aPriL does feral sometimes 's Reviews > American Tabloid

American Tabloid by James Ellroy
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If readers haven’t encountered one of my schizophrenic reviews that litter my GR book diary here and there, I’m writing another one again. I always feel torn when I admire the talented writing and/or depth of research and ideas of a writer, and ultimately, the author’s tricky mind, but at the same time, I also think the subject/characters are despicable, horrible and unpleasant. One such book that I read previously was by Octavia Butler, ‘Fledgling’. ‘American Tabloid’ is another. Once again, I wish I had access to a gif which blinks back and forth between one star and five.

There almost isn't a single character towards whom I felt anything but horror disgust dislike. Every antagonist, and they ALL are antagonists, are monsters abusers sadists murderers at the worst, and shallow selfish narcissistic lying bullies at best. They are all frenemies without an ounce of friendly feeling towards each other, but they seem to prefer avoiding anything like conspicuous killing out of self-preservation, except when they feel it's ok.

Women are treated dreadfully. They are only sperm-inducing sex toys. They are either tissues for absorbing fluids or madonnas to be kept dusted and polished.

Non-white races are all cannon fodder or pawns, never thought of as exactly human life, to the characters.

This is one of those books I can tell men automatically adore and discuss and choose characters as avatars because they want to BE that guy. Probably the white males in particular will think some of the characters as cool as James Bond. From my actual experience with men, generally, they tend to ‘lean in’ about guns, pissing contests, hierarchical power plays and bloody force before any intellect is engaged. If you disagree, hang out with any gamer who will be blasting away happily and participating in the rape, mutilation and destruction of females along with opponents, children, animals, villages, etc. Of course, most of them would NEVER in real life, right? I’m reminded of another book which seems to attract men while dismaying women with the same divide of internal genetic compass - ‘On the Road’ by Jack Kerouac.

Conspiracy fans will believe every word in this book is actually TRUE.

The eastern US coast media employees, such as from news and high society magazines, organizations like Washington Post, Time and Vanity Fair, probably did not stop talking about, drop names from, giggle over and muse over, this book for days when it first was published. It’s an insider book. The novel not only is about a group of men vying for attention from the most famous family in America, the Kennedys, John Kennedy being often called the one President who was glamorously ‘royal’ in the eyes of American citizens, but in real life had a life of drama and trauma, including the worst thing, assassination, which cut his life short at a young age, leaving behind a beautiful widow and young adorable children, one still a toddler. At the time, people often felt it was the end of political innocence in the USA, with most of the population unaware of any dangers facing the world beyond the Cold War and the atomic bomb. Otherwise, we all were watching family sitcoms in which the white characters always dressed nice, never swore or drank, and the plots were usually about a young son who lied to his mother about visiting his friend to see a movie instead of studying for a test, with taped fake laugh tracks. This book is not about any of this manufactured innocence which was in force in the USA at the time, however. Instead, it is a fictional insider’s look at the men who populated the underbelly of politics and criminal organizations supported by out-of-control legal police organizations.

The famous characters in the novel - John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Jimmy Hoffa, J. Edgar Hoover, Howard Hughes - all are actually still heavily weighted with mythology and conspiracy theories in real life, with some of the actual tabloid stories written at the time having been proved true after all. The ‘heroes’ we follow in alternating chapters throughout - Pete Bondurant, Ward Littel, Kemper Boyd - are all fictional employees of the FBI during the actual non-fictional period when the FBI was worried about the Mafia and the Cuban Communist takeover by Fidel Castro. The years 1958-1963, which pass quickly for the reader despite the book being almost 600 pages (but not without a ton of grief, agony and dread for every person who has the horror of being blackmailed or coerced or tricked into secret associations with these fictionalized devils of 1963), were important to USA political history.

This reader did not shed a single tear for anyone. They are all bad people in this story.

The plot is amazing. It dazzles with political complexity, trickery, intelligence and plausibility. I kept thinking, ‘this scene actually may have happened somewhere at some time, even if perhaps not at this time and place with these characters.’

I am aware of realpolitik and I have seen it being applied. However, I found the novel’s endless stream of practical viciousness, indifference and avarice under the cover of realpolitik while the characters were actually trying to make themselves rich or powerful too depressing and disgusting. It was more than a touch of the same themes of the movie, ‘Pulp Fiction’, only from the viewpoint of people who have a badge and the authority of the FBI, CIA and the Oval Office. Also, while cinema seduces with quickly assimilated situations and simplified plots, accompanied with catchy music amplifying the manipulated feelings of the viewers, this was plain sad, creepy, horrifying and stomach-turning because of the waste of lives playing at dark criminality. I felt very bad for those characters who had a genuine desire to help the country or catch bad guys, but who end up embracing selfishness themselves with the noir requirements of surviving betrayals and lack of honesty and support. Still, I couldn’t feel a lot of love for anyone.

The writing is experimental. The author has eliminated extraneous words. Sentences are choppy and difficult. To parse the meaning despite the short sentences and short paragraphs can take a second longer than usual to comprehend what is happening. I still can’t understand why the author did this, and I do not like it besides. Usually, an author plays with either language or writing conventions in order to enhance the themes or metafictional meanings, or it may express a sly personal irritation. Perhaps the author is expressing subtextually in a visual and verbal manner that all of these fictional, evil clever gentlemen are missing important things in their characters which would have rounded them out into being normal human beings, similar to the effect of missing words in the sentences, that would give warmth or sympathy to them.

I truly hated this book. The dark sides of human nature are rarely captured with such plausible believability in a fiction novel. I also truly admired this book. It is thought-provoking and memorable. I’m sure it is already considered a classic for many people. Cartoon darkness is fun for me. This book, despite veering into almost a feeling of satire, is not fun. The satirical feel is due entirely to how actual criminality can be stranger than fiction.

I did warn you that I was going to be weird about this novel….
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Reading Progress

November 16, 2014 – Started Reading
November 16, 2014 – Shelved
November 16, 2014 –
13.0% "As intricately designed as an Enlightenment Age painting full of ancient Mediterranean world symbols."
November 17, 2014 –
90.0% "Work is genius, but I hate everybody except Bobby."
November 18, 2014 – Shelved as: black-gleeful-fun
November 18, 2014 – Shelved as: brilliant-but-i-don-t-love-it
November 18, 2014 – Shelved as: cold-hard-mean
November 18, 2014 – Shelved as: cringed-and-winced
November 18, 2014 – Shelved as: females-are-denied-rights
November 18, 2014 – Shelved as: finished-reading-but-i-hated-it
November 18, 2014 – Shelved as: illuminating
November 18, 2014 – Shelved as: macho-man
November 18, 2014 – Shelved as: politics
November 18, 2014 – Shelved as: twisted-my-synapses-peculiar
November 18, 2014 – Finished Reading
July 18, 2016 – Shelved as: transgressive

Comments Showing 1-3 of 3 (3 new)

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message 1: by James (new)

James Thane "I truly hated this book. I also truly admired this book." Well, what can I say? Ellroy has the effect on people!


aPriL does feral sometimes I'm not crazy, then, right? Right?

; D


message 3: by James (new)

James Thane aPriL eVoLvEs wrote: "I'm not crazy, then, right? Right?

; D"


Not remotely!


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