Book - The Triumph of the Spider Monkey


Steve Taylor-Bryant read The Triumph of the Spider Monkey by Joyce Carol Oates, thanks to Hard Case Crime...

Abandoned as a baby in a bus station locker, shuttled from one abusive foster home and detention center to another, Bobbie Gotteson grew up angry, hurting, damaged. His hunger to succeed as a musician brought him across the country to Hollywood, but along with it came his seething rage, his paranoid delusions, and his capacity for acts of shocking violence.

Unavailable for 40 years, The Triumph of the Spider Monkey is an eloquent, terrifying, heart-breaking exploration of madness by one of the most acclaimed authors of the past century. This definitive edition for the first time pairs the original novel with a never-before-collected companion novella by Joyce Carol Oates, unseen since its sole publication in a literary journal nearly half a century ago, which examines the impact of Gotteson's killing spree on a woman who survived it, as seen through the eyes of the troubled young man hired by a private detective to surveil her...

I’ll be honest from the outset and say that, whilst I love Hard Case Crime as a publishing brand bringing to my attention lots of fantastic crime stories many of which were written before I was even born, not everything from the past is to my taste and I really struggled with The Triumph of the Spider Monkey, the second novella Love, Careless Love, and the overall style. It was somehow inaccessible to me and I’m really not sure why.

It should have been right up my street, inside the head of a serial killer in this case Bobbie Gotteson, and the insights into the how’s and whys of the insanity involved in Bobbie’s life. We all like insights into those we see as evil, we lap up thrillers, horrors, watch our Charles Manson documentaries or whatever it may be but, in most slices of popular culture that we consume about horrible people, we find ourselves either fascinated by part of them or caring about them. When it comes to Manson, a horrid and vile man there is no debate, but he didn’t commit the horrific murders, instead he coerced others into carrying out the acts and that’s fascinating to me. With the likes of fictional killers we have a love for Hannibal Lecter and are again fascinated by his intellect, his morality, his relationships with others. I guess what I am saying is that, in most cases of evil, we the reader have a reason to be invested in the character and, in The Triumph of the Spider Monkey, I had no reason to care, nothing to be invested in, it was just pages of horrible acts and thoughts.

Having read a lot of the Hard Case Crime titles I understand that most are very ‘of their time’ and I think maybe that is my issue here too. Joyce Carol Oates wrote these stories before I was born, I am approaching 44 years of age now, and insights into those people of a murderous disposition are written differently now as we have more of a psychological understanding into crime and criminals. Perhaps I am slightly too young to enjoy the book, spoiled even more by my own more modern leanings into pop culture. Whatever the reasoning behind my non enjoyment of The Triumph of the Spider Monkey I certainly won’t let it dampen my enthusiasm for Hard Case Crime, but I may temper my expectations, perhaps not expect to understand, or like, everything.

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