Two books I read this spring could perhaps be placed in the category of 'extreme fiction,' written by authors determined to tell their story their own way no matter how disturbing, unpleasant, or downright disgusting.
I picked up The Killer Inside Me (a pulp novel by Jim Thompson written in 1952) after reading a recent article about it in the NewYork Times. The book, about to be released as a movie, concerns one of the darkest character studies I've ever read. Deputy Lou Ford is seemingly harmless, stoical in manner and even a little boring. The only hint of his inner rage are these creepy cliches he sometimes fosters on the town folk for kicks. But he can't keep it inside forever, and his small west Texas town finally discovers what the 'banality of evil' is all about. Thompson's book was way ahead of its time, but be forewarned...You will be dragged into the depths of a very dark soul, soulless more like it.
The Wetlands by Charlotte Roche was a big seller in Europe a fewyears ago. This novel concerns a young woman's rebellion against a sanitized world. Her character grew up being to told to wash this, wash that, and be clean, clean, clean. So of course as a teenager she starts doing just the opposite. And by opposite I mean just that. If
you are the least bit squeamish about bodily fluids, you will toss this book into the nearest hazmat receptacle before the first chapter is done.
Despite the gross-out content of the novel, I believe the author raises some valid points. On the one hand, it's okay for children to play in the dirt once in a while. If not, their immune systems could be blindsided several years later by something it doesn't understand. On the other hand, I knew a guy who would only stop at McDonald's when traveling because he could count on their restrooms being clean. That's certainly understandable. A friend of mine once theorized that people smoked so much in the past because they didn't bathe as much. The smoke would act as a masking agent from other odors. I don't know what to make of that. I'm a non-smoker who grew up choking on second-hand smoke. I did play in the dirt but nevertheless have allergies that have reduced my sense of smell to about zero. Why am I writing this? Because these are The Wetlands. Some will love it, some will hate it, but if you read this book you will remember it.