I just finished listening to The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. It was remarkably well written, but I was very turned off by the gross-out scenes. They did not appear necessary to the story. I suspect that the scenes involving the demented sexual activities of a 12 year old girl could easily be removed. It is quite possible to make the book frightening and horrific without having children molested. Don’t listen to this one unless you have a high tolerance for this kind of thing. It left a bad taste in my mouth and without the nasty stuff, the book would have been much better (but probably not as popular).
Previous to this, I listened to Potshot by Robert B. Parker. This is another Spenser book. I am finding Parker very good, in spite of Steven K. Zoltán Brust’s claim that Parker is past is prime and is phoning in the Spenser novels. This one, however, takes place far from Boston, and is not as good as the others because of this. It is reminiscent of “The Magnificent Seven” where Spenser gathers his friend Hawk and a bunch of honorable criminals to clean out the corruption in New Mexico town. Everyone lives at the end and Spenser maintains his honor in spite of the murderer getting away free. It features a short part for the “Gray Man” and I am eagerly awaiting the final confrontation between the Gray Man and Spenser.
I am currently listening to Justine by Lawrence Durrell on tape. It took a long time to find this as it is published only in England and is not available in the US. Justine is part of the Alexandrian Quartet. Erica had to read this at Fordham and after she finished, I read the four books. I’ve read Justine three times since and I think that it is one of the most beautifully complex and significant books that I have ever read. It is in the same vein as Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake or Ulysses, but it is much more accessible. The Quartet is four novels told with different viewpoints, styles and plots about the same characters and events. It is not as though they are the same events told by different characters, but they are four separate novels. They yield a composite truth, but I think the overall idea is that reality really depends on the observer. It is steeped in Durrell’s interest in the uncertainty principle and Einstein’s relativity as much as the art of a Novel. There is no real truth and different observers not only see events differently, but the significance of the events change dramatically in each novel.
The famous mirror scene in Justine seems to state Durrell’s intentions:
I remember her sitting before the multiple mirrors at the dressmaker’s, being fitted for a shark-skin costume, and saying: ‘Look! five different pictures of the same subject. Now if I wrote I would try for a multi-dimension effect in character, a sort of prism-sightedness. Why should not people show more than one profile at a time?
The question is this. If Justine sees five different images and there are four books, who is the fifth image? Herself? The Reader? Durrell?
I intend to listen to Justine over again as soon as I finish it. As I ride to work in the morning traffic, I frequently rewind the tape to listen to a particularly good part or replay a section that was difficult to understand. This book, like all good books, is all the better for being read aloud.
In my listening box are two detective novels by Elmore Leonard and Invasion of the Body Snatchers by Jack Finney. I will be having a happy commute for the next few weeks.