Freak Speak: The Story Behind Lullaby (II)

Long story short, I’d worked in hospitals. I’d been a crime reporter. I know a dead body is not the person. Looking at the barbecued mess that had been my father, all the drama evaporated.
Still, did I want the man who did this to die?
In court, it came out that Shackleford had a life-long history of physically abusing women and children. He’d lived most of his life in mental hospitals and jails. The woman Shackleford had shot point-blank in the neck was his ex-wife. She’d gone into the prison system to teach legal skills, and taught him to be a para-legal. Using these skills he’d learned from his victim, he’d already filed an appeal to his murder convictions.
He told the court that he and a group of white supremacists had built and buried anthrax bombs in the Spokane area, and if the state killed him those bombs would eventually explode, killing thousands.
He told the police that I was harassing him, sending him things in the mail at a time when I didn’t even know his name. The prosecution team started calling his kind of grandiose yarn a “Shackle-Freudian” lie.
But still, did I want this man to die?
A friend of mine told me Karl Marx’ theory that in order to commit a crime, you must make your victim your enemy. You justify crime after crime by making more people your enemy until you’re left alone. You’re isolated in a world you’ve decided is entirely against you. At that point, Marx said, the only way to bring the criminal back into humanity is to capture and punish him. His punishment becomes his redemption. It’s an act of kindness.
Another friend, a Buddhist, said how every life requires the death of so many other things. Plants, animals, other people. This is life. Life is death. We can only hope to make the best use of the lives we live at the cost of so many others. He said, a terrible person should not be allowed to continue taking the lives of any other living things.
With all this on my mind, I finished the final re-write on Lullaby and sent it back to New York by next-day FedEx on September 10th, 2001.
What had started out as a dark, funny book about witchcraft became a story about the constant power struggle that is life. The struggle between generations. Between people and animals. Between men and women. Rich and poor. Individuals and corporations. Between cultures.
On a trivial level, the book is about my neighborhood’s struggle to deal with a local woman who opens every window and blasts every sunny day with her record collection. Bagpipes, Chinese opera, you name it. Noise pollution. After some days and weeks of her blaring noise, I could’ve killed her. It got impossible to work at home. So I traveled, writing on the road.
A month later, the State of Idaho sentenced Dale Shackleford to die.
While I was on book tour, my neighbor packed her huge stereo and million records and disappeared.
I wrote the court, asking if I could witness the execution.
There, but for the grace of God, go I.

by Chuck Paulahniuk in "Stranger Than Fiction: True Stories" (2004)
Can also find the complete text here.

If you want more go to BLOOM and look for this book!
"LULLABY" is also there.


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