Wednesday 15 November 2017

The Red Parts by Maggie Nelson @vintagebooks #TheRedParts @PenguinUKBooks

In 1969, Jane Mixer, a first-year law student at the University of Michigan, posted a note on a student noticeboard to share a lift back to her hometown of Muskegon for spring break. She never made it: she was brutally murdered, her body found a few miles from campus the following day.

The Red Parts is Maggie Nelson’s singular account of her aunt Jane’s death, and the trial that took place some 35 years afterward. Officially unsolved for decades, the case was reopened in 2004 after a DNA match identified a new suspect, who would soon be arrested and tried. In 2005, Nelson found herself attending the trial, and reflecting with fresh urgency on our relentless obsession with violence, particularly against women.

Resurrecting her interior world during the trial – in all its horror, grief, obsession, recklessness, scepticism and downright confusion – Maggie Nelson has produced a work of profound integrity and, in its subtle indeterminacy, deadly moral precision.

The Red Parts by Maggie Nelson was published by Vintage / Penguin UK in paperback on 1 June 2017.  My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

The Red Parts is a short book at just over 200 pages, but it's a book that has a huge impact. I read it whilst on holiday in Croatia, and whilst it's not a typical 'holiday read', I found the luxury of having time to sit down and read it in almost one sitting really added to the reading experience. It left me feeling quite haunted.

The Red Parts is a true story; a memoir; an autobiography of a trail. A murder trail. In 1969 Jane Mixer, the author's aunt was murdered. Thirty five years later Gary Earl Leiterman was convicted of her murder.  Maggie Nelson had been working on a book about her aunt at exactly the same time that the family learnt that there had been arrest, and in The Red Parts she details both her feelings and the details of the trial.

This is an incredibly intimate book, it feels, at times as though the reader is invading; almost reading a private diary. The author looks at how she and her family dealt with their grief and their anger, and how their emotions were changed and curved as they learnt more about the case. None of them had ever thought that Jane's murderer would be brought to justice and they had believed, along with many others that she was a victim of the serial killer known for committing the "Michigan Murders'.

The Red Parts is a deeply unsettling book. Maggie Nelson writes vividly, and her descriptive prose is fitting and especially relevant to this violent and horrendous crime.  She writes with frightening honesty about an incredibly raw and emotional subject.

Maggie Nelson is a poet, critic and the author of five books of non-fiction. 
Her books include The Red Parts: Autobiography of a Trial, The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning (a New York Times Editor’s Choice) and The Argonauts (winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award), as well as four collections of poetry. 

In 2016 she was awarded the MacArthur Genius fellowship. 

She currently lives in Los Angeles. 

No comments:

Post a Comment