Wednesday, February 20, 2008

More Collins

Death of a Writer deserves a far more detailed critique than I am willing to provide here, and it's already gotten plenty of rave reviews, so I'll save it that. This is probably a major book, or a failed attempt at one, but it is certainly a savage book - a scathing attack on the writer in academia, academia at large, & the publishing business. Collins must be dragging some baggage here,
In a nutshell this is the story of two writers, one, Pendleton, who has failed to achieve the fame he feels he deserved and became a prof (those who can, do; those who can't, teach) at a small, private midwestern college, and another writer Horowitz, who has achieved fame for all the wrong reasons (pseudo-intellectualism and coffee table books). The story focuses on a novel, Scream, written by Pendleton then hidden and never released. Found by a graduate assistant, Adi, Scream details with chilling accuracy the murder of a thirteen-year old girl, who is discovered dismembered and dead in a cornfield. Ryder, a cold-case cop, and totally scarred character (divorced, abusive, bad second marriage, kids he doesn't love) who loves running around in a long black coat becomes obsessed with solving the case. In addition to Pendleton, there are many other suspects: Vietnam vet photographer, the gothic farmer who owns the cornfield, a small town cop, and of course, Amber's "boyfriend," and Pendleton. There are more affairs and sexual liaisons than Peyton Place.
The novel Scream positions the murder as a violent cry for the existence of God -- if God exists He would surely stop the murder of this innocent. Never mind that He has failed at this game for thousands of years.

Collin's novel has frequent references to Nietzsche and Raskolnikov for philispohical and religious fuel, and Stephen King for supernatural and gothic fuel. Insane Calvinism and bad weather is prevalent.

Ryder pursues an array of suspects. The National Book Award board argues whether Scream is really fiction (if Pendleton simply detailed his own murder of the girl it would be ...autobiography) and thus worthy of an award for fiction. Clues are everywhere. Some, like the difference between microfilm and fiche are the victim of very bad editing. Darkness prevails. No one is saved in this self-manufactured mid-west hell (I'm glad I got out). The complexity and endless circling repetition of the novel reminds me of some dis-harmonic insistent post-metal symphony. It's a hell alright, but it's a living. Meanwhile, Collins will go on, treading between the suicide and death of productivity of the university teat, and the temptation of coffee table books, maybe one on murdered children?

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