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Jane tells the spectral story of the life and death of Maggie Nelson’s aunt Jane, who was murdered in 1969 while a first-year law student at the University of Michigan. Though officially unsolved, Jane’s murder was apparently the third in a series of seven brutal rape-murders in the area. Nelson was born a few years after Jane’s death, and the narrative is suffused with th Jane tells the spectral story of the life and death of Maggie Nelson’s aunt Jane, who was murdered in 1969 while a first-year law student at the University of Michigan. Though officially unsolved, Jane’s murder was apparently the third in a series of seven brutal rape-murders in the area. Nelson was born a few years after Jane’s death, and the narrative is suffused with the long shadow her murder cast over both the family and her psyche. Jane explores the nature of this haunting incident via a collage of poetry, prose, and documentary sources, including newspapers, related "true crime" books, and fragments from Jane’s own diaries written. Each piece in Jane has its own form that serves as an important fissure, disrupting the tabloid, "page-turner" quality of the story, and eventually returning the reader to deeper questions about girlhood, empathy, identification, and the essentially unknowable aspects of another’s life and death. Part elegy, part memoir, detective story, part meditation on violence, and part conversation between the living and the dead, Jane’s powerful and disturbing subject matter, combined with its innovations in genre, expands the notion of what poetry can do—what kind of stories it can tell, and how it can tell them.


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Jane tells the spectral story of the life and death of Maggie Nelson’s aunt Jane, who was murdered in 1969 while a first-year law student at the University of Michigan. Though officially unsolved, Jane’s murder was apparently the third in a series of seven brutal rape-murders in the area. Nelson was born a few years after Jane’s death, and the narrative is suffused with th Jane tells the spectral story of the life and death of Maggie Nelson’s aunt Jane, who was murdered in 1969 while a first-year law student at the University of Michigan. Though officially unsolved, Jane’s murder was apparently the third in a series of seven brutal rape-murders in the area. Nelson was born a few years after Jane’s death, and the narrative is suffused with the long shadow her murder cast over both the family and her psyche. Jane explores the nature of this haunting incident via a collage of poetry, prose, and documentary sources, including newspapers, related "true crime" books, and fragments from Jane’s own diaries written. Each piece in Jane has its own form that serves as an important fissure, disrupting the tabloid, "page-turner" quality of the story, and eventually returning the reader to deeper questions about girlhood, empathy, identification, and the essentially unknowable aspects of another’s life and death. Part elegy, part memoir, detective story, part meditation on violence, and part conversation between the living and the dead, Jane’s powerful and disturbing subject matter, combined with its innovations in genre, expands the notion of what poetry can do—what kind of stories it can tell, and how it can tell them.

