Impressionistic, sometimes glancing ponderings on evil as theological construct, historical fact, and journalistic staple.
The E word makes for a big subject, and it gets batted around a lot among politicians (“evil empire,” “axis of evil”) and pundits. Time.com columnist Morrow (Heart: A Memoir, 1995) weighs in with a declaration that evil, which he never quite defines, is a reality—though, echoing a trope from The Usual Suspects, he adds, “Evil has made a successful career over many centuries by persuading people that it does not exist.” In the pages that follow, Morrow expands on that argument in several directions. Some are quite helpful for anyone seeking to understand why bad things happen to good people: Evil, writes Morrow, is a normal part of life; evil is committed by ordinary folks just as often as by criminal masterminds, and ordinary people can do considerably more damage when they set about misbehaving; young people are more evil than old ones (though perhaps only because evil youngsters get killed off before they can become evil seniors). Others veer into the bizarre, as when Morrow posits that the Third Reich was “an evil national mirthlessness,” layering it on with the still stranger thought that “no people with a decent sense of humor would have tolerated Hitler and his grotesque crew and absurd racial theories for five minutes.” Do funny folks then have no evil in them? So Morrow suggests before going on to pummel the late Kurt Cobain for having committed a few creepy sexual images to print (failing to consider that Cobain may have been trying on a literary mask or two) and the present culture in general for having produced Cobain, Columbine, and other monstrous entries in Morrow’s hall of shame.
In all this, the author fails to provide a specific mailing address for evil, whose image remains a bit fuzzy. Even so, this is a good—and readable—selection from its résumé.