David's Reviews > The Slaves of Solitude

The Slaves of Solitude by Patrick Hamilton
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's review
Dec 25, 09

bookshelves: misery-loves-company, nyrb

Of all the books I've attempted to review on this website, none has given me more trouble than Patrick Hamilton's The Slaves of Solitude. I realize that there are two primary reasons for this critical reticence on my part: (1) The quality control department of my review-writing factory is in shambles. The employees are mutinous, indifferent, and suffering from a midgrade malaise that causes them to spend their days using a bent hanger to fish free stuff out of the vending machine and trying out serif fonts for the résumés they plan on submitting to more vote-profitable, stable review-writing empires. (i.e., Ben Harrison, Inc.) This anemic QC department now entirely fails to reign in my autobiographical tangents, self-indulgent ramblings, and dadaist excursions into logical non sequiturs. Before an overseas venture buys me out and shutters me for good, I'd like to apologize for the overall lack of quality of late (relatively speaking, of course -- I've always been idiotically digressive). I've pumped out more shit in last couple months than a man with ebola, I.B.S., and a penchant for White Castle. (2) This particular book is just doggone hard to review because whenever I hear the voices in my head talking about it, describing it, alluding to its many charms, I think, 'Ach! How boring.' In other words, it doesn't really sound like a very good book, although it is. So how do I attempt to manage a P.R. blitz that'll make you wanna haul your keister over to your nearest upholstered device of assisted recumbency and read this fucker? (Incidentally, I didn't know how to spell 'keister' and since I had Wikipedia open, I used that to find the spelling. This delivered me via detour to the entry for 'buttocks' which prominently displayed nude examples of the male and female varieties thereof. Tangentially, I'd like to confess that I wish my buttocks were beautiful enough to be a butt model. It's one of those little dreams you stow away in a heart-shaped locket and don't tell anyone about.)

Okay. Here goes. So The Slaves of Solitude, although it deals with lots of stuff (helpful, eh?), could be classified in that tentative genre of boarding house horror. Not horror in the sense of machete-wielding sociopaths and discordant notes played on a piano followed by *surprise* evisceration. This is psychological horror. For my money, The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne kind of closed the book definitely on this genre... until now.

I never ever ever ever ever want to live in a boarding house -- and by logical extension in one of those stupid hippie commune houses where everyone pools their money from their jobs at the incense store and grows vegetables using refortified, sustainable, organic feces and then gets into a fist fight about who gets to eat the last Pop Tart because there's no individual property (and because modern 'hippies' are really, really dumb).

I mean, basically your average English boarding house experience (insofar as I can glean from literature) is just a variant on the Sartre No Exit scenario. A bunch of people forced to eat scones and tea together until they're completely psychologically terrorized by the very existence of each other. Take Mr. Thwaites from this book, for example. He's this old crusty irritating dude who, during WWII, retains some residual German sympathies (at the expense of those commie Russians, of course) and enjoys making all sorts of loud, snide remarks while you're trying to spread your marmalade. Also, he seems to dislike women for the most part (the main character Miss Roach in particular) until this cunty German woman named Vicki Kugelmann moves into the boarding house and puts on her best Marlene Dietrich routine. So Miss Roach -- acting as a surrogate for you and me and as our psychological entryway into this novel -- loathes these two assholes, but is forced to remain all proper, stiff-upper-lipped, and indubitably British at the dinner table while these two flirt up a dust storm. Forget the fact that Vicki is catty and Thwaites is the Plato Form of crackpot curmudgeon... You just want to physically enter the novel, storm into that mouse-quiet dining room, and give those people a good bitch-slap. And if a novel makes you empathize that strongly with a character (Miss Roach) and viscerally despise two other characters so much that you want to come bounding through the Fourth Wall (Is it the Fourth Wall in literature too? Well, it is now.) and serve up a little comeuppance, then it's a success on anyone's scale, right? Luckily for us, (mini-spoiler) Miss Roach does the retaliatory deed for us. To a certain extent. Thank you, Miss Roach, and thank you, Patrick Hamilton.
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Comments (showing 1-36 of 36) (36 new)

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Tosh Masterpiece among masterpieces.

message 2: by David (last edited Dec 28, 2009 07:39AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

David I've read books about murderers, pedophiles, and all manner of human degeneracy, but somehow -- with his obnoxious Mr. Thwaites and Vicki Kugelmann -- Patrick Hamilton has created two of the more loathsome (and real) characters in literary history.

message 3: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited Jan 12, 2010 01:18PM) (new)

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio So you're purposely making voting for this a non-option? My world's been turned upside down!

