A few years ago I read Arthur Phillips’ novel, The Egyptologist. He tells the story through letters and diary entries, and at several points in the novel I realized that what I thought was happening wasn’t what was going on at all. Because what people write in letters is what they want their readers to know, which may be something less or other than the truth, and what they write in their diaries, or their letters for that matter, may be colored by their interpretation of their world. Neither the stories they tell others nor the stories they tell themselves qualifies as objective truth.
This came to mind as I read Bundy’s prison poem. Is it what he thinks? Is it what he wants Ann to think he thinks? Is he expecting it to get to the police? He’s saying he doesn’t belong there, that God is on his side, that jail will not break him. Ann Rule questions what’s behind the poem. She is his friend and she doesn’t trust his motives, even though she’s not yet convinced he’s the man the police are after.
We read Bonnie Parker’s poem a few weeks ago. She knew her trail was coming to an end, and seemed to accept it. But I’m not sure who she was writing to, who she thought would read it, so I’m not entirely sure how to interpret it – not unlike this poem from Bundy. But the poems are quite dissimilar – Bundy is not fatalistic nor is he admitting to anything.
He speaks of redemption and salvation, like some of Cotton Mather’s convict converts, but unlike those who found salvation through prison, he’s looking for salvation from prison:
Jailer, do what you please
No harm can befall me
When the Savior does call me.
We could interpret Bundy’s poem in multiple ways, but we wouldn’t know what is right or true. The question of the truthiness of true crime stories comes up again and again.
Another thing I wonder about is that misspelling of holy as wholly. You can’t blame it on autocorrect or miskeyboarding because he was writing by hand. It’s such an elementary error. Is he like Perry, not as smart as he thinks he is? On some levels that might make sense, but not in his writing, with his academic background. I’m probably reading too much into any of it, but these are the kinds of questions that run through my head.