Monday, February 27, 2006

The Poet and the Murderer by Simon Worrall

Title: The Poet and The Murderer

Author: Simon Worrall

Genre: Non-Fiction

Summary: A forger of Mormon documents becomes linked to the discovery of a new Emily Dickinson Poem.

The Take-Away: The undertaking of writing about Mark Hofmann's crimes and linking them to the forged poem was enormous. Besides understanding the culture of the Mormon Church and the mystery surrounding Emily Dickinson, Mr. Worrall also needed to explain the process of authenticating historical documents. This title is by no means definitive and makes assumptions that the reader is somewhat familiar with the crimes committed.

As an introduction, it worked well. The points emphasised weren't as much about the forgery of the poem, but rather the history of Mark Hofmann and his criminal career, along with the short comings of auction houses that specialize in selling priceless documents.

The information about the Mormon church was well done, but the bulk of the book focused on the forged documents that they purchased. Emily's role in the book was quite short and given a cursory and matter-of-fact treatment. The assumption was made by the author that little was known about the Mormon church and its teaching, while much was known about Emily Dickinson and her sexual orientation, writing ability and family history. Given the title, I would have expected the type of details actually given to the Mormon faith to be expended on the poet.

Recommendation: Pass if you want to know more about Emily Dickinson.

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