I browsed over a page or two of the reviews here and it doesn't seem like anyone else thought this book was humorous. Obviously, the subject matter--a...moreI browsed over a page or two of the reviews here and it doesn't seem like anyone else thought this book was humorous. Obviously, the subject matter--a raping and murdering psychopath named Quentin P. who seeks to create a ZOMBIE sex slave by way of performing a lobotomy--is disturbing, and maybe not for the faint of heart, so to speak, but I found myself laughing during parts of it. C'mon, he gets sexually excited and messes his pants while buying his first ice pick. It probably wasn't the intended effect, but I even found myself laughing during some of the descriptions of rape and death--mostly due to the blunt and vulgar language--in particular when both occur simultaneously and Quentin refers to it as "disciplining" his ZOMBIE.
Although the character lacks the capacity to feel sorry for others, I felt sorry for him at times. Thirty years old, receding hairline, registered sex offender: if not for the violence, he'd be just plain pathetic. Oates does a fairly convincing job of portraying a psychopath.
While reading it, because of the way the narrator never recognizes or acknowledges his victims as people, I found myself sort of doing the same without realizing it at first. Unless I took the time to withdraw from the book and consider that at one point he was stalking and planning to rape a fifteen year old boy, then I didn't think of it in those terms, but instead by HIS terms; I simply thought about it as him following SQUIRREL--because he refers to all of his victims by nicknames. It reduced my emotional involvement with the victims and probably further explains what allowed me to laugh at parts instead of simply being filled with disgust.
I noticed a lot of comparisons to American Psycho made by other reviewers, but a comparison never once came to mind while reading it. For one thing, the main character of Zombie has no desire to fit in, and his violence is more clearly motivated: he wants someone to obey him without passing judgment (but mostly someone to ram in the anus). He is mostly unseen by the objects of his desire; whereas, rich, esteemed, and attractive Patrick Bateman (of American Psycho) has no problem bedding women and his murders seem to have little to do with sex itself or to have any goal in mind.
The best part of Zombie is the lack of a real conclusion. It is left rather open, with a new hinted possibility that Quentin's victims may extend to encompass a larger demographic. I think this is the most sinister part of the book--besides that the subject itself will take most people out of their comfort zones.(less)
I enjoyed this book, which seems like an inappropriate thing to say considering the topic is rape. My only complaint is that I really would have liked...moreI enjoyed this book, which seems like an inappropriate thing to say considering the topic is rape. My only complaint is that I really would have liked for the book to be longer. I'm just not sure if the benefit of a quick, concise read is a fair trade-off for losing in-depth character analysis which seemed to be missing and could have provided a more thorough and plausible motivation for the characters' actions (particularly that of police officer Dromoor). The short read does provide a quick impact that may have been lost in a longer story, but from what I've read of Oates's work, it seems to me that she could have pulled off a longer novel with MORE emotional impact if she had been so inclined. I would really like to give this four stars because the book gave me a lot to think about, but I'm settling for three because there is a lot of potential that I don't think was reached, and I think the believability of the plot suffers because of it. (That's as much as I can say about it without spoiling it.) That being said, I do recommend it to read.
On the positive side, the second person narrative from the daughter's perspective was effective in allowing a more personal glimpse into the brutal crime's aftermath, namely the loss of innocence, as well as the distance forced between victim and loved ones by an experience so horrifying and a stigma so shameful. The contrast between public opinion and what actually happened is heartbreaking and caused me to consider my part as the general public and judgments I may have made regarding public scandals. While a book like this is unsettling, I think it is a much needed reminder, something to strike one's conscience and allow one to re-examine one's own view and sense of guilt. The slander and stigma of the blame-the-victim mentality and the merciless judgments of the public destroyed mother and daughter all over again, reducing them to--at best--"the woman who was gang-raped" and "the kid of the woman who was gang-raped." It is appalling to realize how people are capable of destroying a victim's life in defense of rapists, and how it is not uncommon for other women, even, to judge and blame the victims of rape. Although it is a work of fiction, there are aspects that ring true and even without need of specific examples, it is not at all a stretch to think that there have been women who have survived rape, only to have their character and innocence attacked by prosecutors, acquaintances, and the media.
I'm not sure that everyone will get the same from it, because at no point does the book point the finger at the reader and inquire whether or not he or she has been guilty of judging without being privy to all the facts; but for whatever it's worth, it made me contemplate some of the crueler aspects of human nature of which I am by no means completely innocent.
I apologize that the second part of this review is a bit of a rant, but if you'd prefer a simple plot summary, feel free to read the book's back cover.
Also, I'd like to add that the author does an admirable job of describing enough of the rape to hint at the violence and degradation of it without being too graphic, because I've encountered more than a few fictional accounts of rape that failed to express the fear and chaos, instead turning tragedy into something comically provocative.(less)
The Painted Veil had me completely absorbed until the focus shifted solely towards Kitty. It is easy to hate the main character of this novel. She is...moreThe Painted Veil had me completely absorbed until the focus shifted solely towards Kitty. It is easy to hate the main character of this novel. She is shallow, vain, and selfish. She is concerned only with her own amusements and marries only to be wed before her younger and more homely sister. She would fit perfectly in Pride & Prejudice. She has no redeeming qualities and feels self-righteous even while having an affair.
I watched the movie first and so (naturally) I was enamored with her husband Walter (played by an intense Edward Norton) before I even started the book. What an undeserving little bitch Kitty is--even more so in the novel than in the movie adaptation, which took quite a bit of liberty with the ending. Surprisingly, I think the changes were for the better. In the movie, there is some redemption; in the book, Kitty is a cunt through and through. Even when she has herself convinced that she's changed, she only repeats the same mistakes.
Maugham throws away a near perfect character, pushing empty-headed Kitty into the foreground instead. The emphasis on her trivial conversations and poor attempts to be of use bored me. I only read in hopes of learning more about Walter the few times he briefly crosses her mind.
Still, the conversation in which Walter confronts Kitty is enough to earn a four star rating. The confrontation takes place so early on that it is even more of a letdown when Walter fades into the background for the majority of the remaining novel. So much wasted potential! Walter's brutal honesty should have torn Kitty down and made her despise herself, but unfortunately, I guess stupid people don't change.
Because it was referenced at a rather crucial moment of the novel without any further explanation, I've decided to include Oliver Goldsmith's "An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog":
Good people all, of every sort, Give ear unto my song; And if you find it wondrous short, It cannot hold you long.
In Islington there was a man, Of whom the world might say That still a godly race he ran, Whene'er he went to pray.
A kind and gentle heart he had, To comfort friends and foes; The naked every day he clad, When he put on his clothes.
And in that town a dog was found, As many dogs there be, Both mongrel, puppy, whelp and hound, And curs of low degree.
This dog and man at first were friends; But when a pique began, The dog, to gain some private ends, Went mad and bit the man.
Around from all the neighbouring streets The wondering neighbours ran, And swore the dog had lost his wits, To bite so good a man.
The wound it seemed both sore and sad To every Christian eye; And while they swore the dog was mad, They swore the man would die.
But soon a wonder came to light, That showed the rogues they lied: The man recovered of the bite, The dog it was that died. (less)
I liked Simon as a character the first time I read this, but now... not so much. I suppose all this empathy...moreOriginally read: 10/16/08 Re-read: 12/25/11
I liked Simon as a character the first time I read this, but now... not so much. I suppose all this empathy and compassion shit has changed me some. Oh well. I still think the novel has one of the best ending lines ever.(less)