Thursday, February 21, 2008


An Assassin's Diary by Arthur Bremer (Harpers, 1973)

On November 9th of last year, Arthur Bremer was released from prison. He had been serving a 53-year sentence for shooting and paralyzing George Wallace as he campaigned for the Democratic presidential nomination at a Maryland shopping mall in 1972.

What better time to re-visit Mr. Bremer's magnum opus?

An Assassin's Diary is a delightful relic from those wonderfully tasteless days before Son of Sam laws and civil suits killed the commercial potential of would-be-writings of would-be killers. It reprints the portion of Bremer's diary found after his arrest: 13 entries over a six-week period prior to the shooting. (The first 148 pages were reportedly found in 1980 but remain unpublished.) It's dreary, garbled, and poorly written, and only breaks the 100-page barrier courtesy of a layout really heavy on the white space. And of course, it's utterly essential.

Bremer was the apocryphal "lone nut" of the '60s who turned assassin strictly for the publicity. His diary chronicles his wanderings through New York, Ottawa, and Michigan, at first in pursuit of Nixon before tight security forced him to switch to Wallace. (He frets over the lesser newsworthiness of his back-up target.) For the most part, it's a dreary record of cheap motels and crummy restaurants, sparked occasional gems like "The [maid] doesn't like me because I left my toe nails on the run at the foot of my bed." The New York City sequences are especially Travis Bickle-ian; he makes a point of mentioning how he never leaves his room without his gun. Small wonder that his story reportedly was part of the inspiration for "Taxi Driver."

The highlight of the diary is his trip to a massage parlor in New York. In an excruciatingly painful scene, the "masseuse" attempts (unsuccessfully) to relieve him manually as Bremer pathetically attempts to get a whole lot more for his $48. She explains they have rules against that sort of thing. He later notes, "The first person I held a conversation with in three months was a near-naked girl rubbing my erect penis and she wouldn't let me put it through her."

Mr. Bremer is now living in a halfway house. Let us wish him more satisfactory conclusions in all his future endeavors.

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