Friday, December 22, 2017

Guest FFB: Barry N. Malzberg on ANATOMY OF A KILLER by Peter Rabe

Just finished this, one of 16 Rabe novels I ordered from Stark House in fulfillment of an ancient sense of obligation (I had never read a word of his divorced wife Claire [Rabe, initially as by "Anna Winter"]'s Olympia Press novel FLESH AND BLOOD when it was published with mine and five others in 1969 in a series of "the inaugural American Olympia hardcover novels" all of which bombed was quite good). This is one of the craziest, most disjointed, most fascinatingly implosive and explosive novels I have ever read; as I just observed to my patient spouse "When you are turning out books for $2500 advances in two or three weeks because you are trying to make a living you can't go back and get it right, but if he had had that unlikely opportunity this could have been a breakthrough work". Even so, I have never read existential fragmentation and individual psychic breakdown merged the way that Rabe manages in the final 15,000 words. That was my off again, on again shtick and in the fourteenth and final novel of THE LONE WOLF [series published as by "Mike Barry"] I might have gotten close but Rabe was on another planet. It's on a level with the last chapters of LOLITA and Rabe does not for better or worse allow linguistic virtuosity to get in his way.

This guy was (as Carter Scholz wrote of me 35 years ago) synchronously the best and worst writer going, sometimes in the same damned paragraph. A stunning broken talent. And a beacon toward the horrible time in which two thirds of a century later we now exist. 

I feel driven to make this observation public, just for the record.  As you were, ladies and gents.

--BNM, reprinted with permission from Rara-Avis.


Anonymous said...

Hard to disagree - I recently read my first three Rabe books (the Manny deWitt series of capers) and on the whole was impressed and charmed by them.

JJStick said...

A real mix of good and bad writing. Thank God for Stark House.

George said...

STARK HOUSE is one of my favorite publishers. They're reprinting classic paperbacks that deserve more attention.