Kate Walker's Reviews > The Executioner's Song

The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer
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's review
Oct 09, 11

Read in October, 2011

Just starting this. The writing flows so easily which makes it very hard to put down. The author presents a compassionate and humanizing view of a serial criminal and killer, without sugar coating his crimes or presenting him as a victim of the system. Gary Gilmore actually gets quite a few second chances, with the help of his extended family who offer him a job and a place to stay. He receives surprising care and leniency from the police, parole officers, judges and money lenders he encounters along the way. He uses up every last chance, driven by petty greed, jealousy, and substance abuse.

It is not that he lacks a conscience or that he is a sociopath exactly. His moral code is just very warped, most likely from spending the entirety of his twenties and early thirties in prison. But his actions also point to basic impulse control and other personality problems that surface even in the best of circumstances.

He has great charisma, although it isn't a Ted Bundy kind of charisma which serves to hide his true nature. Gary Gilmore's true nature is always on full display, even as he spins out his elaborate, completely transparent lies.

One thing I find striking about this story is the way in which all the characters are so interconnected. Large Mormon families make for many cousins all related to each other in one distant way or another. In the small Utah towns where the story is set, everyone knows everyone. This gives the story an almost nostalgic, old-fashioned feel. Today's law enforcement and criminal justice system bring to mind a more militarized, mechanized world than the human, even folksy representation here.


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Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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message 1: by Pam (new)

Pam This is one of my favorite books. It is definitly one of the "great american novels." It's written beautiful and covers so much more than this man's life and crimes - I think it speaks to our national character.

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