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Brief Interviews with Hideous Men Essay | The …

Now, actual neurology can get pretty heavily non-Euclidian in a way that eludes the printed word. ("What goes on inside is just too fast and huge and all interconnected for words to do more than barely sketch the outlines of at most one tiny little part of it at any given instant," Wallace once wrote.) But Wallace's — from the paced, table read-ready speech patterns of the Interviews, to the page-long fragments honing in on moments generally considered too small for even a short story — is, within the limits of the medium, a rigorous record of the process of thought. (Rigorous even about the way thought can run on undisciplined.) In particular, “The Depressed Person,” with its torturous, excruciatingly diagnostic sentences and snag-filled footnote tributaries flowing ever deeper into the minutiae of a single clenched psyche, describes the process of introspection; while the fourth wall-breaking metafiction “Octet,” in which the author, with increasing desperation, explains the conceit of a story cycle he fears isn’t working, describes the process of artistic creation.

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The big city wept when little Jennifer Ertman and Elizabeth Peña died. Students at Waltrip High School, Jennifer was 14, and Elizabeth had just turned 16. Their lives were filled with the things that occupy teenage girls. Friends recalled Elizabeth, who was beginning to dabble with makeup, as a "social butterfly." Jennifer tried her hand at basketball before concluding she wasn't cut out for athletics. On June 24, 1993, the girls were at a party at a friend's apartment when they realized the lateness of the hour. Following the railroad tracks through T.C. Jester Park, they concluded, would shave 10 minutes off their trip to Elizabeth's Oak Forest home.

As the girls made their way past a thicket near White Oak Bayou, they stumbled onto the tail end of a drunken gang initiation. When they blundered into the group of youths, Medellin - 5 feet, 5 inches tall and weighing just 135 pounds - grabbed Elizabeth and flipped her to the ground. Jennifer, drawn by Elizabeth's scream, turned to help and was herself captured. As the teens cried and struggled, six gang members took turns raping them. Finally, gang leader Peter Cantu told Medellin, "We're going to have to kill them." Gang members Derrick O'Brien and Raul Villarreal looped a belt around Jennifer's throat, pulling with such force that the belt broke. Cantu, Medellin and Efrain Perez strangled Elizabeth with a shoelace. Then they stomped on the girls' throats for good measure.

Four days later, police, acting on a tip from a gang member's brother, found the teens' bodies, badly decomposed in the summer heat. The victims were identified through dental records.

Judge Cathy Cochran, a member of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which last week rejected his appeals, wrote that Medellin bragged to his friends that the victims had been virgins until they were attacked by the gang. "His written confession," Cochran wrote, "displayed a callous, cruel and cavalier attitude toward the two girls that he had raped and helped to murder. Surely no juror or judge will ever forget his words or his sordid deeds."

O'Brien was first to be executed, going to his death in July 2006 with the parting words: "I am sorry. I have always been sorry." Cantu, also convicted of capital murder, awaits a death date. Medellin, who grew up in poverty amid drug abuse and an unstable home environment, twice refused to be interviewed for this story. But on his Web site, posted by a Canadian anti-death penalty group, he claims: "I'm where I am because I made an adolescent choice. That's it! My life is in black and white like old western movies," he wrote. "But unlike the movies, the good guys don't always finish first."


'Uncaring and hateful'
This time, death penalty opponents believe, the sovereign state of Texas has gone too far. "Most of our friends abroad have long since come to the conclusion that this country, on this topic, just doesn't get it," said Southern Methodist University history professor Rick Halperin. "This state is seen as uncaring and hateful. And this case is just right on the top." The Medellin case will solidify stereotypical views of the Lone Star State, said Halperin, president of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and former board chairman of Amnesty International USA.

Cochran, however, disagreed in her appeals court concurrence. "Some societies may judge our death penalty barbaric," she wrote. "Most Texans, however, consider death a just penalty in certain rare circumstances. Many Europeans disagree. So be it." The politics of capital punishment aside, some legal observers worry that the United States may suffer as a result of Texas' noncompliance with the world court order. "Outside of Texas this is a huge diplomatic misstep," said Columbia Law School professor Sarah Cleveland. " ... Unfortunately, I doubt that the international community is likely to brush this off as simply the actions of Texas. In the international community (and under all U.S. treaty obligations) the United States is responsible for Texas' actions."


Wide-ranging effect
If the United States fails to observe its treaty commitments, said Cleveland, co-director of the Human Rights Institute, other nations might be inclined to disregard agreements when they become inconvenient. Affected could be treaties ranging from those mandating protection for foreign nationals to nuclear nonproliferation. Texas Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, a frequent traveler abroad, said he fears Texas' noncompliance will put American military personnel and civilians at risk. In ruling that Bush could not unilaterally force states to hold hearings to consider Vienna Convention violations, the Supreme Court noted that power lies in Congress. Within weeks, U.S. Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., introduced such a bill. It is pending in the House Judiciary Committee and can't be enacted until next year.

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men essays are academic essays for citation



Magnifying and applying come I,
Outbidding at the start the old cautious hucksters,
Taking myself the exact dimensions of Jehovah,
Lithographing Kronos, Zeus his son, and Hercules his grandson,
Buying drafts of Osiris, Isis, Belus, Brahma, Buddha,
In my portfolio placing Manito loose, Allah on a leaf, the crucifix
engraved,
With Odin and the hideous-faced Mexitli and every idol and image,
Taking them all for what they are worth and not a cent more,
Admitting they were alive and did the work of their days,
(They bore mites as for unfledg'd birds who have now to rise and fly
and sing for themselves,)
Accepting the rough deific sketches to fill out better in myself,
bestowing them freely on each man and woman I see,
Discovering as much or more in a framer framing a house,
Putting higher claims for him there with his roll'd-up sleeves
driving the mallet and chisel,
Not objecting to special revelations, considering a curl of smoke or
a hair on the back of my hand just as curious as any revelation,
Lads ahold of fire-engines and hook-and-ladder ropes no less to me
than the gods of the antique wars,
Minding their voices peal through the crash of destruction,
Their brawny limbs passing safe over charr'd laths, their white
foreheads whole and unhurt out of the flames;
By the mechanic's wife with her babe at her nipple interceding for
every person born,
Three scythes at harvest whizzing in a row from three lusty angels
with shirts bagg'd out at their waists,
The snag-tooth'd hostler with red hair redeeming sins past and to come,
Selling all he possesses, traveling on foot to fee lawyers for his
brother and sit by him while he is tried for forgery;
What was strewn in the amplest strewing the square rod about me, and
not filling the square rod then,
The bull and the bug never worshipp'd half enough,
Dung and dirt more admirable than was dream'd,
The supernatural of no account, myself waiting my time to be one of
the supremes,
The day getting ready for me when I shall do as much good as the
best, and be as prodigious;
By my life-lumps!

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