Is there anything creepier than a first-person account of a psychopath justifying his murders?
"Her husband's money would be thrown away for drinks and her body would wither slowly between a hundred rumpled bedsheets. Rena would end up a drunken old floosie. Nobody gave a damn if she lived or died. The reader wouldn't care.
I didn't care.
I was sick of sponging off her, sick of keeping her amused.
I was sick of the road, sick of the fast ramble, sick of writing with a stub pencil on stolen letterheads in dingy rooms.
Put them together. Add ten years of living on the lam, riding empties, doing it the hard way. Throw in that ache - not loneliness, not ambition, but something else - the ache to tell somebody about it, put it down in writing and make it mean something. Yes, and multiply the factors, all the factors. I knew Rena had money stuffed away all around the apartment. I knew she was friendless. I knew it didn't matter what became of her.
Put them all together. And what do they spell?
Exactly what happened.
This reads just as I expected it to – very early Stephen King. It’s weird, it’s graphically violent, it f***s with your head, but it has a lame wtf ending and is not quite absorbing enough to prevent the reader from thinking how unlikely it is that real people would behave this way. Not the murderous main character, of course, but the other students who become complicit as he holds them hostage. The MC is unfortunately all too plausible. King has said that he started writing this book as a teenager, and that he drew from his own angst, loneliness, confusion, and, yes, rage in writing it. And several real-life teenagers identified so strongly with it that they drew inspiration from the novel in committing their own school shootings. Which is why this novel has been allowed to go out of print.
My own copy is part of a tatty second-hand paperback of The Bachman Books, a monstrously sized four novel collection. I read this for the 2018 Halloween Bingo square Genre: Horror: anything that fits into the horror genre. If a boy going on a school shooting rampage and setting up his fellow students to turn on one another in their own fear and rage isn’t horror, I don’t know what is.
I have a lot of ongoing personal book projects that I try to fold into any book challenges or games that I play. When my father passed away earlier this year, one of the ways I wanted to remember him was through the legacy of books and the family love of reading. I have several books on my TBR shelf that are connected to him in some way, as gifts or inheritance or just topics that were dear to him.
The Scarf is from a box of books that belonged to his mother, who apparently belonged to a book club. I planned to use this for the Modern Noir square, but in looking more closely at the genre description, this was written much too early (1947) to be considered "modern" noir. And it really doesn't fit any other squares that I haven't already completed.
So I think I will use The Scarf for my free square, and for Modern Noir I'll do a re-read on Winter's Bone, since I didn't write a review for it when I read it six years ago.