30 review for Jane: A Murder

  1. 5 out of 5

    David Schaafsma

    Update, 10/7/18: I pulled this book off the shelf this morning, having recently finished 2666, which is about the femicides in Juarez, Mexico, in the mid nineties. I also recently read I'll be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara about the Golden State serial killers. I feel like I grew up with all these horrific stories, Ted Bundy, reaching back to Jack the Ripper, this theme of male hatred for women, rooted in power more than anything else. We need to elect many more women, we need to raise e Update, 10/7/18: I pulled this book off the shelf this morning, having recently finished 2666, which is about the femicides in Juarez, Mexico, in the mid nineties. I also recently read I'll be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara about the Golden State serial killers. I feel like I grew up with all these horrific stories, Ted Bundy, reaching back to Jack the Ripper, this theme of male hatred for women, rooted in power more than anything else. We need to elect many more women, we need to raise everyone to be a feminist, to cut to the chase. "I go on and do not know if I am going into darkness or to light and joy."--Dmitri, The Brothers Karamazov I was 16 years old in 1969, the year Jane was murdered. It seemed to me the whole world knew about the “Michigan Murders” over a couple years, several women killed in the Ypsilanti-Ann Arbor area. But the news was on the front page of my local Grand Rapids Press and on local tv news programs all the time in the late sixties, along with the Richard Speck murders in that same time period in Chicago. Speck was convicted, and so also John Collins was convicted for life of one of the Ann Arbor murders, though it was generally known he killed as many as fifteen women. "Electrifying," as they often say about these things, but as with most serial murders, everyone is paying daily horrified attention. Of those fifteen women, Jane was one that I really did recall. That's her 15 year old picture on the book cover, against blue sky. Maggie Nelson, a MacArthur (genius) Award winner, was born four years after her aunt Jane was killed, and at some point she decided to research and write about her mother’s sister. The format is multiple genre—mostly poetry from Nelson’s perspective, but we also have diary and journal entries from various stages of Jane’s life, we have excerpts from news articles, and some letters. Her parents, traumatized, burned most of Jane’s writing, but there was enough to give us a portrait of Jane as girl and woman, sometimes elegant, sometimes insightful, sometimes moving. Always stylistically interesting as a multi-genre inquiry into her aunt, and late sixties womanhood. The effect is not always that deeply insightful or moving, actually, in my opinion. Sometimes it very much is, though, and is generally pretty insightful about what it means to grow up as a girl and woman in America. Sometimes it is very disturbing, of course. It is not overly sentimental, which is good, because it sure could have been. It's almost clinically clear and blunt at times. Seven people (mostly young men of color) died violent deaths last Saturday here in Chicago, not all of them reported about in any detail. Two related questions: What is the long cultural obsession with dead (white) women about? (I also just read The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy, about a murdered white woman). But what is it about men killing women, anyway, now, then, forever, because that is what happens with many male—and most of them are male—serial killers? Maybe every one of the murders committed every day everywhere deserves their own MacArthur-award winning author. Anyway, this could be a kind of model for one way to do it, richly textured and thoughtful. Here’s a really interesting thing: Okay, there was never a trial for Jane in those years. They convicted Collins in 1970 for one murder and assumed that he had committed all the rest of them. But as Nelson was awaiting publication of this book, in 2004, 35 years after the murder, several years after she had been working on the book, the Ann Arbor police contacted her and her mother with the news that there was a DNA match and they would have a trial for Jane’s murder, which is in part the subject of The Red Parts, a memoir, which is essentially Jane: A Murder, part two.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Aubrey

    4.5/5 It is not the time to ask why these things happen, but to have faith, the reverend said, and four hundred people wept. Thirty years later the morning is quiet and faithless. It is time to ask questions. In grade school I had a pen knife leftover from some trip to some national park. In high school I had a slow accumulation of blades from a store in the local Japantown, ones I am still coming across in odd corners of my part of the family house. The first time I went to university, I slept wit 4.5/5 It is not the time to ask why these things happen, but to have faith, the reverend said, and four hundred people wept. Thirty years later the morning is quiet and faithless. It is time to ask questions. In grade school I had a pen knife leftover from some trip to some national park. In high school I had a slow accumulation of blades from a store in the local Japantown, ones I am still coming across in odd corners of my part of the family house. The first time I went to university, I slept with a medieval monstrosity of a short sword beneath my pillow. The second time, the shelf nearest to the handheight of my bed contains a tissue box on the right and a buck knife on the left, the latter broken in such a way that it won't fold up and must lie there in its sheath, gleaming. Her mother insisted on having an open casket, to show everyone Jane was still whole. If I fought back, would they call the display of his body's aftermath "reverential"? If I fought back, would they say the pearl luminescence apparent on his half-erect cock drove me past the point of simple sexual violation and into the territory of ultimate annihilation? How much of a cult following would I have. How ashamed of the man's end would his family be. The stigma the glory the enjoyment the encouragement the normalization of men's hatred of women, when the parents are expected to take resonsiblity for what was obviously the slipshod raising of a precious daughter, for the Madonna and the whore is a fall from glass encasement to free for all trash, and it's not the man's fault she threw away what womanhood the world respects and invited in such hubris, such a repercussion of fate. So they guessed she wasn't raped (but maybe killed) because she had her period; the newspapers reported that her "sanitary napkin" was found in place. So what blood is blood— head-blood, cunt-blood Black clots, red streams How we've fooled ourselves, we who've spilled blood into that which pollutes, and that which redeems. It's an old, old, old subject from an old, old, old time, and now, now, now, now, I still fantasize about what I will do when a body hurls itself in a haze of idea that they are predator and I am prey. Self-defense's exceedingly difficult to prove in the legal system of the United States, y'know. His screams will have to suffice.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Julie Ehlers

