Beth Loffreda has nothing to say about Matt Shepard …
… and she takes 200 pages to say it.
Nearly three years after Matt Shepard’s murder, only two questions have any enduring relevance: What actually went on the night he was killed, and what were the true motives for the crime? In Losing Matt Shepard, Beth Loffreda demonstrates that she has absolutely no idea, and neither do the dozens of people she interviewed. Their words now appear in her book as if they had some insight to share–about Matt’s life, about his death, about homophobia, about violence against queer people, about capital punishment. They do not. In fact, one almost wonders whether Loffreda deliberately sought out the least articulate and least thoughtful people in Laramie and across the country and chose to quote them precisely for the numbing, repetitive effect of their words.
Loffreda’s appetite for the minutiae of political processes or of the history of long-dead legislation is similarly all but endless, and, in the end, the “aftermath” of Shepard’s murder-at least as Loffreda describes it–is precisely nothing. Though she waxes grumpy, in a Quaker sort of way, about (what she considers) the inaccurate spins other journalists have put on what they found in Laramie, her lack of a political grounding (or, indeed, of any personal convictions at all) is maddening. She’s no media or cultural critic; she doesn’t “get” homophobia (except in the “can’t we all just get along” way); and the only thing that really ticks her off is Fred Phelps, who is the easiest target in the world.
There’s no analysis here, the prose is plodding and tedious, Loffreda nearly gives herself a hernia trying to stay in the middle of the road, and you won’t learn a single thing you didn’t already know.
The great book on Matthew Shepard has yet to be written. Until we get it, Tony Kushner is, as usual, brilliant: Matthew’s Passion.