A series of sexual assaults between 2010 and 2012 in Missoula, Montana is the subject of the latest book from Jon Krakauer, Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town. This is not an easy read. This is not an inspirational story. Instead, Missoula is an incisive and unblinking investigation into the crime of rape. It also serves an indictment to the adversarial structure of our modern day legal system. Krakauer painstakingly exposes and invalidates the myths that surround rape.
“Krakauer’s investigation will succeed in altering the conversation around sexual violence.” —Los Angeles Times
In May, Krakauer appeared in front of a capacity crowd at the Missoula Doubletree Hotel to defend his book. Outside magazine reports, “Krakauer may have expected a tide of detractors, but the audience gave him a standing ovation when he was introduced.”
Maybe the detractors did not show up at his speaking engagement, but they are out there. And they, too, have powerful allies and publishers. I’ll single out one passage from Emily Bazelon in her review for The New York Times. Concerning the case involving UM star quarterback Jordan Johnson and woman whom Krakauer gives the pseudonym Cecilia Washburn, Bazelon opines, “Krakauer doesn’t seem to have spoken to Johnson or Washburn. (In an author’s note, he says he tried to interview the victims and accused men whose cases he covered.) And it’s not clear that he spoke to any prosecutors or police officers in Missoula, or to university officials. As a result, the book feels one-sided. It also lacks texture.”
Bazelon either missed the book’s preface where Krakauer lays out his methodology, or she is being intentionally obtuse– to what end, I can’t imagine. Access to information is one of the very elements that makes rape difficult to discuss. He spent two years meticulously researching what transpired in this town. That much is obvious. And Krakauer does not attempt to be unbiased; this book is a defense of rape victims. Krakauer attempts to be honest. It’s a distinction between the principles of objectivity and accuracy. A line that he argues gets muddled and often disregarded, and by so doing fosters a culture that enables rapists to walk free. Krakauer goes to great lengths to discuss his methodology and precisely what he means when he places words in quotations. Quotations mean someone said it and in most cases, they wrote it. Krakauer’s extensive bibliography supports those claims.
What results from this research is some of the most compelling writing Krakauer has ever produced.