    The world is ours, but we walk in it noticed. —Maggie Nelson [T]he death, then, of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world. —Edgar Allan Poe, quoted in Jane: A Murder All her life Maggie Nelson has been told she's reminiscent of her Aunt Jane, who was murdered at the age of 23, before Maggie was born. It's not too surprising, then, that Maggie chose to look into the murky circumstances surrounding Jane's death, but the resulting document is anything but a standard t The world is ours, but we walk in it noticed. —Maggie Nelson [T]he death, then, of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world. —Edgar Allan Poe, quoted in Jane: A Murder All her life Maggie Nelson has been told she's reminiscent of her Aunt Jane, who was murdered at the age of 23, before Maggie was born. It's not too surprising, then, that Maggie chose to look into the murky circumstances surrounding Jane's death, but the resulting document is anything but a standard true-crime book. Comprised of Maggie's poems, excerpts from news articles and a salacious book about a series of Michigan murders, and numerous excerpts from Jane's journals, Jane: A Murder is a compelling dive into an unsolved mystery. In particular, Jane's journal entries provide a striking portrait of a young woman chafing against the restrictive mores of the time, in the sort urgent, raw language that's not actually meant for the eyes of others. The sense of kinship Maggie feels with Jane is obvious, and as a fan of Maggie Nelson's writing I was fascinated by the mingling of their voices. This is a beautiful, deeply impressive book. For a more conventional look at Jane's murder, also check out Nelson's The Red Parts.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sentimental Surrealist

    Not that I'm a very practical person or anything, but I wouldn't find it terribly practical to claim any quality gap between this and the Red Parts, Maggie Nelson's nonfiction analysis of similar events - they both concern the murder of an aunt Nelson never met but often found herself compared to - since they complement each other so well. The Red Parts, which picks up where Jane left off (the case reopened after evidence revealed the first round of trials had convicted the wrong man), seeks fir Not that I'm a very practical person or anything, but I wouldn't find it terribly practical to claim any quality gap between this and the Red Parts, Maggie Nelson's nonfiction analysis of similar events - they both concern the murder of an aunt Nelson never met but often found herself compared to - since they complement each other so well. The Red Parts, which picks up where Jane left off (the case reopened after evidence revealed the first round of trials had convicted the wrong man), seeks first to try and make sense of the events and then make whatever peace it can with their strangeness and senselessness. That also comes through here, albeit not as strongly, but what Jane: A Murder gets to claim as its own is something I'll often claim as a crucial facet of great literature - the transferred experience. Nelson picks up every aspect of her fascination with Jane and the startling impact the story must've had on her, and she transfers it over to me, the reader who so thoroughly and uncomfortably feels that fascination and that sense of having been startled. I remember having some quibbles with how the poems appeared on the page, their almost prosey rhythms, while still early in that book, but the deeper she gets into Jane's story, the more those same rhythms seem essential to how the work functions, and now that I've read it, I come away feeling that I'm somehow or other different for having been told this story. Only giving this four stars because Bluets and the Argonauts are on that next level.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    As my GR friend Julie mentioned in her excellent review, this is like a less conventional companion piece to The Red Parts, Nelson's other book about her aunt's murder in 1969. Where The Red Parts is more of a classic non-fiction/literary true crime piece, Jane: A Murder is more abstract and poetic look at Jane's life and the lead up and aftermath of her murder. The book is made up of poems, excerpts from Jane's diary and news reports of the murder, among other narrative devices. Absorbing and e As my GR friend Julie mentioned in her excellent review, this is like a less conventional companion piece to The Red Parts, Nelson's other book about her aunt's murder in 1969. Where The Red Parts is more of a classic non-fiction/literary true crime piece, Jane: A Murder is more abstract and poetic look at Jane's life and the lead up and aftermath of her murder. The book is made up of poems, excerpts from Jane's diary and news reports of the murder, among other narrative devices. Absorbing and engaging, although I initially found this less satisfying than The Red Parts after giving it some thought I think this is perhaps even better.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ellie

