Nenia ♥ The Armchair Librarian ♥'s Reviews > The Collector

The Collector by John Fowles
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Mar 06, 14

bookshelves: litry-fiction
Read on July 04, 2011

tl;dr review: Psycho killer, qu'est-ce que c'est?

The song "Psycho Killer" by the Talking Heads is probably the best way to describe this novel without spoiling anything. It's about a man who's dissociated from the world and himself, who has the ability to lie and hurt without taking blame, who has the capacity for evil but hasn't fulfilled his potential yet. But he is also human, which makes him much more frightening than one of the stereotypical laughing villains. Ferdinand Clegg is très Norman Bates with all his hangups about women and sex and family and being proper. The movies are even similar in the sense that Terrence Stamp and Anthony Perkins were both a bit *too* good-looking and clean-cut to portray the roles they were cast in (and yet, this made the movies that much creepier, because why should the psycho ones always look like Anthony Hopkins?).

I didn't like his character from the beginning. He stalks Miranda for a long time before deciding to drug her with chloroform and kidnap her. He has put her on a pedestal--every other woman is a whore or a phoney except for her; he thinks that she'll be able to understand him, even love him, if he forces her into a position where she has no choice but to get to know him. He never for a moment thinks that this could be his undoing; that if Miranda peels back the layers to what lies beneath, she'll discover the part of him that sometimes fantasizes about "making her kneel and cry." Every page with his story on it was so...oily. I could picture his voice in my head, how he would look, and if they had made a remake of it in the late 80s/early 90s, Crispin Glover would have been perfect for the role. But they didn't. Alas.

What really made the story was Miranda's narrative, and the way being captive transformed her. At first she is angry, then despairing. She makes several attempts to escape. She comes across as being one of those upper-middle class girls that tries to be worldly but just comes off as pretentious and naive, which is exactly the kind of woman Ferdinand despises, ironically. She even has an "affair" with a man twice her age, though he breaks it off for reasons that are never quite defined (though we are led to expect it's because he feels guilt and thinks she is too good for him). She constantly insults her captor, making petty jabs at his poor taste in art, his stupidity, his lack of worldliness, his hypocrisy. Nothing she says ever really makes a real dent; they come from completely different words, she speaks, but he only hears the sound of her pretty voice.

In a sense, this complete focus on her beauty is almost as creepy as murder because he doesn't appear to care about her at all as a person. She is an object that he enjoys possessing at any cost; he enjoys thinking about men "going green" with envy at the thought of having a beautiful captive to do whatever they want to with. In the beginning, you're supposed to think that he really might care about her, because of the way he buys her presents and listens to her complaints, but gradually you come to realize that this is not the case. There are three crucial instances that I feel illustrate this transformation: (view spoiler)

This book didn't end the way I wanted it to, or thought it was going to, and that left me feeling bitterly disappointed and also cheated. Not because it was bad, but because there was no moral recompense. Clegg doesn't learn from his mistakes at ALL, he doesn't become a better person, and he learns no lesson from his lack of humanity; in fact, at the end, there is even reason to believe that he enjoyed the power it gave him, and would be willing to do it again. Hence the ambiguous title. Is Clegg a human who collects caterpillars and butterflies? Or is he a caterpillar on the verge of becoming inhuman and collecting humans? Very chilling.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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JaHy♕ Bitchy  Goddess ♥'s  everything CrAzY  ☿ Another $10 ebook ... Damn it!

Nenia  ♥ The Armchair Librarian  ♥ Ugh, really? :|

I'm sorry! I'll have to think up some other effed up books for you. <3

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