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October 31, 2012

"A matter of importance equal to murder."

Posted by: Katie Heasley

Happy Halloween! Here's a creepy excerpt from Henry Bond's Lacan at the Scene to go along with your candy and horror movie marathon:

The selection of books [left at a crime scene in Fulham, London, in 1958] seems to indicate a voracious reader, a reader who regularly indulged in the repetitive genre scenarios of popular adventure and mystery novels. This type of writing, sometimes referred to as airport fiction or poolside fiction, is usually purchased (or borrowed) in relation to some preset block of time—to pass the boring hours of a journey, or days spent on a holiday sun-lounger. The plot, narrative, and characterization of such bestsellers are often formulaic, but—it might be argued—that is no defect: such books function only to engross the reader, they are mental chewing gum that primarily distracts attention and provides a temporary relief from the anxieties and worries that the reader would otherwise have on their mind. This type of reader, it might be said, reads such books only in order to avoid thinking about something else: reading-as-ritual—one or two books of this type might be normal, nine [as was left at the crime scene] implies some kind of exaggeration, suggesting that this reader’s carefully organized activity might have functioned to distract a disturbed mind. It is as if unacceptable or unwanted compulsive thoughts could be blocked out by obliterating—laying over—an unending series of fictional disasters, adventures, and journeys, like a self-imposed or improvised version of behavioral therapy in which the patient is trained to consciously block errant thought patterns and replace them with others that have less damaging consequences.

If we consult the Senior Investigating Officer’s recommendation letter to the DPP, we can ascertain that these books were actually library books. And next to the books the murderer left a brief confession letter, but next to the confession is a written request that reads (in full): “Please return these 9 books to Fulham South Library.” Ordinarily, the mundane task of returning library books before they become overdue—along with other such minor errands and chores—might, in such stressful circumstances, be forgotten or overlooked. But, for this killer, the return of the books remained important: the return of the library books was—on one level—a matter of importance equal to murder. And if these books indeed functioned as an essential line of defense against compulsive murderous thoughts, then this request—that those unfortunate enough to discover his wife’s body should also make a brief detour to his local library—may perhaps be understood as an expression of a deeper decision: to lay down the defensive strategy altogether—as if, in the act of giving it up, the return of a violent impulse became inevitable.

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