    Jane: A Murder is a psychological investigation into the murder of Nelson's aunt, committed before Nelson's birth, although it echos through her life, through her mother 's grief and questions. Jane was murdered at 23 by an unknown killer, although believed to be a serial killer moving his way through Michigan. Jane is a fiery spirit, at odds with her family on the night she died, en route to tell them she was marrying a man she knew they would not approve of: a Jewish Marxist (two counts agains Jane: A Murder is a psychological investigation into the murder of Nelson's aunt, committed before Nelson's birth, although it echos through her life, through her mother 's grief and questions. Jane was murdered at 23 by an unknown killer, although believed to be a serial killer moving his way through Michigan. Jane is a fiery spirit, at odds with her family on the night she died, en route to tell them she was marrying a man she knew they would not approve of: a Jewish Marxist (two counts against him). Her family is left broken, their daughter removed before a peace could be made, a peace often made years later after marriage and children and age mellows everyone. But no one will ever know if that would have happened. The book is an interesting mix of genres: poetry, journal entries written up as poems, fantasies, factual narratives. Nelson uses her aunt's journals, full of questions, self-doubt, excitement. She questions our country's passion for serial killers and the deaths of young women, her own curiosity part of that questioning. We meet her mother and her sister and the struggles of her own family, especially her sister's rebellion which seems to mirror her aunt's. This is not my favorite Nelson; I prefer her less obvious, more complex works, but it kept me deeply engaged throughout. I was drawn into it and the life of her aunt. I have just read the later work, Red Parts, in which, many years after the crime, a man is arrested and tried for it. It would probably be better to read the books in reverse order but I found it interesting to read Jane in light of the later work. What I see as the mystery contained in Jane, the mystery of any life cut short, the mystery held by any other human (perhaps even our selves to ourselves) remains clear in the first book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    Deserves a place with the very best and most emotionally wrenching contemporary nonfiction: Anne Carson's Nox, John D'Agata's About a Mountain, and Ms. Nelson's own masterpiece, Bluets. Essential.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    I read Nelson's book The Red Parts mostly because I knew it was about a murder, and it's relevant to a project I'm working on. Jane: A Murder is the first book of the two related books. At first I didn't like it as much as The Red Parts, but having finished it, I like it more. This book is poetry, and it's more lyrical, obviously, and I like the way she weaves in a lot of information and letters and parts of Jane's journals. She also moves around in time in ways that are interesting. I think the bo I read Nelson's book The Red Parts mostly because I knew it was about a murder, and it's relevant to a project I'm working on. Jane: A Murder is the first book of the two related books. At first I didn't like it as much as The Red Parts, but having finished it, I like it more. This book is poetry, and it's more lyrical, obviously, and I like the way she weaves in a lot of information and letters and parts of Jane's journals. She also moves around in time in ways that are interesting. I think the book holds together pretty well and incorporates many points of view. Pretty helpful for my project.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kasey Jueds

