Three Great Novels With Disturbed Protagonists
When I reviewed Watership Down, I got this comment (twice in two days), which I’ll only post the beginning of:
“You idiot. You repugnant person. Why oh why must you…” This person–unless it was a robot programmed to spew out impotent venom and bile directed at something as insignificant as a blog–took serious umbrage at just about everything I said.
This went on and on and was full of uncreative profanity and great lameness. It is in fact number one in my stupid hate mail hall of fame, which I will probably publish at some point.
But it got me thinking about unbalanced people, and how much fun they can be…when they’re confined to fiction.
I like to read stories about unbalanced people. I don’t know why. If I was still writing English papers, I could probably come up with a reason and back it up with big silly words that don’t mean a whole hell of a lot outside of the English classroom.
But I just like them. That’s good enough for me.
Here are three of my favorites.
1. The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson
This is going to be a movie starring Casey Affleck soon, but don’t let that stop you from reading the book. Written in first person by a small-town sheriff whose tenuous grip on reality is slipping away, The Killer Inside Me is an unnerving but fun read.
There aren’t any real pyrotechnics. No lingering over the violent scenes. There are hints that the sheriff has a sickness which manifested in his past, and is starting to creep back into his life. There are disturbing scenes, but they are brief summaries of events. Most of the writing is the sheriff’s thoughts, not a catalog of violent acts, unlike American Psycho, in which scenes of heinous brutality go on for pages and pages.
2. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
This is actually my favorite movie. Nothing else even comes close. I love the book as well, but don’t feel like comparing it to the movie is worthwhile. They are different enough that for me, both can be enjoyed and evaluated on their own merits without worrying about who was faithful to the source material.
The story: R.P. Mcmurphy, rather than go to jail for a crime, pretends he is insane and lands himself a spot in a psychiatric ward. Soon he is in a battle of wills with Nurse Ratched. (Feel free to include the nurse as another highly disturbed character). The scenes where he is befriending the other mental patients and turning them against the nurse are my favorites.
The ending of Cuckoo’s Nest makes me cry every time I see the movie or read the book. Every single time. I get used to most things after enough exposure, but not this.
3. His Monkey Wife (Or, Married To A Chimp) by John Collier
A pet chimpanzee falls in love with her owner and tries very, very, very hard to sabotage the man’s engagement to his human fiancee. His Monkey Wife was written in the 1930s, but it still makes me laugh every time I open it. I’m including it here because the monkey in question uses all sots of questionable methods to change her owner’s mind. This book freaking rules.
And there you have it. Three more slumming book recommendations from your favorite Idiot and Repugnant Person.
When Han Solo looked up and that Ewok was pointing its spear at him, what did he say? “Point that thing somewhere else.”
If you’re out there, lame little Ewok hatemail person, take that finger and point it somewhere else–maybe into your eye. But be careful–you don’t want to dislodge your dunce cap.
PS: since I wrote this post, a few people chimed in and wanted to include Olive Kitteridge. Here’s a link to the Olive Kitteridge synopsis.
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