Summary: On April 20, 1999, two boys left an indelible stamp on the American psyche. Their goal was simple: to blow up their school, Oklahoma-City style, and to leave “a lasting impression on the world.” Their bombs failed, but the ensuing shooting defined a new era of school violence—irrevocably branding every subsequent shooting “another Columbine.”
When we think of Columbine, we think of the Trench Coat Mafia; we think of Cassie Bernall, the girl we thought professed her faith before she was shot…Read more.
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David Cullen: Columbine Audio Book Summary
Columbine, by author Dave Cullen, is a book written about the 1999 Columbine Massacre, which occurred at Columbine High School on April 20 of that year.
The massacre was conducted by Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, two students at the school.
In the book, Cullen explores the causes and aftermath of the shooting, evaluating several popular theories about the motivations behind the attacks. Cullen narrates the book excellently, taking alternate chapters to evolve two primary stories about the attacks: how two seemingly innocent if not-quite-normal students came to plan and execute such a brutal attack, and how survivors and friends and family of the victims dealt with the repercussions from the event.
Published in 2009, a full decade after the attack, Cullen has the advantage of time to allow the book to gain further perspective. Whereas most of the accounts of the massacre were drawn up within the first year or two after the attack, Cullen’s approach allows for a deeper exploration of some of the finer points of evolution surrounding the massacre, particularly as it pertains to how the tragedy impacted the lives of countless individuals, both in the town of Columbine and across the nation.
Published in time for the tenth anniversary of the event, the book skyrocketed to the top of the New York Times bestseller list, reaching a top place of third over the course of eight weeks of being featured on the list.
Despite its apparent popular appeal, Columbine actually garnered a fair amount of criticism and controversy, as Cullen “debunked” many of the myths that had previously been widespread about the attacks. For example, he argues that the cause of the attack in the killers’ minds had nothing to do with the Trench Coat Mafia, Marilyn Manson, bullying, or any other subculture.
Instead, Cullen notes that the motivation of the killers was to perpetrate the worst terrorist attack in American history. For this reason, the attack was planned as primarily a bombing, not a shooting.
Due to the fact that Cullen’s Columbine takes a lyrical historical narrative of a crime, many reviewers compared Cullen to Truman Capote and the infamous In Cold Blood, due primarily to the fact that Cullen did not simply present data about the attacks, but attempted to analyze the individuals involved with some literary freedom in doing so, just as Capote attempts in his work. Most of the comparisons were done with praise, and in general the book received widespread acclaim, with only a handful of notable negative commentaries and reviews.