Year in Books: Word plays

By JON GARELICK  |  December 22, 2008

Paula Uruburu | American Eve | Riverhead
The subtitle here is Evelyn Nesbit, Stanford White, The Birth of the "It" Girl, and the Crime of the Century. Nesbit's central role in the 1906 murder of internationally famous architect Stanford White has been dramatized by Hollywood in the 1955 film The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing and reimagined as fiction by E.L. Doctorow in Ragtime. Nesbit herself published two (sometimes inconsistent) memoirs. But never has this awful tale been better researched or described than in Hofstra University English professor Paula Uruburu's American Eve. Uruburu builds a psychological profile in which sexual naïvetû plus parental abandonment aggravated by an unearned notoriety based on looks alone adds up to certain doom.

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