Justifiable Conduct: Self-Vindication in Memoir

Justifiable Conduct: Self-Vindication in Memoir

by Erich Goode


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How do memoirists make their work interesting, daring, exciting, and unorthodox enough so that they attract an audience, yet not so heinous and scandalous that their readers are unable to empathize or identify with them? In Justifiable Conduct, renowned sociologist Erich Goode explores the different strategies memoirists use to "neutralize" their alleged wrongdoing and fashion a more positive image of themselves for audiences. He examines how writers, including James Frey, Susan Cheever, Roman Polanski, Charles Van Doren, and Elia Kazan, explain, justify, contextualize, excuse, or warrant their participation in activities such as criminal behavior, substance abuse, sexual transgression, and political radicalism.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781439910269
Publisher: Temple University Press
Publication date: 05/03/2013
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Erich Goode is Sociology Professor Emeritus at Stony Brook University. He has published ten books including Moral Panics (coauthored with Nachman Ben-Yehuda), The Paranormal, Deviant Behavior, and Drugs in American Society; seven anthologies; and articles that have appeared in magazines, newspapers, and an array of academic journals. He is a Guggenheim fellowship recipient, and he has taught at half a dozen universities, including the University of Maryland, New York University, and the University of North Carolina.

Table of Contents


1 Introduction
 Charles Van Doren, “Herb Stempel Was the First to Agree to the Fix”
 Jim Bouton, “If We Explain We’re Shooting Beaver, They’ll Understand”
 The Transgressive I, the Exculpatory Account

2 Autobiography and Memoir
 Memoir and Autobiography
 The Memoir Explosion
 Literal Facticity: Does It Matter?
 James Frey, “I Honestly Have No Idea”

3 Autonarrating Transgression
 The “I” and the “Me”
 Vocabularies of Motive
 Is to Explain to Condone?
 The Presentation of Self
 Techniques of Neutralization: Theory or Concept?
 To Whom Are Self-Exculpations Addressed?
 In Sum: Neutralizing Deviance

4 Criminal Behavior
 Joe Bonanno, “This Is How I Earned My Living”
 Edward Bunker, “What Else Could I Do?”
 Jack Henry Abbott, “If You Behave like a Man, You Are Doomed”
 Jordan Belfort, “$12.5 Million! In Three Minutes!
 Accounting for Crime

 5 Substance Abuse
 Pete Hamill, “This Is What Men Do”
 Susan Cheever, “Drinking Was Part of Our Heritage”
 Steve Geng, “I Was Romanticizing Lives of Crime”
 William Cope Moyers, “I Was Doomed to Fail No Matter How Hard I Tried”
 Accounting for Substance Abuse

6 Sexual Transgressions
 Roman Polanski, “Everyone Wants to Fuck Young Girls”
 Kerry Cohen, “My Parade of Boys Continues”
 Melissa Febos, “I Took Aim and Flicked the Whip toward Him”
 Kirk Read, “I Wanted to Be Shirley Temple”
 Accounting for Sexual Transgressions

7 Political Deviance
 Elia Kazan, “I Was Notorious, an Informant, a Squealer, a Rat”
 Norman Podhoretz, “The Theory Circulated That I Had Gone Mad”
 Malcolm X, “I Never Have Felt That I Would Live to Become an Old Man”
 Cathy Wilkerson, “The Intention Was Not to Cause Carnage but Chaos”
 Accounting for Political Transgressions

8 Accounting for Deviance
 How They Account for Themselves
 Searching for Common Threads
 Looking Back


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