SmarterLilac's Reviews > The Triumph of the Spider Monkey

The Triumph of the Spider Monkey by Joyce Carol Oates
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's review
Oct 17, 2010

really liked it
Read in October, 2010

In a conversation published in The Lost Saranac Interviews, JCO said: 'The most disgusting thing I ever wrote was called The Triumph of the Spider Monkey, which was so disgusting I could barely read the galleys, and whenever anybody mentions it to me, I kind of look away and pretend I don't know what they're talking about. It's the first person confession of the maniac Bobbie Gotteson to Joyce Carol Oates.'

So, of course, I had to read it.

Um, is it wrong that I kind of...liked this? I think Oates did a good job capturing the mental make up of someone who could hack nine women to death, especially in the parts of the book where Gotteson is experiencing dissociation. I liked that she included more than a few characters who may not have actually killed anyone, but whose behavior is almost as reprehensible as Gotteson's (like the prison dentist.) It reminds me of Frankenstein's creature asking, 'Am I to be thought the only criminal when all of human kind sinned against me?'

I'm also a little freaked out by how similar Gotteson's self descriptions are to some of the things I hear my New Age friends say (though I'm pretty sure they've never murdered anyone). At one point, Bobbie Gotteson says, 'I am like you: a progression of states of mind, forms of sanity that keep moving and alluding direction.' At another point, he says that one of the people near him has sensed his 'thought waves.' Again, creepy, but I found it engrossing.
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