The Jodi Arias trial can be read as the great, sad, banal epic of our time. It involves a lot of sensational material — the sex lives of Mormon youth, the unbelievably savage killing of a young man by his sometime lover, an attractive and intelligent young woman — but what’s riveting is the context brought forth in the trial evidence and testimony. This context delivers a portrait of people making a massive digital record of their lives, lives that seem less and less substantial, more and more bewildered and aimless, the more we learn about them.
It’s profound — public theater on a par with the Watergate and Iran-Contra hearings and the O. J. Simpson trail but involving ordinary middle-class people leading ordinary middle-class lives, which are revealed as utterly devastating in their existential emptiness and hopelessness.
It’s all in the details, though, in the vast accumulation of details — snippets of the sensational revelations give no idea of what this trial has to tell us. Not even the greatest of novelists, with the possible exception of Tolstoy, could convey it with the same authority, insight and impact.