Stupid Children by Lenore Zion

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book:  Stupid Children

Author:  Lenore Zion

Type of Book:  Literary novel

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd:  Children are tortured with nasal balloons and animal entrails.

Availability:  Published by Emergency Press in 2013, you can get a copy here:

Comments: The cover of this book drew me in.  A white little girl – white skin, white underwear, long blonde hair – is standing behind a rope in a ragged backyard in late fall, or early winter.  The look on her face is unfathomable to me, but the confrontation is undeniable.  She is standing there, in her socks and underwear, unprotected in the wind, literally holding on by a string, and staring at you, the reader.  Her expression could be anything from veiled disgust to melancholy to vague interest in the camera as a break in the bleak boredom of the landscape.

This book, at turns neurotic and gross, touching and funny, is grounded by this cover.  This book has a strange, over-the-top cult that engages in really nasty rituals.  The heroine of the book is hilarious and neurotic.  The plot-line gets loose at times and the wackiness of the book can occasionally make the reader forget that at its heart this is still a book about a little girl whose mother is dead, whose father is in a mental institution, who ends up in foster care in the home of cultists who marry her off to an old man in a scenario reminiscent of so many stories that came out of the FLDS sects.  Zion handles all of this heaviness with a humor and open-minded acceptance of the bizarre, but the cover ensures you remember a smart little girl in a forsaken place is at the center of the story.  Outside of House of Leaves, I can can’t recall a time when a book’s cover ensures you don’t miss some of the most important details of the book.  The girl on the cover helps you remember that this is a very upsetting book, even as you find the prose quite amusing at times.

Quick synopsis:  Jane’s mother is dead and her father had a breakdown.  He attempted suicide and becomes  a long-term resident in a mental hospital.  Jane is sent to live in foster care and ends up living with a family indoctrinated into the fictional Second Day Believers, a strange cult that merges properties of Scientology (weird ideas about mental illness and its treatment), FLDS (marrying young girls off to older men powerful in the cult) and a very gross, borderline pagan attraction to animal entrails.  Jane becomes close to her foster brother, Isaac, and their relationship takes a dark turn as Isaac becomes rather unhinged himself, a young proxy in Jane’s affection for her unbalanced father.  Jane eventually becomes far more valuable to the cult than the cult is to her but her love of Isaac keeps her from leaving the madness until Isaac forces the issue in an act of numb but horrifying violence.

Let me get the hard criticism out of the way before I sing this book’s praises.  The ending was rushed and, in a way, a bit contrived.  It all happened too fast.  The reader doesn’t get to see what happens and because it is so rushed, we miss out on some catharsis. The reader needs that catharsis because this book, as funny and sarcastic as it can be at times, also has some hard and upsetting content.  We need to have that BAM! moment and it gets lost in the rush.  Not entirely – you won’t be left feeling like doors were left open, but you also don’t get the satisfaction of hearing those doors slam shut.

With my main criticism out of the way, let’s dissect why this book is worth reading.

In the Realms of the Unreal, edited by John G. H. Oakes

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book: In the Realms of the Unreal: “Insane Writings”

Editor: John G. H. Oakes

Type of Book: Non-fiction, collection, mental illness, outsider literature

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: It studies the writings of people diagnosed with mental illness, including people with schizophrenia and people who spent their lifetime in mental institutions.  It sort of approaches being an “outsider” literature collection.

Availability: Published by Four Walls Eight Windows in 1991, you can get a copy here:

Comments:  It’s no secret that I am a sucker for books about mental illness.  Though many of the books I read are never discussed here, you could get a taste of my mental health reading habits on my dead site, I Read Everything.  As a person who struggles with a relatively mild mental condition (mild in the spectrum – it sucks, don’t get me wrong, but it’s nothing akin to having schizophrenia or bi-polar), I find reading about the illnesses of others illuminating and instructive.  But this book was important to me because it features work by Henry Darger.  The book takes its name from Darger’s work, and features a long sample of his work.  I’m in a Darger mood lately, collecting books about him, reading about him, watching the documentary about him over and over, so it was great when my sister-in-law sent me this book for Yule.

