The journal n+1 just published this piece by Julia Gronnevet about her experience covering the trial of Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik for the Associated Press. Different shooter, different country, but some eerily resonant details and (obviously) the question of mental illness. And the question of the male psyche. It is impossible to look at that advertisement for the gun that Adam Lanza used in Newtown and not wonder about the way mental illness interacts with the masculine authority thing.
Anyway, Breivik. As Gronnevet writes:
Breivik has a special look when he comes into court in the morning, solid, stomping, with great natural authority. But he only maintains it for the first five minutes, while the photographers are allowed to take pictures. Once court is in session he seems to close down, like a blown-out candle. He remains absolutely still, except for the few occasions when he writes something down. It’s almost as if he switches to a lower metabolic rate when the cameras aren’t on him.
Elsewhere she describes Breivik as "that block of ice... just waiting for the day to be over."
Breivik’s presence seemed provocative and wrong, as though by hearing this testimony and remaining unmoved he was challenging all the difficult work these families were putting in, coming here every day like a job they don’t get paid to do. I don’t think they really care whether Breivik is found sane or insane. I think what they most want is to take part in the last shred of their children’s lives.
One more quote:
He says he knows what he has done and describes his motivations and actions in rational-sounding words. He often sounds sane, but appears to lack certain qualities that would allow me to recognize him as a normal person. His words seem less representative of a consciousness than of an inchoate political mood, a xenophobic weather system in the form of one furious man.