02/27/1995 at 01:00 AM EST
by O.J. Simpson
Speaking out for the first time since he was jailed on June 17, Simpson turns this book into a pulpit to preach his innocence. On the pretense of answering some of the 300,000 letters he has received in jail, he offers highly selective reflections on Nicole, press coverage of the crime and the justice system. But most of his responses are simply self-serving previews of his defense strategy.
In a chapter called "Spousal Abuse," Simpson avoids his violent relationship with Nicole but uses letters to imply that he, too, was a victim. "I understand some of the torture you endured over the years...the low self-esteem you might have felt," writes J. Miller of Jamaica, N.Y. "If you are guilty...it would be very sad. But I understand."
Some of the book's anecdotes are stunningly insensitive. At one point, Simpson compares his own case of athlete's foot to the tribulations of Job. Quoting Psalm 31 ("My years are shortened/Drained away because of sadness"), O.J. says, "This is exactly the feeling I had that first week in jail. I mean my feet were swollen, I had blisters, I was grieving, I had lost Nicole."
The most disingenuous passage comes when the author expresses anger that Nicole's former cocaine-abusing pal Faye Resnick cashed in with her own best-seller. O.J. pays her back by wondering if the answer to the murders "lies in the world Faye Resnick inhabited." Simpson's own profits—including a reputed $1 million advance from his publisher—will go to his legal defense fund.
Ron Goldman is acknowledged with a mere two sentences of regret. But there is plenty of room for happy photos of the Simpson family and space aplenty for O.J.'s tirades against the press.
The project was put together by TV movie producer Lawrence Schiller (The Executioner's Song), a distant O.J. acquaintance who made 10 jailhouse visits. There is also an audio cassette ($9.99) in which actors read portions of the letters and O.J. answers toughies like "As you look at your life, what are you most proud of?" (Answer: his image as a "positive and good person.") Simpson partisans may cite the book's immediate popularity as validation for the entire enterprise. But didn't P.T. Barnum have the last word on that a long time ago? (Little, Brown, $17.95)