But along with my tendency to want to read about mental illness is my tendency to gather up lists of books I am interested in without knowing a whole lot about the books.  I couldn’t begin to tell you my decision calculus for obtaining a book, because it’s immediate, mercurial and often very shallow.  I sort of approach books the way a kid approaches candy.  I see some chocolate gum and think, “Hey, I like chocolate and gum, so let’s try it.”  And of course it sucks.   This book is not an utter failure, like chocolate gum.  It’s more like a delicious Belgian chocolate with a bitter licorice center.  This book is very interesting on some levels, but at it’s core, the book fails.  In spite of this, this is going to be a very long discussion because even as the book fails at its premise – an attempt to present the works of insane writers without comment – there are elements that are interesting and good enough that they, temporarily at least, overshadow the failure of the premise.  There are snippets of writing from genuinely mentally ill people that resonated with me deeply or troubled me, and the inclusion of two writers who were not really insane, Henry Darger and Mary MacLane, improved the reading experience.

So let me get to the premise problems that harm this collection.  In the Realms of the Unreal is a collection of various writings from people who, in some loose sense, fit the description of being “insane.” Sort of. The writings range from poems to involved works of fiction to intense biographies to snippets of what can only be called word salad. And when you have such a range of works under the heading of “insane writings,” it can make you wonder what the methodology of this book was. In the Editor’s Preface, it sort of explained things, but at the same time, it makes it clear that there really was no methodology beyond what the editors had access to within their parameters of unusual behavior.

From the editorial preface, an attempt is made to explain that insane means a lot of things and that their primary goal was to include a variety of writings, knowing full well some may not pass the sniff-test for true insanity.

An effort was made to include a wide variety of authors: living and dead, free and institutionalized, foreign and American, contemporary and antique.

But even within that paradigm, the editors give themselves a lot of wiggle room. They exclude the works of more famous “insane people,” like Antonin Artaud, because they made a living from their writing, but include Mary MacLane, whose writings were widely popular when they were initially published.  It’s also odd because MacLane was definitely not insane, period, and the explanation for her inclusion is odd.

…MacLane’s work was never accepted into the literary canon. She had the double strike against her of being a woman and an eccentric during a period when society was particularly unforgiving.

The editors also have to explain their inclusion of Henry Darger:

We were looking for unusual poems and stories, often by people who had been or were currently institutionalized – although someone like Henry Darger (whose epic text lent its title to this volume) to our knowledge was never treated for “mental illness.” The amount of material produced by these unusual thinkers has greatly diminished in the modern era, principally because of the use of psychiatric drugs that often dull creativity, even as they help a patient adjust to life in conventional society.

I don’t know what to think of that statement about drugs dulling creativity because in my experience it is definitely untrue and it is often the mantra that so often prevents people who need help from getting it, but okay, let’s just roll with it for the purposes of this book.   And as we roll with it, let’s just accept that “insanity,” for the purposes of this book, is whatever the editors decided it is.

But there is another problem with this collection.  Again, from the editor’s preface:

No common theme to the book should readily emerge. To again borrow a phrase of Roger Cardinal’s, we are exploring an archipelago of ideas, rather than a continent.
These writings are not presented as clues to someone’s “illness”: they are published for their intrinsic worth.

This approach is problematic.  Writings of genuinely insane people are chaotic at best.  Without a common theme or at least an attempt to classify these writings, the reader is confronted with a wall of illness-influenced words that become amorphous and meaningless without context.  The only divisions in the book are institutional and chronological, which is sort of helpful because one can almost see how anti-psychotic medications changed how mentally ill people interacted with their disease, but even that is not enough to give this work the sort of focus that prevents these works from becoming an assault on even readers who seek out this sort of literature.

Finally, I find the notion that “they are published for their intrinsic worth” to be utterly specious.  Much of the work in this book is not good, and failure to link the work to the illness that may have fueled its creation, in my opinion, strips the works of their worth.  To say that all of these pieces from the insane have intrinsic worth just because they were written by insane people is akin to saying that all diary entries from teenagers have intrinsic worth because they are from teenagers, or that all poems written by people in wheelchairs have intrinsic value because they were written by people in wheelchairs.  It is disingenuous to compile  a book of writings selected not because they were well-written but because they are the works of the “insane” and then tell the reader that one should not look at these works using a framework of insanity.

What other framework can the reader use to determine value?  Most of this book is not genius borne from madness.  It’s just madness.  With the exception of a handful of writers, including Darger and Mary MacLane, these are not the works of natural writers.   These are the works of people with a specific story to tell – the story of being mentally ill.  There is no way to evaluate these writings without discussing the illness and experience of illness that inspired the writing in the first place.  I think culturally we need to understand that 20 years ago, the liberal idea of colorblindness and being “handicapable” were in full swing.  One was not supposed to see color, race, religion, disability or illness.  One was just supposed to see people (leading to the now derided and utterly ridiculous insistence that black, white, pink, or purple, liberals don’t see color, just people).  It’s easy to understand this approach to egalitarianism but such an approach denies the experiences of specific people as we deliberately refuse to see the things that define another person’s experience in this world.