Here here! to anti-hippie commune sentiment.

message 4: by Eh?Eh! (new)

Eh?Eh! I was wondering if there was a way to turn off the vote mechanism - never thought of posting it in the comments.

I have lived in a hippie-heavy boarding house (not a commune). It's not so bad.

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio And you do realize that you so far have 18 votes on your Penis review, right? Seems that your vote-accumulating empire is doing OK, in my book at least.

message 6: by Ben (new) - added it

Ben Fuck man, let me VOTE! Must VOTE!

message 7: by karen (new)

karen never a dull moment.

message 8: by Ben (last edited Jan 12, 2010 01:35PM) (new) - added it

Ben And for the record Ben Harrison, Inc. is running on empty after the past few purchases: it's a company given into a recent lucky run of fortune without any long term stability. Sell your stock now - it's at its peak and on the way down!

David karen wrote: "never a dull moment."

Why would anyone want a dull moment? Not me.

Ben Harrison, CEO of Ben Harrison Inc, is deliberately understating his company's profitability potential in a sad, transparent attempt to get sympathy stock purchases. Meanwhile, I'm like Jeff Bezos... I've been operating without a profit for one hundred sixty-five years now. Just because I love you all.

message 10: by Manny (new)

Manny Wow. Are you, like, a redeemed vote-fallen-woman? I hope this doesn't have negative implications for your life expectancy. Tends to happen in 18th century novels and operas, as I recall...

David Manny, not to change the subject, but have you ever lived in a British boarding house? Are they really this bad?

message 12: by Jessica (last edited Jan 12, 2010 06:03PM) (new)

Jessica I vote for this one.
sets a new standard:

new parameters.

message 13: by D. (new)

D. Pow Great review, sir, even though I cunt vote for it.

message 14: by Jen (new)

Jen But now that we all know about butt modeling there's more room to stow away other little dreams.

message 15: by Greg (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg Great review, I'm wondering now how I couldn't have given this five stars.

Matthieu Thank you for subverting the machine, David.

message 17: by Tosh (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tosh In three words: Patrick Hamilton Rules!

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio King of the sell out vote-whores.

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio Matt wrote: "Thank you for subverting the machine, David."


Matthieu It's too painful... I'm going to cry.

David MyFleshSingsOut wrote: "King of the sell out vote-whores."

Please refer to the current 'about me' section on my profile.

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio Oh, I saw it before. What kind of stalker do you think I am? I'm no slacker. I'm offended.

(::winking, nudging, winking, nudging, winking, nudging::)

David I don't want you to imagine that this is a personal quest to bask in the glory of high vote counts. Nay. It is a jihad against the infidel Huntress of Books.

message 24: by Jessica (new)

Jessica do you mean this person?:

message 25: by Jessica (new)

Jessica or do you mean the number one book reviewer?

message 26: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited Jan 24, 2010 10:05AM) (new)

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio David's got his eyes on both. The first target is publicly announced while the latter is a more cagey, strategic goal.

message 27: by Jessica (new)

Jessica I see, oh stalker of David.

message 28: by karen (new)

karen come and get me...

but i am no infidel, i am just minding my own business, making you presents...

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio You're all a bunch of duplicitous vote-guzzling whores and I'm slowly becoming one of you! The horror, the horror...

message 30: by karen (new)

karen david isn't duplicitous; he has always been very up-front about his needs.

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio Sarcasm overload. I'm so confused. So it goes...

message 32: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Ben wrote: "And for the record Ben Harrison, Inc. is running on empty after the past few purchases: it's a company given into a recent lucky run of fortune without any long term stability. Sell your stock now ..."

Haven't any of you people heard of the freaking public library?

David, write books, stop writing reviews. Your reviews are masterpieces but screw that, write books!!!!! One more time. Write. Books. You. Crazy. Bastard.

Can I get an Amen?

The Crimson Fucker I voted for this review cuz david asked me to vote for all of his reviews!

Donna must read for me. I've lived in a boarding house. Oh--maybe I shouldn't read it. Great review.

message 35: by Will (new)

Will Whilst considering this book from my to-read list (I decided against) and enjoying your review, I realized that really, I wanted to read a novella about your quality control department. Get on that, will you?

Nigeyb Fabulous review - and comments. Anyone who enjoys Patrick Hamilton might like to checkout The Patrick Hamilton Appreciation Society.

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