Simpson's book gives reader little of the unexpected

January 28, 1995|By Jean Marbella | Jean Marbella,Sun Staff Writer

"I Want to Tell You," O.J. Simpson titled his book and, indeed, it's what he wants to tell you, not necessarily what you want to know.

Arriving in stores yesterday, Mr. Simpson's book comes as his trial in the murders of his ex-wife Nicole and her friend Ronald Goldman concludes an opening week of heated arguments and stuttering delays.

The 208-page book, which retails for $17.95, won't stop any presses with shocking confessions or revealing insights by the man whose case has riveted the nation, or at least its media. Yet publisher Little, Brown, which would not confirm reports that it paid Mr. Simpson a $1 million advance, believes there is enough interest in the case that it has printed 500,000 copies of the book.

"How could anybody say I could kill this woman? . . . Don't they understand that I'd jump in front of a bullet for Nicole?" Mr. Simpson says in the book, which is based on jailhouse interviews he gave to his collaborating writer Lawrence Schiller.

It joined another quickie O.J. book by journalist Sheila Weller called "Raging Heart," which details the obsessive relationship between Nicole and O.J.

But it is Mr. Simpson's book, which reprints some of the more than 300,000 letters he has received in the seven months since he was arrested, that got most of the attention. It is at least as telling for what it doesn't say as what it does: He doesn't say he did it. He doesn't admit to any abuse or stalking of his wife. He doesn't reveal what went on in that slow-mo ride in the white Bronco before his surrender. He doesn't say how Nicole's blood, as the prosecution contends, got on the sock found in his bedroom, or what's in that envelope they keep waving in court or answer any of those other niggling questions that have been plaguing the minds of O.J.-obsessives.

Instead, he tells us, several times, that his girlfriend Paula Barbieri is spiritual, correcting, perhaps, a different impression left by her nude pictorial in the October Playboy. He compares his travails to Job, that long-suffering biblical character. He argues that some media coverage of his case has been racist and inaccurate.

He speaks, wrenchingly enough, of his and Nicole's children: "On November 21, 1994, I told Sydney and Justin that I was in jail and had been arrested for the death of their mother. They told me they already knew. Some of their friends had told them. They said they knew I was going to help find the people who killed their mommy."

And he gets some digs in at Faye Resnick, a friend of his ex-wife and the briefly best-selling author of her own book, the scandal-filled "Nicole Simpson: A Life Interrupted." "What annoys about Faye is that Faye has done this to Nicole. Not me. Nicole's the one who's not here to defend herself against those lies," he writes. Later, he hints at drug use, but doesn't provide any real payoff: "I know in my heart that the answer to the death of Nicole and Mr. Goldman lies somewhere in the world that Faye Resnick inhabited."

You don't, of course, pick up a book like this for literary qualities. You don't expect both sides, just that of the author. You expect the self-serving, the gratuitous -- and you get it.

"Sitting here in jail," Mr. Simpson relates, "I feel that I've been denied the right to properly mourn."

And the chapter titled "Spousal Abuse" is mainly the text of 10 letters, some quite favorably disposed toward him: One writer says, "No one has mentioned the abuse she inflicted on you." An allegedly abused woman in Cleveland writes, "I said a lot of the same things to the police as Nicole did. But what I didn't confess, and I believe is the same in your situation, is that I was as much to blame for the disturbance."

All Mr. Simpson will say about his personal knowledge of the subject is, "Spousal abuse will be an issue at my trial and therefore I can't discuss it in these pages."

You won't get many details on their separation, reconciliation and ultimate divorce. Rather than the prosecution's depiction of him as a jealous husband who couldn't let go of his wife, he says that their final separation was "a mutual decision. We were at peace with each other even though we were going down separate paths."

It is this amicable picture -- he tells of lying in the grass with his ex-wife at a gathering about two weeks before her death -- rather than the allegedly glaring-across-the-room account of Sydney's dance recital the day of the murders that he offers.

The book also offers pages of pictures, of the photogenic Nicole in the expected in-happier-times shots -- skiing in Aspen, getting a piggyback ride from O.J. at a Fourth of July picnic, playing with their children Sydney and Justin. It is, of course, a story that plays out well in pictures, perhaps more than print.

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