So now that you know that this is an unorganized collection of works from people that may be insane or may not be insane, that the works are not necessarily going to be good, and that I plan to completely ignore the exhortation that we overlook the insanity that may have fueled these writings, let’s discuss the individual components that made this book worth reading. 

Demons in the Age of Light by Whitney Robinson

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book: Demons in the Age of Light: A Memoir of Psychosis and Recovery

Author: Whitney Robinson

Type of Book: Non-fiction, memoir, mental illness, psychiatry

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: In a way it is not odd because psychiatric memoirs are thick on the ground these days. But in a sense this book is very odd because being given an invitation to look into the mind of a person actively suffering from schizophrenia is in and of itself a strange, unsettling experience.

Availability: Published by Process Media in 2011, you can get a copy here:

Comments: Just warning you now, dear reader, that this discussion is going to be one of my trademarked Very Long Discussions with Lots of Quotes from the Book, coupled with a very personal reactions to the text. For those who find a 8000 word or so discussion excessive, here is the tl;dr version: This is a very good book written by a very good writer and you should buy it and read it.

I read a lot of mental health and mental illness memoirs and this was the first one I ever considered odd enough to discuss here. I very nearly missed reading it. I had run into a spate of memoirs that left me cold, and had the online acquaintance who recommended the book to me and then sent me a copy offered it two weeks earlier than she did, I would have declined. But just before she discussed the book with me, I had finished a very good, very honest mental illness memoir, Stacy Pershall’s Loud in the House of Myself: Memoir of a Strange Girl. The offer to read the book came at the right time after the right book.

It would have been a shame to have turned down this book because of the often sorry shelf-company it is forced to share. And I don’t mean to demean the genre because people gets all kinds of help in all kinds of ways that I may find less than helpful. It’s just that lately some of the books I have read wore very thin for me. It seemed like the authors, mostly women, had romanticized their illness. To paraphrase Elizabeth Wurtzel, patron saint of fucked up women of a certain age, they had fallen in love with their illness. The devastation the disease wreaked on their bodies, their education, their relationships – it all was a back story to a fabulous disaster narrative.

Also there is a current theme in mental health studies that posits that mental illnesses, or neurodiversity, are a form of genetic selection for arts, letters and speculative science and therefore celebrate the conditions. I can see the logic. Not only is there a long record of acclaimed people who created great art and propelled science, but as a person with mental illness, I like to think that there is a purpose behind my at times terrible brain chemistry. But I am made uneasy by some of it because even though Van Gogh left behind astonishing paintings and Virginia Woolf left behind masterful prose and John Nash was a great boon to speculative physics, would any of us really want to live their lives? It’s all well and good to see the up side of having appalling brain chemistry, but I often fear that people who are suffering will read such examinations and decide that their affliction should not be treated, should not be seen as a disease that needs to be addressed in order for them to live the best life they can live. As much as I adore Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poetry, and I have no real way of knowing how much his deep depression truly affected his writing, thinking about the sorry end of his life makes it just a little harder to enjoy the beauty and truth of his words. Art that comes from a truly suffering person will always have a pall cast over it.

This book does not engage in the sort of celebration and art uber alles justifications for mental illness that I have encountered as of late. Whitney Robinson’s memoir gets everything right. She shows the wreckage. She shows how mental illness swooped down into her life and changed everything. A natural writer with a near-intimidating intelligence, Robinson tells the story of her illness, the demon that came into her brain, and how she came back out the other side. It is an erudite, honest, and at times darkly humorous look at what it feels like to have your brain behave in ways you have no control over. Schizophrenia is one of the hardest mental illnesses for people to truly understand, and Robinson writes a fascinating book that is never once a freak show. It is never an attempt to glorify conditions that can ransack a person’s life. This book is never a voyeuristic peephole into the at times salacious subject matter of mental illness.

It is a rare invitation to understand.

House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book: House of Leaves

Author: Mark Z. Danielewski

Type of Book: Fiction, horror, ergodic literature

Why I Consider This Book Odd: Well, because it is ergodic literature. Full stop.

