Liking Likeable Killers (Slight Return)

This is a slight return to something I wrote earlier (Liking Likeable Killers) in which I’m going to talk more about the stylistic elements that contributed to my reaction (intense dislike and abandonment) to a character (a serial killer) in that book (Exquisite Corpse) and what I think the author (Poppy Z. Brite) was trying to achieve with that character.

To recap: I abandoned that book on page 28 because Poppy skillfully opened my mind and tried to pour something inside; something unpleasant to me.

Stylistically speaking, Exquisite Corpse is a very pleasant book to read. Poppy is very adept at writing the kind of prose that allows a reader to forget that they are reading fiction and that takes them into a world that is fully formed and exquisitely described in all its beautiful detail. The main character is (initially) very likeable, which allows the reader to sympathise with him and his plight.

I would say that the author deliberately set out to achieve this effect so that the shock value of what happened next was emphasised. It’s a compelling technique for the right audience (for example, my sister loved this book), but I’m not the kind of reader that this book is aimed at. I don’t like horror films (that actually, when I think about it, employ much the same technique of lull-then-shock) for the effect they have on my mind and so I stopped reading this book.

In summary: lovely book, effective style, great technique, achieves the author’s aim; abandoned.

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