The Triumph of the Spider Monkey by Joyce Carol Oates
|The Triumph of the Spider Monkey by Joyce Carol Oates|
|Reviewer: Luke Marlowe|
|Summary: A reprint of an early work by acclaimed author Joyce Carol Oates, The Triumph of the Spider Monkey is a dark, unsettling and dizzying ride through the mind of a killer, and is accompanied by Love, Careless Love - a connected novella that takes the reader on a similar ride. Not always easy reads, but continued proof of Oates' talent for diving deep into dark psyches and exploring them for her readers with startling clarity.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 224||Date: July 2019|
|Publisher: Hard Case Crime|
|External links: Author's website|
Bobby is an angry, damaged man - damage that came from being abandoned as a baby in a bus station locker, and then being thrown from one foster home or detention centre to another, never far from violence or abuse. Eager to succeed as a musician, he arrives in Hollywood to find his dream - but it soon becomes clear that his paranoid delusions and seething rage will enable a capacity for acts of extreme violence. Unpublished for 40 years, this edition of The Triumph of the Spider Monkey comes combined with a connected novella – Love, Careless Love.
Now in her eighties, Joyce Carol Oates has, over the 58 novels that she has published, become known for dark reads, exploring shadowy corners of America and diving headfirst into characters with complicated psyches and twisted agendas. Here she introduces the reader to Bobby Gotteson - a damaged, psychopathic character who unravels himself to the reader through long, rambling streams of consciousness through which one is able to define the potential strands of plot. It takes a while to adjust to this method of storytelling, and I certainly don't think it would work for a full novel, but it's bearable for the novella - and certainly has an immersive effect on the reader.
In terms of setting, it feels apt that this book is being republished now, when Manson-mania seems to be at new heights (two films and one tv show featuring the cult leader are being released in the near future as I write), and there are certainly shades of Manson in the tale of struggling musician Bobby with his delusions and tendency towards extreme violence. Oates' Hollywood is also a suitably grimy place - one she explores in far more detail in her late book Blonde but nevertheless sufficiently brought to life here to send a chill down the spine. Overall, quick, unpleasant and yet enjoyable reads, both The Triumph of the Spider Monkey and Love, Careless Love are pulpy period reads that evoke character and setting wonderfully well, but mostly serve as a glimpse at the early days of an author before she reached the true heights of her creative powers.
Many thanks to the publishers for the copy, and for further reading I recommend checking out Modesty Blaise: Live Bait by Peter O'Donnell - a collection of comic strips that evoke a similarly gritty glamour.
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