Availability: You can get a copy here:

Comments: I’ve been away for a while, fellow odd bookers. I sometimes get hung up on a review or discussion and because I am not-quite-right, I cannot move on until I have addressed the issue. I think the problem is that in many ways discussing House of Leaves is not unlike discussing Finnegans Wake. There is an arrogance and hubris involved in thinking you can really get a handle on the entirety of either book. I’ve flirted with the House of Leaves before, but not until recently did I read the entire thing, from beginning to end in one go. By the time it was over my book was in tatters (and I was paranoid enough at the time that I wondered if the book construction was meant to echo the house’s obliteration), I had book fatigue and I barely remembered why I loved it so much in the first place. I left it, didn’t think about it, read some lighter fare and gradually let myself like the book again. Hence trying to review it and sensing that perhaps I understand it but wondering if I am full of shit.

This book. Oh dear lord. I have a wretched habit of bending the page when I find a passage meaningful to me. It’s a foul, filthy thing to do, and as a bibliophile, I hate myself for it, but I was never an underlining or highlighting sort of gal. The hell of it is, I went back to the dog-earred pages and read and read and half the time I had no idea what it was that grabbed me the first time. I comfort myself in my wasted effort that the book was in miserable condition by the time I was through – spine destroyed, pages loose, the front end page fallen out completely. I have no idea what I loved when I was reading it so it stands to reason that this is going to be less a review than a discussion of why I like this book and if it is messy and incoherent, it won’t be the first time and it won’t be the last. All I can say is that when a book is half footnotes, I don’t think it is a cop out to quote chunks of text that speak to me or explain my points.

In this discussion, I need to emphasize two things: 1) In my opinion, Johnny Truant’s story is the reason to read this book and it may seem weak not to address all the text concerning The Navidson Record. But it’s my party, and to be frank, all the details are the trees and Johnny is the forest and I think to analyze all of the endless references and throwaways that Danielewski uses in this book, you miss the humanity of it; and 2) I refuse to change my text color when I use the word “house” or refer to anything having to do with the Minotaur. Just not gonna do it. It seems forced, affected and precious when anyone other than Danielewski does it.

So, with that out of the way, a plot synopsis: An old, blind man by the name of Zampanò dies and in his apartment, Johnny Truant finds an in depth analysis of a documentary film called The Navidson Record. The book recounts Zampanò’s analysis of the film, interspersed with numerous foot notes from Zampanò, Truant and an editor. There is an unnerving catch, however: The film does not exist. Zampanò’s in depth analysis, including copious research, is of a film that does not exist and the resources he quotes do not exist. The analysis becomes so entrenched at times that the reader wonders if the real catch of the book is the “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin” minutia that often goes into academic research. The level of introspection given by fictional research into every element of this fictional movie gives the book so much self-referential claustrophobia that the reader finds herself going mad as she reads it, which, of course, is the entire point.

The written analysis of The Navidson Record tells the story of a family that moves into a house in Virginia. The house is seemingly sentient and able to change itself on the inside without affecting the outside measurements of the house. It creepily rearranges itself internally, becoming larger than the outside proportions, finally creating a hallway that leads into a maze. A search party is sent into the maze with disastrous and appalling results, but at the end of the failed missions, the house collapsing then righting itself, The Navidson Record is a love story, wherein an icy and adulterous model, Karen, finds herself fighting to save her relationship with Will Navidson. Yes, I think it is a love story. I realize just about everyone who has read this book may disagree with my assessment, but the enduring themes of this book are, in fact, love. Maternal love fighting through mental illness, self-love fighting through emotional collapse, and romantic love enduring the unthinkable and impossible.

But for me, as I say above, the reason to read this book is to know the tale of Johnny Truant. Johnny tells the story of his life in footnotes to The Navidson Record, letters from his mother from the Whalestoe Institute, a home for the mentally ill, and a diary he kept during and after his immersion into The Navidson Record. Johnny is a drug abuser, and as the son of a mentally ill woman who died institutionalized, it is hard to say what causes Johnny to drift, then dive headfirst, into mental issues of his own, but Johnny is the heart of this book, the love story of Will and Karen and the peril they live through notwithstanding. Johnny’s story of his life, as he reveals it piecemeal, in a manner that makes it hard to know him if you skip a word, is the reason why I continued reading when I felt I just couldn’t take another damn five-page footnote.

