Wednesday, December 29, 2021

73. The Thanatos Syndrome by Walker Percy

Jesus, talk about a contrast.  After the find of the decade, I thought I would push my luck and grabbed this supposedly "brisk thriller".  I'd read The Moviegoer as a young man stupidly in love with the wrong girl who recommended it and found it okay.  I was hoping for an intelligent, interesting adventure book.  Instead, it delivered on neither the cover promise of a thriller nor the intelligent observations of a respected "literary" author.  The base plot was convoluted, unrealistic, uninteresting and false at its premise.  The literary observations were incoherent and vague, basically the empty, malformed musings of some old white guy who people told was smart too many times.  It's worse than just being empty and pretentious and boring; much of his musings range from cringey to mildly offensive to just gross.  There are multiple (and all unecessary) graphic descriptions of child pornography.  The racial politics are basically racism disguised under the veneer of the informed, yet wryly realistic liberal.  His female characters are ungraspable, especially his wife who is only described, has little or no dialogue or activity.

The plot, as it is, involves a doctor returning to his small Louisiana community after being in jail for 2 years.  There are lots of oblique hints as to why he went to jail, leading the reader to believe a full and interesting backstory will be revealed. This never happens. He soon discovers that his few remaining patients have radically different behaviours and personalities.  We eventually learn of a "conspiracy" to put some radiated sodium in the water that makes people less prone to criminal behaviour or something.  The whole thing is preposterous and boring and somehow connected to a school of pedophiles, which gives Percy his excuse to describe it all.  What's super fucking weird and creepy is that the abusers are all re-integrated into society and given jobs at the new institute for the dying (to replace the euthanasia centers; don't ask) which the protagonist puts together in the denouement.

The worst book I've read in a long time.  Took me almost two weeks to get through.  Feels like the editor said to him or herself "well this sucks but I can just stick Walker Percy on the front and we should sell enough."  The reviewers who said shit like "laced with escapes and chase scenes and risky, ingenious detective work" need their license  pulled.  


Brian Busby said...

I read too read The Moviegoer at the urging of a wrong girl. Surely it can't be the same one! In any case, I also don't remember much of the novel. Sadly, her memory lingers.

Here's to better times! Best wishes for the New Year!

OlmanFeelyus said...

Interesting! Probably not the same girl but I suspect that the coincidence is evidence that The Moviegoer is that kind of book, recommended from one young lover to another, read with the uncritical fervour of romance.

Thanks for the wishes and the comment. You too!