    I'm pretty sure Maggie Nelson is a genius. I've now read almost all of her books, and they are all so different in some ways--in terms of style and genre, in particular--and at the same time are full of common, compelling threads. And they all, too, are full of heart and wisdom and generosity. Nelson's concerned with intimacy, love, family, the many forms of heartbrokenness, and violence, both physical and emotional. Jane: A Murder is a hybrid book--poetry, excerpts from nonfiction texts and fro I'm pretty sure Maggie Nelson is a genius. I've now read almost all of her books, and they are all so different in some ways--in terms of style and genre, in particular--and at the same time are full of common, compelling threads. And they all, too, are full of heart and wisdom and generosity. Nelson's concerned with intimacy, love, family, the many forms of heartbrokenness, and violence, both physical and emotional. Jane: A Murder is a hybrid book--poetry, excerpts from nonfiction texts and from Jane's (Nelson's murdered aunt) real journals, letters, dreams. I read it in two sittings and was amazed, and incredibly moved, by it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    I'm more enamored with the hybridity of this book than anything else. Maggie Nelson uses poetry, news clips, police documents, and her murdered aunt's own journal entries to turn this story into more than what otherwise may have been a simple true crime book. The result is a book that speaks on so many levels - it's an account of her aunt's murder and Nelson's investigation into it, but it pulls in so much else about girlhood and family and the way society perceives crimes against women. Really, I'm more enamored with the hybridity of this book than anything else. Maggie Nelson uses poetry, news clips, police documents, and her murdered aunt's own journal entries to turn this story into more than what otherwise may have been a simple true crime book. The result is a book that speaks on so many levels - it's an account of her aunt's murder and Nelson's investigation into it, but it pulls in so much else about girlhood and family and the way society perceives crimes against women. Really, there's so much packed into such a little book, whether you like poetry, sociology, or murder mysteries.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Halley Sutton

    Maggie Nelson is my everything.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Annika

    I started and finished this book in a little over 30 minutes and I am amazed. This is one of the most beautiful, moving things I have ever read. It hit me right in the fucking face. Excerpt from page 121: TWO BULLETS The skull may flatten the metal, but the metal will win. It wedges in- to the seat of thought, uses the pink tissue as its envelope. Two bullets: one in front, one in back quickly speak. They tell the heart, No more beats.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    I've decided to compose a longer review once I read this for a second time. Obviously, a perfect partner to "Red Parts", it deserves a bit more than just a star-rating for its in-depth poetry and brutal account of Janie's murder.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Gina

    holy shit is this good, and hard to read, and incredibly sad but gorgeously written. part fictional memoir, part biography, part autobiography, part gift.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dana Sweeney

    “Jane” is Maggie Nelson’s attempt to piece together the short life and murder of her aunt, Jane, whose life was stolen by a serial killer in Michigan in the late 1960s. Stylistically, it is an unusual book, a gesture of a book: a collage of fragments of journal entries, poems, short prose, news clippings. It is an assemblage of small and scattered pieces. It is a tribute. Frankly, I found this book to be viscerally upsetting. Early on I was surprisingly mortified by Nelson’s effort to bring her “Jane” is Maggie Nelson’s attempt to piece together the short life and murder of her aunt, Jane, whose life was stolen by a serial killer in Michigan in the late 1960s. Stylistically, it is an unusual book, a gesture of a book: a collage of fragments of journal entries, poems, short prose, news clippings. It is an assemblage of small and scattered pieces. It is a tribute. Frankly, I found this book to be viscerally upsetting. Early on I was surprisingly mortified by Nelson’s effort to bring her aunt’s life to the page when her family had worked so hard to let her painful memory rest. I was discomforted because I felt intrusive, particularly when reading excerpts of Jane’s surviving “private! (underlined twice)” diaries. Writing like this — which crosses boundaries of authorial intent — always make me uncomfortable. But I suppose it’s not hard to imagine wanting to lean into the family history that is darkest, most secretive, most rippling beneath the surface. I never became completely comfortable with the premise, but in the same way as it is intrusive of me to read, it is no less intrusive of me to presume how Nelson should grieve, or write. And, it says something about me that I kept reading through all of this. This book filled me with dread, horror, and nausea while reading about the (graphically described, which is to say, plainly stated) brutality of Jane’s murder and the searing impact it has on her family for decades to come. Much of this book is excruciating to read. Though it is short, I had to put it down and walk away from it several times during the reading. Overall, I think that this is a book that honors both truth and feeling, which is no small accomplishment. It is painful and full of love. It successfully adapts an unusual, fragmentary format to suit a story that is itself a patchwork filled with silences, unknowns, and unknowables. Though this read made me uncomfortable, I can’t deny the skill and soulful artistry with which it was made. My admiration for Nelson grows every time I read something new by her, and the haunting heartfelt hurtful “Jane” is no exception. Nelson writes like nobody else.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Audra (ouija.doodle.reads)

