Recommended: The New York Times Magazine, 12/22/11

Even before the “These American Lives” section, which contains accounts of lives like Dave Boyle’s

[Dave Boyle:] It culminated one night, after I’d done this Freedom of Information Act request, asking for the licenses of the 6 a.m. bars. Twelve hours later, my garage blew up.

– even before that section there exists a palpable sense of loss. Some thoughts on reality tv begin the whole issue:

My first reality-TV death — the first that stung — was Frankie, from “The Real World.” Some of you may remember the sister. Punk-goth from Wisconsin. Twenty-two, but seemed much younger: defensive and chirpy, suddenly happy or sleepy. Hair a deep chemical russet. She was a cutter, too; she cut herself with a kitchen knife. Her mother later identified this as her legacy, that she brought attention to cutting. Also, she was pathologically fearful of ships. If one came into sight (it was San Diego; they lived on water), her cast mates knew to throw a jacket over her head, to stop her seizing up. But Frankie’s true identifying oddity on the show was that she had bad cystic fibrosis in her lungs. And would talk about how it was going to kill her soon, while chain-smoking clove cigarettes. She was a girl whose rage to live could vent itself only through the death wish. She was captivating in a way you somehow resented. When she died, I felt nothing but then thought about her for a long time.

I’m keeping my copy of the magazine. I’m still thinking about a lot of it when not in awe. Consider this, about Vann Nath:

Meanwhile, out in the jungle, the Khmer Rouge leaders lived with impunity for decades until, in 2009, Duch was brought before an international tribunal in Phnom Penh and charged with the atrocities committed at S-21. Duch and Vann Nath, now in their 60s, faced each other one last time before Duch was sentenced to 35 years in prison. On the witness stand, weakened by illness but still emanating monkish calm, Vann Nath broke down. “What I want is intangible,” he said, still unable to look Duch in the eye. “I want justice for the dead.”

Leave a Comment