Mary's Library

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Books We Could Do Without

Norman Mailer has written a new novel, The Castle in the Forest, which will be on the shelves in late January. And I’ll be darned if PW hasn’t given it the coveted red star, meaning they think it’s a mighty good book. I have my doubts. Do we really need another parlor psychology of Hitler?

Says PW: “. . . he plumbs the psyche of history’s most demonic figure in this chilling fictional chronicle of Hitler’s boyhood. Mailer tells the story through the eyes of Dieter, a devil tasked by Satan (usually called the Maestro) with fostering Hitler’s nascent evil, but in this study of a dysfunctional 19th-century middle-class Austrian household, the real presiding spirit is Freud. . . . The novel sometimes feels like a psychoanalytic version of The Screwtape Letters . . .” (C S Lewis should sue.)

Judging from PW’s review, the source of Hitler’s personality was poor toilet training and a childhood fascination with burning beehives. The book sounds superficial and squalid, which it probably is, this being Mailer.


At 10:00 PM PST , Blogger Ted Burke said...

I've finished reading an advance reader's copy of "The Castle in the Forest", and it's quite good. It easily approaches his best work.

At 8:40 AM PST , Blogger Mary said...

Oh, dear. Am I going to have to read this book and recant?


At 9:35 PM PST , Anonymous Ted Burke said...

If you dislike Mailer as a default position when his name is raised, it's unlikely you'll find anything to like in the book. Mailer writes difficult novels investigating the intuitive aspects of good and evil, and "The Castle in the Forest" is a rich imagining of the family history that gave the world a man who committed the greatest evil. It's an unsavory lot, his ancestors and relatives, and we do find some speculative gems as to what might have influenced a very young Adolph Hitler to effect history the way he did. Mailer, always an idiosyncratic religious existentialist of long standing, develops his ideas here in a way we haven't read before. Not to give too much away, but where Jesus had his say about the cranky nature of being the Son of God in "The Gospel According to the Son", the devil gets his due in the new book, through the voice of an especially slippery minion. I found it enthralling and brilliant much of the time. It's worth the read.


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