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review 2018-09-30 17:48
The Scarf ★★★★☆
The Scarf - Robert Bloch

Bloch’s first novel is styled as the written confession and diary excerpts of a serial killer. The misogyny is so vividly portrayed that I could only read so much at a time before needing to go scrub my brain and find something more pleasant to occupy it. The main character’s hatred, though targeted specifically at women, extends to his fellow men, himself, and society in general, and there’s just enough twisted truth in his observations to give him authenticity. It sucks you in with an amusingly cynical worldview, then pushes it several steps too far, so that the reader is along for the ride that becomes increasingly disturbing until you want out, but the doors are locked and you’re stuck there riding along with a madman filling your ears with his raving. It’s a fascinating look at 1940’s pop psychology.

 

In reading about the author and the writing of this book, I was interested to discover that Bloch was actually a protégé of Lovecraft and a member of the Lovecraft circle, and this book does have a bit of a gothic feel to it, although the horror is entirely psychological.

 

Apparently, Bloch re-released this novel in paperback, with some revisions and an all-new epilogue to end it that gives more insight into the main character. The darn book is out of print, but I’m so interested in comparing them that I ordered a copy from a used bookseller.

I read this for the 2018 Halloween Bingo square Free Read. Now I feel the need to go back and re-listen to Psycho, which I remember being outstanding on audio (read by Paul Michael Garcia), and for which I apparently neglected to write a review.

 

Previous Updates:

9/22/18 – Intro 

 

9/23/18 - 40/247pg

 

9/25/18 - 83/247pg

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text 2018-09-26 00:50
The Scarf - 83/247pg
The Scarf - Robert Bloch

     "There was nobody on the platform. Nobody at all. No people-eyes. No pigeon-eyes. Just the wind, and the snow, and the dark. 

     I unwound the scarf from my neck and held it out."

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text 2018-09-23 16:23
The Scarf - 40/247pg
The Scarf - Robert Bloch

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.

 

 

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text 2018-09-23 05:25
Change of Plans for Bingo Read

The Scarf - Robert Bloch  Winter's Bone - Daniel Woodrell  

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. 

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review 2018-02-11 14:01
The Queen Bee ★★★★☆
The Queen Bee - Edna L. Lee

The endlessly quotable writing saves this book from being a fairly standard Southern Gothic Romance. The plot and characters are full of tropes. But, oh, so much fun in the way it’s written and the way the characters are drawn! It’s told from the POV of the Ingénue, who at the time of telling the story is older, wiser, wearier, and who looks back at her naïve former self with a lot of sympathy and a little impatience. For me, though, she is still far more sympathetic than I am, as Reader, and indeed much more sympathetic toward the male characters than I have patience with – I think they all deserve a good kick in the pants. And, although this is the point of the book, I simply can’t view the Queen Bee as all-powerful, though she is deliciously wicked. In order to fall in with the narrator’s POV, the reader must be willing to adopt that tired old attitude that men are helpless victims of their libido when women weaponize sex.

 

Still, though, this is a really fun read:

It was then that my aimless, drifting eyes came to Eva. Listening, she stood near a lamp, its glow enfolding and caressing the soft hair, the sweet lifting breasts, the singing line of body. Her hand rested on the back of a nearby chair. And seeing the body not yielding now but tensely held and wary, the tilted head, the raised chin, the lambent eyes which seemed to look at something far off, I was suddenly afraid. In her tense stillness there was the deadly, wary waiting of the reptile, its poisonous fang sheathed but ready to strike, swiftly and with cunning accuracy.  

 

Vintage 1949 hardcover, inherited from my grandmother. And here’s a fun bit of trivia for Texas history buffs: it still has the original price sticker, from E.M. Scarbrough & Sons (colloquially referred to as “Scarboroughs” in the way that native Austinites pronounce their places as they damn well please), stamped “Literary Guild $2.00”. I remember shopping at the Scarbroughs in downtown Austin when I was a kid. All that’s left, alas, is the historic building.

 

Disclaimer: I’ve never seen the 1955 movie. Didn’t even know there *was* a movie adaptation until I looked for a synopsis to get a sense of what the book was about, since my copy is missing the dust jacket. But, oh, I’m definitely going to spend the money to rent it. I can’t wait to see Joan Crawford bring that predatory female to life as only she can.

 

Previous Updates:

2/7/18 page 3

 

2/7/18 Movie trailer

2/8/18 page 9

 

2/9/18 page 35

 

2/10/18 page 140

 

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