The Diary of a Rapist by Evan S. Connell

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book: The Diary of a Rapist

Author: Evan S. Connell

Type of Book: Fiction, depictions of madness

Why I Consider this Book Odd: Initially, the title made me suspect, but it was born out as I read this book, a graphic depiction into the the mind of a man who presumably rapes a woman yet still sees himself as potentially courting her. Also, A.M. Homes gives the introduction and while she is not full-bore odd, per se, she hovers in the fringes of odd so her presence in this book was the final seal on the odd deal.

Availability: Reissued by New York Review Books, you can get a copy here:

Comments: My god, I am a sucker for depictions of madness, and Earl Summerfield runs the gamut of many ways human madness can express itself. This is not the tale of someone descending into madness. It is the tale of a full-bore madman from the very beginning.

I generally do not read reviews of books before I review them myself but I read some other opinions out there before I began this review. There are some for whom Earl Summerfield is the precursor to the modern Everyman, a person made mad by the world around him. For me this did not ring true. Earl was not made mad. He is mad. He is mad because he is a misogynistic paranoid with violent tendencies. This conclusion did not make this book any the less a compelling read. Connell could not have done a better job painting a picture of a repellent, insane human being.

Written in 1966, this book is a diary that begins on January 1. In his diary, Earl recounts his tug of war in the world. His love and hatred for his wife, who is older than him and able to get along in the world much better than he. His love and hatred for himself. His love and hatred for the world. Among his often bizarre recounts of his life, his utter misogyny and pedophilic tendencies begin to reveal themselves. He swings between moods of narcissistic euphoria and complete self-loathing. He one day respects his co-workers and the next despises them and feels a sense of paranoia behind all their activities.

Occasionally, he has cause to feel a sense of grinding down, like then his supervisor at work chides him to scurry to his desk faster because the head honcho wants to see an increase in productivity. His is a job in which he fears even doodling because his supervisors pace behind him as he fills out unemployment claims for men he despises. His job is repetitive and he has two passive-aggressive supervisors who pounce on his every mistake, yet so hungry is Earl for any sort of recognition in his monotonous work world, he takes information that he makes few mistakes and has been late the least as a sign that he is in line for a grand promotion. But his workplace cannot be blamed for his insanity. His work-world is Kafka-esque but the boredom and minor humiliations he experiences are not enough to turn a man into a pedophile, a rapist and a wife-hating narcissist. This is why I disagree with those who think the intensity of the modern world made Earl mad. No one who was not insane to begin with ends up like Earl because of a job. Earl is a lunatic because Earl is Earl, not because his workplace is devoid of soul.

Earl is, however, a very accurate depiction of mental illness that becomes violent. He avidly reads and records terrible crimes in his diary and clips news articles for a scrapbook, at times writing words of outrage at how terrible the world is, and other times sympathizing with those who commit crimes to a degree that makes the reader wonder how involved Earl might have been in some of the crimes he reads about.

Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book: Story of the Eye

Author: Georges Bataille

Why I Consider This Book Odd:
Oh God, where do I start…

Type of work: Pornography, fiction

Originally published in 1928, this book was re-released by City Light Books. You can get a copy here:

Comments:  (ETA on 1/19/14:  I have found myself rethinking Bataille lately.  I’ve read a bit more of his body of work, and while I suspect I will always have a negative and visceral reaction to this work, I also think I need to reconsider this book and write about it when I do.  Specifically I need to look into why I had such a visceral aversion to this book because I think a reasonably considered visceral aversion may actually be what Bataille was going for.  At any rate, I felt I needed to post this disclaimer in the event anyone else reads this old discussion.)

It seems unfair for me to completely dismiss Story of the Eye as an enormous turd polished to a sheen by specious intellectualism. I loathe the inverse of this attitude when applied to the books I love. For example, I frequently get a DIAF feeling when I think of Harold Bloom’s contemptuous and elitist dismissal of Stephen King and J.K. Rowling, the latter whom he seems to dislike simply because of what he considers her overuse of em-dashes. But it is my opinion that only a critic could find much to love in this odd book, because the subject matter is so repellent, the narrative so useless in terms of depth of story-telling, the plot so outrageous and the character development non-existent. Some people call this style of writing surrealism. Good for them, but I call shenanigans. In order to find any connection to the book, one has to downshift into sheer critical analysis, refusing to answer questions of whether or not one considers a book good versus whether or not one simply finds a book relevant to a certain critical way of thinking.