    It’s probably easier at this point to just assume that most people you meet have at least a passing interest in true crime—maybe I’m just hanging around in some weird circles, but it seems that America’s obsession with this morbid topic has reached a peak and shows no sign of abating. Maggie Nelson’s personal experience, through the murder of the aunt she never knew, is a haunting, beautiful, grounded, real, honest, raw, and searching memoir/poetry/true crime encounter, and one I highly recommend It’s probably easier at this point to just assume that most people you meet have at least a passing interest in true crime—maybe I’m just hanging around in some weird circles, but it seems that America’s obsession with this morbid topic has reached a peak and shows no sign of abating. Maggie Nelson’s personal experience, through the murder of the aunt she never knew, is a haunting, beautiful, grounded, real, honest, raw, and searching memoir/poetry/true crime encounter, and one I highly recommend. I read The Red Parts when it came out a few years ago, not knowing that this book even existed until she mentioned it in those pages. I went out and found a copy right away, and then promptly ignored it until I was choosing a stack of ten books I really wanted to read before this year was up. The Red Parts explores the truth of what happened to Jane, how her murder and not knowing had long-lasting consequences for the rest of her family, and Maggie’s search for truth about her own identity, to understand the need to know, and the why of it all. It is a brilliant book, one I read breathlessly, one that dug deep into my heart and made me think, really think, about myself and my own obsession with stories of murder. I’d consider it a must-read for the true crime fan. This book is more of a meditation, with slippage, questions, uncertainty. We read from Jane’s own journal, from the book that was written about her murder, hear from the man she was going to marry. There isn’t a big reveal, the uncovering of a villain. This is Nelson’s investigation into what Jane meant as a person who lived, dreamed, and should have been—and what it meant that she didn’t. Though it is poetry, it has a narrative style and reads like a story, effortlessly, something that only Maggie Nelson could capture. If I could recommend one thing to potential readers, I’d say buy both books and read Jane and then The Red Parts. Get the full beautiful and sad story—memoir and murder, life and death and life moving on.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    “The world is ours, but we walk in it noticed.” “Was Jane waiting to happen? In my imagination, she was the most driven person I knew. A woman who did what she wanted. A woman who wanted.” This is an extraordinary book. It is haunting and deeply moving. It is eerie and ethereal. The title says it is about a murder, and indeed it is, but more than that, it is a fitting tribute to the author’s Aunt Jane. Within this tribute is a scathing disdain for those fascinated with “true crime” stories—a com “The world is ours, but we walk in it noticed.” “Was Jane waiting to happen? In my imagination, she was the most driven person I knew. A woman who did what she wanted. A woman who wanted.” This is an extraordinary book. It is haunting and deeply moving. It is eerie and ethereal. The title says it is about a murder, and indeed it is, but more than that, it is a fitting tribute to the author’s Aunt Jane. Within this tribute is a scathing disdain for those fascinated with “true crime” stories—a commentary on how perverse human nature is. Maggie Nelson also manages to weave a commentary on the social position of women into this story about her aunt’s life being ripped away from her. Nelson traces her aunt’s life using what little information she can find and does so marvelously. I feel a keen sense of loss for Jane—it is clear that she was a great woman and would have become even greater, if only a man had not selfishly and cruelly ripped her from the world. Nelson’s prose electrifies the text. However, for me, Jane’s writing stole the show. She herself was a wonderful writer and Nelson really allowed Jane’s work to shine.

