A Review of The Spiral Notebook: The Aurora Theater Shooter and the Epidemic of Mass Violence Committed by American Youth, by Stephen Singular and Joyce Singular (Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint, 2015)
The title and sub-title of this book accurately denote the two narratives that are intertwined throughout its 290 pages. The Aurora theater shooting on July 12, 2012, and the slowly unwinding legal proceedings that followed is the attention getter, but the careful exploration of why so many young white males are committing these atrocities is, to my mind, the more important narrative.
The authors are investigative journalists who have spent two decades writing books about American violence. To write The Spiral Notebook, they spent time in places that are important to the Aurora event and the life of shooter James Holmes and conducted interviews over a two-year period with psychologists and psychiatrists, first responders, private investigators, and teachers throughout the nation. They also interviewed “many, many young people throughout the nation” and include quotations from these conversations at the beginnings of many of the short chapters in this book.
Perhaps the most important leads during their investigation came from their son who “like many teenagers…hadn’t shared much with us,” but after his first year in college “was slowly opening up, speaking about his classes and which professors had influenced him the most” (pp. 2–3). He helped them understand what they were seeing and hearing and gradually opened up new areas for investigation.
The central theme of the book is the shooter, James Holmes, and how and why he committed this act. The account begins with his apprehension in a parking lot immediately after the shootings, and follows him as he slowly winds his way through an increasingly frustrating, unproductive, costly, and inconclusive legal process. There are illuminating descriptions of his keen mind and academic achievements that contributed to his psychological imbalance and led him to become a mass shooter.
Read more. . . The Spiral Notebook