A TRIAL FOR OUR TIMES

THE EASIEST MEANING OF THE TRIAL IS THAT WE LIVE IN A GOLDEN age of high trash, an Elizabethan epoch of lowest-common-denominator, everything-is-entertainment daytime drama that in Judge Ito's courtroom composed, day by day, its masterpiece--its soap, Santa Monica Othello.

But the Simpson trial has a deeper geography. Sometimes a trial plays out like a culture's collective dream--a vivid, edgy, distorted story that casts up images and characters from the realm of instinct and has them act out the society's deepest passions: its fears, prejudices and desires.

Courtroom as religious rite: Apollo--the law--sifts through the disorders of Dionysus--human nature in the...

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