  18. 4 out of 5

    M. Gaffney

    Terrible brilliance.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kaitlin Ackerman

    My favorite part of this book is how quick it was to read. I spent most of the book confused about whether Jane was the author’s sister or aunt. 🤷🏼‍♀️🙈 I am looking forward to discussing this book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sairey Pickering

    4.5 stars

  21. 5 out of 5

    Deandra

    Wow. I had been told how incredible this book was but there were some lines that simply blew me away. A+ way to spend a Saturday.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Abby

    Brilliant and haunting. I don't know why it took me so long to read this book; I've known about it since it first came out a little over 10 years ago. Maggie Nelson has created a truly original and thoroughly captivating work that blends the genres of memoir, poetry, diary, and true crime in unanticipated ways. Nelson never knew her aunt Jane; she was brutally murdered a few years before she was born. When she turned 23 (the same age as Jane at the time of her death), she discovered her aunt's d Brilliant and haunting. I don't know why it took me so long to read this book; I've known about it since it first came out a little over 10 years ago. Maggie Nelson has created a truly original and thoroughly captivating work that blends the genres of memoir, poetry, diary, and true crime in unanticipated ways. Nelson never knew her aunt Jane; she was brutally murdered a few years before she was born. When she turned 23 (the same age as Jane at the time of her death), she discovered her aunt's diary, and decided to learn more about who her aunt had been and what had happened to her. Although Nelson does not shy away from some of the more disturbing aspects of Jane's case, she never descends into the kind of sensationalism typical of most true crime books (one of which she includes snippets from in this text). This is a very challenging, honest, and vulnerable account of the devastating impact that Jane's murder had on her family, including those who never even met her. And it is an moving illumination of Jane's life and the person she was and might have been -- the kind of portrayal that is nearly always absent from the stories of serial killer victims. Those aspects alone make this book well worth your while -- but beyond that, Nelson's use of language and form is incredibly inventive and utterly absorbing. I read this quickly, in the span of an afternoon, and it has lingered with me ever since. Highly recommended, but not for those who cannot stomach any graphic depictions of violence.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Susan Howson

    Beautiful, haunting little book. Sometimes I forget how much I like poetry, particularly poetry that functions sort of like prose. Maggie Nelson seems like a master of both, and I shall now read her whole selection!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    Jane explores the nature of this haunting incident via a collage of poetry, prose, and documentary sources, including newspapers, related "true crime" books such as The Michigan Murders and Killers Among Us, and fragments from Jane’s own diaries written when she was 13 and 21. Its eight sections cover Jane's childhood and early adulthood, her murder and its investigation, the direct and diffuse effect of her death on Nelson's girlhood and sisterhood, and a trip to Michigan Nelson took with her m Jane explores the nature of this haunting incident via a collage of poetry, prose, and documentary sources, including newspapers, related "true crime" books such as The Michigan Murders and Killers Among Us, and fragments from Jane’s own diaries written when she was 13 and 21. Its eight sections cover Jane's childhood and early adulthood, her murder and its investigation, the direct and diffuse effect of her death on Nelson's girlhood and sisterhood, and a trip to Michigan Nelson took with her mother (Jane's sister) to retrace the path of Jane's final hours. Each piece in Jane has its own form that serves as an important fissure, disrupting the tabloid, "page-turner" quality of the story, and eventually returning the reader to deeper questions about girlhood, empathy, identification, and the essentially unknowable aspects of another’s life and death. Part elegy, part memoir, part detective story, part meditation on violence, and part conversation between the living and the dead, Jane’s powerful and disturbing subject matter, combined with its innovations in genre, expands the notion of what poetry can do—what kind of stories it can tell, and how it can tell them.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    My first Maggie Nelson book. This is, as you would guess from the subject matter, often incredibly harrowing and heartbreaking. But it is also absolutely gorgeous and beautiful. Nelson is reckoning with a lot of complicated thoughts and emotions, and her connection to her Aunt is clearly incredibly powerful, almost supernatural. It's combination of reportage, imaginative prose, poetry, excerpts from interviews, newspapers, diaries, and journals is seamless. There is a very odd feeling about this My first Maggie Nelson book. This is, as you would guess from the subject matter, often incredibly harrowing and heartbreaking. But it is also absolutely gorgeous and beautiful. Nelson is reckoning with a lot of complicated thoughts and emotions, and her connection to her Aunt is clearly incredibly powerful, almost supernatural. It's combination of reportage, imaginative prose, poetry, excerpts from interviews, newspapers, diaries, and journals is seamless. There is a very odd feeling about this book, one of an almost voyeuristic or guilty association. All of what you are experiencing, the enrichment something so powerful can bring to your life, the beauty, comes because of the trauma of a family and the very real murder of a person. This creates an uncomfortable intimacy with the text and causes you to do a deep dive into what you are feeling, your thoughts and your place in the world. I want to read The Red Parts as soon as I can.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sara Judy

