fooled though this isn't a simplistic no-one is to blame, the book reads well as he argues to and for several of these points e.g the parents are to blame; what about their parents?. Blake Morrison puts across the view that these children shouldn't have been tried in an adult court, rather they should have had access to pyschiatric help as soon as their involvement was discovered.

Although the premise of the book was to find out why? No obvious answers are found, was it pre-meditated or a prank gone wrong? How will we ever know when 10 year old boys don't think like adults? A sad book particularly in light of the revelation that Jon Veneables has had his parole licence revoked.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This was a book I wanted to read for some time. Coincidentally, as I finished it (Jan 2001), news broke that the two convicted boys will be granted anonymity on their release. Shortly afterwards, a telephone poll in the media reported 94% of the public disagreed with this judgement. Those 94% would rather the boys' location be public knowledge, inviting retribution. Those 94% should read this book. Blake Morrison doesn't have all the answers to the questions thrown up by this tragedy, nor does he claim to. All he does is implores them to be asked, implores us to ask them of ourselves. For example, do we not all have a memory, however vague, of some incident in our childhood which we are now at a loss to explain? It doesn't have to be murder, nor even violent. The point being there exists in all our formative years some act which we now, as adults, find morally questionable and so prefer to forget. The author recalls such events, and made me do the same. Sadly, it seems the majority of the public are too happy merely to demonize these boys, the more comfortable option. Now, I'm a father of a little boy, also called James. I found reading the detailed description of the route to murder (abduction finally culminating in the act itself), hard going; difficult to avoid thinking about my own son. However, this book is not about morbid fascination. It raises topics about upbringing, parenthood, nature/nurture, all in the quest to answer THE ONE QUESTION: WHY?
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent, sensitive and beautifully written 20 Feb 2003
By A Customer
"As If" is the author's attempt to understand the "why" of the murder of James Bulger. In an attempt to do this, comparisons are made with his own home life, history and feelings, and while there is no question that his writing is exquisite, too much of the book is given over to describing the author's circumstances. I agree with the reviewer who thought this rather self-indulgent, and I felt a little frustrated since I bought the book to read about the Bulger murder, and not Blake Morrison. I also would have liked more transcripts, drawings, etc.
And yet this seems a small price to pay, since it would then not be the extraordinary book it actually is. One particular account of the author visiting the murder scene left me overwhelmed by some of the most moving and powerful writing I think I have ever read! Morrison's honest treatment of the Bulger murderers is truly commendable, and anyone with so much as a passing interest in the case should read it, so long as they are prepared to forego sensationalism for something altogether more intelligent.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A POWERFUL AND DISTURBING READ. 16 Jan 2000
This book is absolutely stunning. It's a gripping and truthful account of the murder of James Bulger. It is remarkably written leaving the reader deeply shocked and overcharged with emotion. This is the type of book that has you in tears but you still can not put it down. You feel compelled to read on. It is a must read for everybody if only to warn people how easily tragic events like this can occur. But be warned it is an unforgetable book which will haunt you after reading it. Blake Morrison writes the events beautifully and honestly. He tries wonderfully to answer the question 'Why' but his comments will go towards the great debate which will go on for a long time and may never be solved. As a reader who was only a couple of years older than the boys who killed James at the time I did not understand all the goings on surrounding the killing and court case so it was a must read for me when the book came out. As a case which is still very much in the headlines to this day, the book makes you realise that James's killers will be freed in a couple of years and will only be young men with all of their lives to live and James never saw past the toddler years. This book should be read by anyone who cares for children.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Simple Wonder of Compassion and Empathy 17 July 2007
I have long believed that 'To understand all is to forgive all' (Voltaire). Many people don't agree but I often wonder how those adults braying for two ten year old boys to be locked up as 'evil animals' would feel if they could see a video of the boys lives. What must they have been subjected to - we must ask ourselves as adults - to have been able to commit such a murder?

Morrison goes further than this... in order to understand he looks inside himself... as any good actor, Buddhist, Christian, believer or humanist must do. Every good actor that seeks to play a murderer must find the seeds of a murderer inside himself. It's only then when we truly see how, had the dice fallen differently, any one of those three boys could have been our sons - that we can have the compassion and empathy that such a case cries out for.

It is 2007 now and yet STILL emails circulate asking us to add our names to complaints that the judge had compassion and offered them new lives and new identities. So if you get such an email, and feel inclined to add your name - read this book first.

And if, like me, you are saddened by the lack of understanding and compassion displayed by humanity, read Blake Morrison's book. As he says so wonderfully - even if you don't agree that 'To understand all is to forgive all' you may agree that to understand nothing is to forgive nothing. This is all around us. The alternative, the way of peace and of forgiveness has to be worked hard for.

So thank you Blake Morrison - for this exceptionally brave piece of writing. And for teaching us about wisdom and compassion.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Evil.
No excuses. Totally and utterly vile beings. I am not impressed with the liberal attitude of the author. Sad and bad.
Published 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars Well ...
Ordered this after radio programme - thought it would give some sort of reasoning behind the crime but unable to finish due content - onpassed to friend who in process of reading -... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Deedeethree
2.0 out of 5 stars Excellent narrative with a fatal flaw
The 2* rating I've given AS IF in no way reflects on the excellence of the narrative, which leads one to read compulsively from page to page. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Judy Croome
5.0 out of 5 stars Brave, intelligent and compassionate.
This is not an easy read especially for a parent. However, Blake Morrison has dared to go where other, more cautious and perhaps more sensible, authors have feared to tread. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Lintobo
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book
Yes, a very good read, a very emotive subject, heart rending but book written from a different point of view and it was interesting.
Published 14 months ago by Shazca
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Great book that arrived in good time. It was a bit tatty hence the price but definitely good value for money.
Published 15 months ago by Mrs. D. Wright
5.0 out of 5 stars absolutely fantastic! thought provoking and intriguing - couldnt put...
absolutely fantastic! thought provoking and intriguing - couldnt put id down, people should read this especially one who judge others before ever knowing anything about them
Published 15 months ago by sunshine
5.0 out of 5 stars As if
This book is very interesting and gives an insight into the minds of murderers and maybe understanding the reasons why they commit these crimes.
Published 15 months ago by Myrna
2.0 out of 5 stars Very 'arty' and long-winded
After seeing a discussion on TV about the James Bulger case someone commented that this book would provide an alternative viewpoint (particularly an antithesis to the Daily Mail... Read more
Published 16 months ago by PH74
1.0 out of 5 stars A pointless self indulgent book.
This book is so self-indulgent it hard to conceive that it is supposed to be about Thompson & Venables and not about Blake Morrison. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Margaret Robinson
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