A few months ago, I bought up a bunch of Jim Thompson audiobooks at a good price. This left me with way too many Jim Thompson books. I learned over the last couple that I read that they’re not all as intense and disturbing as the first of his I read The Killer Inside Me and Pop 1280, which is good.
The Kill Off
|This is one of the longer Jim Thompson novels, which is funny because he just doesn’t write long novels, clocking at about 250 pages (and in audiobook form, 7.5 hours).
It’s also one of the more innovated novels in terms of form and style, but also one in which I found the narrative to be a little contrived in that way. I was reading a novel narrated by a novelist not long ago, and he talks about omniscient narration being a little cowardly, and first person to be the truest. And while I agree, it gets murkier for novels like this, in which there are several different narrators. I think Faulkner nails it with As I Lay Dying, and it feels a little false note-y here by needing the different narrators to continue the story, and oddly still not go anywhere great with it. Ultimately this one is a little blah for me.
“I backed toward the door. I thought, Oh, how I hate you! HOW I HATE YOU! I hate you so much that – that – ! I hate you, hate you, hate you! — It didn’t occur to me until later that I must have said what I was thinking. That I’d actually yelled it at him.”
A Swell-Looking Babe
A complex novel plot-wise in which a bell boy working in a hotel trying to raise enough money for medical school falls “in love” with a woman staying in the hotel. Because of her allure and his own self-doubt, and because of a complicated relationship with his father, with money, and with who and what he wants to be in the world, he’s easily led into a trap partially of his own making.
This book feels decidedly slight compared to other Jim Thompson books, and sometimes that’s ok as well. Both Pop 1280 and The Killer Inside Me, and even The Getaway are all short like this one, but this feels shallower and less focused than those books too.
“He was dignity distorted, bravery become knavery, sanctimoniousness masking sin. He was a mirror, jeering at the subject it reflected. Yet so muted were the jeers, so delicate the inaccuracies of delineation, that they evaded detection. True and false were blended together. The false was merely an extended shadow of the true.”