Sunday, June 12, 2005

Weird Redemption

So, imagine you're Michael Finkel. You were a journalist, writing for the New York Times Magazine, but you fudged some details for that Times article--creating a composite character for dramatic effect--and were found out, and your life--at least your professional life--was pretty much in the crapper. And then..

...and then you get a call from the police, saying that a man who had killed his wife and family in Oregon and fled to Mexico had been passing himself off as...Michael Finkel, writer for the New York Times. This is of course like catnip: Finkel had to find out more, and write about it. He now has a book out (True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa and has sold movie rights to Brad Pitt. To say his life has turned around is only to say sooth. The Times has probably not come calling to say "all is forgiven," but he's been featured on NPR and 60 Minutes. In addition, he appears to have developed a very close, slightly weird relationship with Christian Longo, the man who adopted his persona, who he interviewed exhaustively in prison: Longo was the first person Finkel told, when he got engaged.

The story, after that phone call from the Oregon police, is interesting. But the writer in me is just fascinated by what that initial phone call from the cops must have felt like. "Hello, is this Michael Finkel? Mr. Finkel, do you know a man named Christian Longo? Because he seems to know you..."

4 Comments:

Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

There was an article on this in Vanity Fair and it is both facsinating and creepy.

8:08 PM  
Blogger Madeleine Robins said...

I didn't see the Vanity Fair piece. But fascinating and creepy pretty much sums it up. Particularly creepy.

10:17 PM  
Blogger C. F. Blog said...

Wait...how can Michael Finkel say America loves giving people second chances. I believe that might be true if the person FIRST pays for the wrongs committed.

7:48 AM  
Blogger Madeleine Robins said...

It appears to me that Finkel paid for his wrongs--the loss of his job, the loss of standing in his professional community. And I don't think that anyone whose first instinct when confronted with a life-changing situation is to write about it could resist digging into this story and, eventually, writing about it. I'm not convinced Finkel has a career as a newspaper writer coming out of this, but writing and publishing a book (and getting a movie deal) isn't a bad outcome for him. As for Longo, I don't think he's getting any second chances...

I'm not certain that America loves giving people second chances, but I do think we love stories about people who get them.

8:30 AM  

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