The New York Times obtained an advance copy of Amanda Knox’s forthcoming prison memoir (Waiting to Be Heard), diligently perused all 463 of its pages, and dredged up this detail about Knox’s whereabouts on the night of Meredith Kercher’s murder: she was smoking pot with her boyfriend, reading Harry Potter out loud in German, and watching Amélie, because that’s pretty much what study-abroad students do with all of their free time. What the Times did not do, unlike the Telegraph, is paste that rapturous night of Harry Potter recitation into its headline about Knox’s memoir.
Of all the details in the Amanda Knox memoir, the Telegraph fashioned the weed-smoking excerpt into a sub-header that makes Knox’s common college student activities seem damningly insouciant, given the circumstances. Observe: “Amanda Knox imagined committing suicide in prison, she has said, in a long-awaited memoir that claims she was smoking marijuana and reading Harry Potter when her British roommate was murdered.” Obviously, such a revelation is going to draw a lot of eyeballs, particular the eyeballs of the unrepentantly sanctimonious. What! Smoking weed? How positively incriminating!
The Times is mining that same audience of knee-jerk moralists. However, the Times is also writing first and foremost for an American audience, and that audience, a little unlike the Telegraph’s, has by now taken for granted certain nuances of the Amanda Knox murder trial, namely, that some of the public prosecutors in Perugia, Italy are conspiracy-addled witch hunters and the 2009 murder trial was riddled with the sort of fuck ups that led to Douglas Preston being vaguely menaced and vacating Italy for co-writing Monster of Florence.
Knox’s innocence (and, by logical extension, the general incompetence of the Italian investigators and prosecutors responsible for her 2009 incarceration) is treated with more certainty in the American press. The fact that she “smiled” at inappropriate moments, say, or is now cashing in on a reported $4 million advance from HarperCollins is damning evidence abroad, where public opinion is not so eager to believe in Knox’s complete innocence and victimization at the hands of a criminal justice system on conspiracy theory overdrive.
Within the Times’ relatively even-tempered look at Knox’s memoir, certain aspects of the circumstances leading to her imprisonment — her pot use, her admittedly “naïve” mistakes, her total bewilderment at being implicated in the murder of her roommate and watching her life quickly disintegrate — are emphasized, but they are details (with a few more intimate exceptions) that anyone who’s followed the trial pretty much already knows. Still, the peek into Knox’s descent into hell probably is, from her point of view, very much like something out of Kafka:
While saying she was the victim of bias and mistreatment by Italian authorities, Ms. Knox also writes that her own mistakes contributed to her conviction. She admits to being naïve, sometimes inappropriate and odd, too proud to admit when her halting knowledge of Italian failed her. During the investigation, she followed the directions of the Italian police “like a lost, pathetic child,” she recalled.
In 463 pages, Ms. Knox recounts her darkest moments in prison — at one point, she writes, she imagined committing suicide by suffocating herself with a garbage bag — as well as her routines there. She says she practiced Italian, wrote letters to family and friends, and read books by Dostoyevsky and Umberto Eco.
Ms. Knox exhaustively lays out her defense, describing her whereabouts on the night that her roommate was killed. She says that she and [Raffaele] Sollecito were smoking marijuana, reading a Harry Potter book aloud in German and watching the film “Amélie” at his apartment. (“Around our house, marijuana was as common as pasta,” Ms. Knox wrote, recalling that one of her roommates taught her how to roll a joint properly.)
Media outlets will pick out details like that last one about Knox becoming a joint-rolling pro and hold them up to their readers for eyebrow-raising scrutiny. It seems a little flip for Knox to mention about how dank all that Perugian weed was back in 2007, but then again, her memoir is 463 pages, and of all the many details newspapers could pull out of it, they’ve chosen those details that would make Knox seem, to certain readers, less like the “innocent abroad” she has become, when in fact handling drugs in a foreign country is pretty much as innocent abroad as one can get.
Image via AP, Ida Mae Astute, ABC