Broadening the scope

Dave Cullen takes a story that has been told through many different biases and looks at the bigger picture, writing the truest version of what happened at Columbine Highschool.

Kayley Boan and Here is a John Green inspired book talk about Columbine by Dave Cullen. Although this did not follow the guidelines of a jounalistic video, it shows the passion and insight this book brought to me.

Kayley Boan, Literary Magazine Editor

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Fear is not something students should feel upon entering school. However, after April 20th, 1999, students across the nation thought twice about whether they were truly safe inside their school’s walls.

I did not understand this feeling until I was reading Columbine by Dave Cullen in the middle of class and suddenly felt uneasy about the open door in the computer lab. Cullen writes such a detailed and realistic account from many perspectives that it was not hard to imagine a school shooting happening in my seemingly safe town.

Two students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, killed 13 people in a school shooting almost 20 years ago. This was the first school shooting of such large magnitude and it completely shook the country. To this day, the drills and procedures that students moan and groan about are in place to make sure something like what happened in Littleton, Colorado never happens again. Columbine by Dave Cullen is a piece investigative journalism about what happened inside and outside the school.

Non-fiction is usually seen as science-related stories or textbooks, but when a journalist is able to tell a true account of a horrific event without exploiting the advantages of being in the media, a classic is born. Columbine will most likely be a modern classic in literature- embedded into school curriculums and studied thoughtfully throughout the year. Cullen takes techniques seen in print journalism and applies it to a story that has been retold through many different lenses, this time through a true lense.
In theatre, actors are taught a technique called method acting. Considered a mastery skill, method acting involves the actor truly becoming the character instead of just pretending to be them- sometimes they will spend days as this character and it can take a mental toll on them depending on the severity of the character’s mental state. Some actors known for using this technique are Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, and Jim Carrey. A new subspecies of method acting arrived when Cullen applied this idea to his writing- method writing. In Columbine, he doesn’t just write what the characters did, instead, he embodies the characters and writes the narrative as if they were talking.
When Cullen embodies Eric Harris, one of the school shooters, he takes a more hostile, the-world-sucks-and-I’m-better-than-everyone-else tone. After reading a part of Harris’s journal, he writes, “Human nature was smothered by society; healthy instincts were smothered by laws. They were training us to be assembly-line robots; that’s why they lined the school desks up in rows and trained kids to respond to opening and closing bells (Cullen, 130).” Cullen writes as if Harris is talking and he does the same with the other characters. This morph of method acting gives the reader and deeper look into the minds of the characters- more than a journal entry could do because it is almost as if the characters are talking to the reader, even those that are dead.
However, that is not to say that the journal entries and documents Cullen includes in the back of the book do not add to the overall experience of the book because it most definitely does. The reader has all of the parts of the mystery and is left to wonder how Harris and  Klebold could have escaped the public eye for so long, long enough to commit a horrible act.

The journal entries really do take the reader aback, but they must realize that although they have all the pieces when the event was happening they were scattered all around. Almost 20 years later and some parts are still a mystery. However, the documents are still alarming and add a sickening fascination to what was going on in the shooters minds.
Overall the book is a solid six out of five stars, any writer that is able to tell a horrible story without completely bashing the horrible people who did it is to be commended. I’m not sure I could have written such a true and limited-biased account myself. Dave Cullen is a writer unlike the rest of this time and Columbine will be remembered.

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