    Ok, so - I love Maggie Nelson, but this isn't the book for me. On a whole, the project is interesting and challenging and often lovely. At the level of individual poem, not so much. Formally, the decision to write prose poetry/lyric essay isn't adding much to this project and I felt frustrated by the incoherence (maybe not the right word? felt almost juvenile - perhaps intentional since Nelson draws on many of Jane's girlhood journals) of the aesthetic decisions and content. I imagine intellectu Ok, so - I love Maggie Nelson, but this isn't the book for me. On a whole, the project is interesting and challenging and often lovely. At the level of individual poem, not so much. Formally, the decision to write prose poetry/lyric essay isn't adding much to this project and I felt frustrated by the incoherence (maybe not the right word? felt almost juvenile - perhaps intentional since Nelson draws on many of Jane's girlhood journals) of the aesthetic decisions and content. I imagine intellectually minded, true crime lovers (think: My Favorite Murder Podcast) would love this book. If you're not into true crime I'll happily recommend Nelson's Bluets or Argonauts.

  27. 5 out of 5

    mikhaela

    wow. i just? the mix of poetry and true crime was simply fantastic. while the writing is as excellent as ever, this is the nelson that took my breath away. while it kind of feels wrong to wring appreciation out of someone else's grief and loss, i think i found here what i thought was lacking in her other books: sincerity. (the argonauts had plenty of it but was overshadowed by theory talk; bluets, which i liked, i would've enjoyed more with a little less pretension.) what a heartbreaking experie wow. i just? the mix of poetry and true crime was simply fantastic. while the writing is as excellent as ever, this is the nelson that took my breath away. while it kind of feels wrong to wring appreciation out of someone else's grief and loss, i think i found here what i thought was lacking in her other books: sincerity. (the argonauts had plenty of it but was overshadowed by theory talk; bluets, which i liked, i would've enjoyed more with a little less pretension.) what a heartbreaking experience reading this was. visceral, even. my broke ass instantly ordered "the red parts" after reading, if that says anything.

  28. 4 out of 5

    charlie shaw

    "But in fact she was losing the light; it leaked everywhere, unstoppable" "I'm seething lately / -but it too shall pass" "Here's to the hope that you'll never stop 'growing up'- // 'not only for what you are / but what I am when I am with you" "and I love her-at least // if I can love at all / I do" "As if there were a control / so marvelous // you could teach it / to eat pain" "Skin is soft; it takes what you do to it" "Can anyone like blood the way one likes the mountains or the sea?" "The world is o "But in fact she was losing the light; it leaked everywhere, unstoppable" "I'm seething lately / -but it too shall pass" "Here's to the hope that you'll never stop 'growing up'- // 'not only for what you are / but what I am when I am with you" "and I love her-at least // if I can love at all / I do" "As if there were a control / so marvelous // you could teach it / to eat pain" "Skin is soft; it takes what you do to it" "Can anyone like blood the way one likes the mountains or the sea?" "The world is our, but we walk in it / noticed" "As a child I had so much energy I'd lie awake and feel my organs smolder"

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly Knutsen

    This is a powerful book. I love how everything shifts into darkness a third of the way in. Evil has entered the story, and from this moment on, nothing will ever be the same, not for Jane's family, and not for Maggie's family a generation later. Before she was even conceived, Maggie's fate has been shaped by this heinous act. I admire her for being the oracle through which her aunt's story can be told.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Callum McAllister

    My favourite of Nelson’s collections and one of her best books full stop, perhaps just short of Bluets and Argonauts. I think she’s at her best when there’s this focus to her work, or a purity or subject.

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