In certain respects, it all boils down to personal taste, even amongst true critics. My personal tastes rebelled against Story of the Eye because it seemed to me to be an exploitative, meaningless look into perverse sexuality that, while it may have explored elements of rebellion, was just a puerile examination of the disgusting, pushing limits just to push them, telling a pointless story in order to shock. After reading a bit about Georges Bataille’s childhood, the whys and wherefores of the book make a bit more sense to me, but just understanding the author’s motivations does not, in any way, ensure the content can connect with a reader.

I felt a bit hypocritical hating this book as much as I did, for the Harold Bloom reason I mentioned above. Moreover, people like Sartre and Susan Sontag have argued for this book’s relevance, as both a text of transgression and an excellent example of pornographic use of eros and thanatos, respectively. The book influenced the interesting and delightful whackaloon Bjork. There are people likely far smarter than me who think Story of the Eye has literary merit or social merit. de Sade, whose works never raised this level of enmity in me, may not seem that different to some readers.

But for me, there is a stark difference between Bataille and de Sade. De Sade’s works sprang from a need to fight against the limitations of cultural norms, religion and law. His tomes of rape, necrophilia, BDSM, sexual servitude and moral degeneracy were an extreme attempt to strike a blow for personal freedom during a time that was both personally stultifying and socially tumultuous, a nihilistic rage against the machine.  Story of the Eye is just a disgusting tale filtered through odd and sad events in Bataille’s life. There is no surge for a greater breath of freedom reading this book, just an unsettling feeling that one is being forced to read a foul practical joke.

The book is quite short – a novella, really – and comes in at 103 pages. I read it twice trying to get a handle on the content, hoping I could find a critical thread that impressed me.  I failed. In short, this is the book:

A young man recalls his sexually disgusting past with a distant relative, the equally perverted Simone, and the mentally fragile Marcelle. He and Simone explore their bizarre sexuality via lots of masturbation, urine and eggs. Yes, eggs. They include Marcelle, who is driven insane at an orgy and ends up institutionalized. They break her out of the booby hatch, only to have her commit suicide. They have sex next to her dead body and Simone urinates into her open eyes, as you do. To avoid an inquest into Marcelle’s death, the two go to Spain with a debauched nobleman. There are disgusting bullfights that involve impaled mare bladders, more weird sexuality involving eggs, eyes, bull testicles, and urine. Then there is the sexually-charged murder of a priest, the removal of his eye and its use in sex (Simone’s love of globular, soft objects and their relation to her nether regions is possibly the unsexiest thing I have ever encountered…). Then they disguise themselves and flee. Fade to black.

On some level, I wanted to read this text as a sort of bizarre coming of age tale, but it doesn’t work that way. There is no commonality of human experience. That’s okay – the thing I like best about odd books is that often, the commonality is lacking. Bizarre books take me to a place I would not ordinarily see. But having read very dark fiction, truly disturbing non-fiction and all sorts of stuff in between, I haven’t in any way felt as alienated by a piece of fiction as I was by Story of the Eye. I know there is all sorts of symbolism with fluid, eggs and eyes, but ultimately it didn’t matter for me. The content was too outre and too specialized for the meanings to matter.

As always, your mileage may vary, and to be honest, this book is worth reading by odd book fans simply because it is so disgusting and insane. But be aware that I say this in the same way my high school teachers often urged us to go to college so we wouldn’t be at a loss at cocktail parties (got the degree, paid off my student loans, and nary a cocktail party has come my way). The main reason to read this book in my opinion is so that you can say you have. You may get nothing more out of it than that.

Shrouded by Carol Anne Davis

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book Title: Shrouded

Author: Carol Anne Davis

Why I Consider This Book Odd: Davis deals with a taboo subject – necrophilia – in an intricately and at times outrageously plotted novel. Readers with triggers should also be aware that this novel deals with terrible child abuse, murder and has elements of rape.

Type of Book: Fiction, novel

Availability: Written in 1997 and published by Bloodlines, this book was reissued in 2006 by Snowbooks and is still in print. You can find a copy of this book easily by clicking the following affiliate link: Shrouded

Comments: While this book is outrageous in many respects, it is not as visceral as some other books that deal with necrophilia, like Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z. Brite, an excellent novel in its own right. While the plot developments at time seem extremely unlikely and the ending is rushed, this book is still worth a read. Davis nails her protagonist’s descent into madness in a manner that only Ruth Rendell could have managed more deftly. And when the plot isn’t beggaring belief, the depictions of human frailty and the extremities of the human psyche make this book quite interesting indeed.

Rest of review under the jump. There are incomplete spoilers so be warned.