COMPULSION by Meyer Levin


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Certain crimes seem to epitomize the thinking of their era""- and this is a documentary novel of the Loeb-Leopold case which brought into play the ""psychoanalytical point of view"" of our time, much as Dreiser's American Tragedy represented the sociological view of his. In another sense too, the Loeb-Leopold case belongs more to the '50's than the '20's when it was a singular, and shocking phenomenon; today crimes such as this, ""a crime for crime's sake"" or a ""crime in a vacuum"" has become something of a commonplace. Although Meyer Levin has changed the names of those involved and invented a few characters (Sid, the reporter, who tells the story; Ruth, his girl), the factual evidence in the case- and a great deal of Clarence Darro brilliant defense- remains unchanged. Many will remember the blunt outline of the case in which two youths, 18 and 19, kidnapped and killed a youngster in their wealthy suburban community, left the body in a culvert, and accidentally lost a pair of eyeglasses which quickly led to their arrest. What many did not perhaps realize then, certainly not their parents, and what Meyer Levin explores, is the imbalance of these two and the strange affinity of their perverse fantasy world along with their homosexual ambivalence:- Artie Straus, an exceptional student with great social charm and a penchant for wild pranks; Judd Steiner, a Phi Beta Kappa at 17 and ready for Harvard Law, awkward and solitary and brooding under the guilt of his mother's death. This case too was perhaps the first to bring pressure on the limitations of the law and the disparity between the medical and legal definitions of insanity as the defense secured its meaningless victory- a life sentence..... The sensationalism of the subject has not been abused here, and the case- over and above the occasional extremes of conjecture at the close-has a contemporary significance.

Pub Date: Oct. 18th, 1956
Publisher: Simon & Schuster