Meet Quentin P.
He is a problem for his professor father and his loving mother, though of course they do not believe the charge (sexual molestation of a minor) that got him in that bit of trouble.
He is a challenge for his court-appointed psychiatrist, who nonetheless is encouraged by the increasingly affirmative quality of his dreams and his openness in discussing them.
He is a thoroughly sweet young man for his wealthy grandmother, who gives him more and more, and can deny him less and less.
He is the most believable and thoroughly terrifying sexual psychopath and killer ever to be brought to life in fiction, as Joyce Carol Oates achieves her boldest and most brilliant triumph yet--a dazzling work of art that extends the borders of the novel into the darkest heart of truth.
Periodically, Oates seems compelled to write grim novels that explore humanity's darkest corners. Coming on the heels of last year's excellent What I Lived For, this depressing narrative carries macabre imagination to the extreme. It depicts the career of Quentin P., a convicted young sex offender on probation who has turned to serial killing without being caught, despite the worried scrutiny of his family and of his psychiatrist. Convincingly presented as Quentin's diary of his pursuit of the perfect ``zombie'' (a handsome young man to be rendered compliant and devoted through Quentin's lobotomizing him with an ice pick), the narrative incorporates crude drawings and typographic play to evoke the hermetic imagination of a psychopath; the reader examines the killer's sketches of weapons and staring eyes, and hears him say, ``I lost it & screamed at him & shook him BUT I DID NOT HURT HIM I SWEAR.'' For all its apparent authenticity, however, this novel ventures into territory that has been explored more powerfully by, among others, Dennis Cooper (Frisk), whose chilly minimalism underscores the brutality of such crimes in a way that Oates's more calculatedly histrionic approach does not. This slim, sadistic reverie may be chilling, but it comes off as less a fully realized work than as an exercise from a writer at morbid play. (Oct.)
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September 13, 2009
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