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arbieroo

Arbie's Unoriginally Titled Book Blog

It's a blog! Mainly of book reviews.

Currently reading

Ursula K. Le Guin: Hainish Novels and Stories, Vol. 1: Rocannon's World / Planet of Exile / City of Illusions / The Left Hand of Darkness / The Dispossessed / Stories (The Library of America)
Brian Attebery, Ursula K. Le Guin
Progress: 132/1100 pages
Life and Letters of Charles Darwin - Volume 1: By Charles Darwin - Illustrated
Charles Darwin
Progress: 200/346 pages
Basics of Plasma Astrophysics
Claudio Chiuderi, Marco Velli
Progress: 3/250 pages
Ursula K. Le Guin: The Complete Orsinia: Malafrena / Stories and Songs (The Library of America)
Brian Attebery, Ursula K. Le Guin
Progress: 359/700 pages
Selected Short Stories - Conrad (Wordsworth Classics)
Keith Carabine, Joseph Conrad
Progress: 236/272 pages
A Student's Guide to Lagrangians and Hamiltonians
Patrick Hamill
Progress: 7/180 pages
Complete Poems, 1904-1962
E.E. Cummings
Progress: 108/1102 pages
The Complete Plays and Poems
E.D. Pendry, J.C. Maxwell, Christopher Marlowe
She Stoops to Conquer and Other Comedies (Oxford World's Classics)
Henry Fielding, David Garrick, Oliver Goldsmith
Progress: 76/448 pages
Gravitation (Physics Series)
Kip Thorne;Kip S. Thorne;Charles W. Misner;John Archibald Wheeler;John Wheeler
Progress: 48/1215 pages
Pity Him Afterwards - Donald E Westlake This book didn't really work for me, though I can imagine that others might not feel the same way. A multiple murderer has escaped from a "secure" psychiatric facility. His continued psychological problems lead to further killings...

So far so bog-standard. Here's the first thing that isn't standard: The book opens from the killer's perspective. I found this to be difficult and unpleasant reading, not because it's horrendously graphic about the murders (it isn't) but because...I don't know, really. It's like the opening section of The Sound and the Fury but with difficult-to-understand swapped for difficult-to-stomach somehow. It's not a great analogy, since Westlake isn't really doing stream of consciousness (thankfully) though we are "treated" to the killer's alarming paranoid thoughts in abundance.

The second thing that isn't standard is that we keep shifting perspective: We don't stay with the killer, we visit an actor and a part-time police chief, too. We aren't given the usual one person who tries to solve the crime to latch on to as some-one to propel us through the narrative. Instead we jump about between these several folks. (The killer's perspective remains unpalatable every time it turns up.) It doesn't really work as the whole book feels disjointed.

Here's a positive thing: the part time police chief investigating two of the murders is portrayed as not competent or at least not confident of his competence, since he is in fact a Professor of English most of the year...this makes him more interesting than many a fictional detective. It's a shame that the entire story wasn't from his perspective, though that would have posed a lot of structural problems.

And a final negative: the very end verges on suggesting that the criminally insane should just be put to death and the psychiatrist who was treating the killer is portrayed as somewhat crazy, certainly misguided, for believing differently. Can't agree with that.