The legendary crime writer gives us a raw, brutally candid memoir—as high intensity and as riveting as any of his novels—about his obsessive search for “atonement in women”.
The year was 1958. Jean Hilliker had divorced her fast-buck hustler husband and resurrected her maiden name. Her son, James, was 10 years old. He hated and lusted after his mother and “summoned her dead”. She was murdered three months later.
The Hilliker Curse is a predator’s confession, a treatise on guilt and on the power of malediction, and above all, a cri de cœur. James Ellroy unsparingly describes his shattered childhood, his delinquent teens, his writing life, his love affairs and marriages, his nervous breakdown, and the beginning of a relationship with an extraordinary woman who may just be the long-sought Her.
A layered narrative of time and place, emotion and insight, sexuality and spiritual quest, The Hilliker Curse is a brilliant, soul-baring revelation of self. It is unlike any memoir you have ever read.
©2010 James Ellroy (P)2010 Random House
I am a tremendous fan of James Ellroy. I've read all the books and have others from Audible so that I can enjoy them in that format as well. LA Confidential and American Tabloid are two of the great crime novels of the century. When Ellroy writes about himself it is frank to the point of giving us a lot more information than anyone really wants to learn, but I still looked forward to the chance to hear Ellroy read his own work. I have seen him in person at The Mysterious Bookshop in NYC and found him to be a fascinating speaker--delightfully candid. So when I started listening, I was shocked at how weak an entry this was. Much of the book rehashes ground he has covered much more successfully before, but that aside, Ellroy suffers from an incredible fault of overacting. His delivery of this audio book would be overacted in a football stadium. In the confines of one's home or automobile, it is a boring, grating mess.
Some authors are brilliant readers of their own work--Amy Tan, early Tony Hillerman, for example. Ellroy, who turns out a new novel every 5 to 10 years these days, needs to focus on writing and leave the reading of his books to someone who knows what he is doing. Check out the brilliant Blood's a Rover instead.
If you're considering this book, you're probably a fan of Ellroy, like I am. And the book is mildly interesting -- his difficulties in relating to women throughout his life. But the book is read by the author, and he's just not good at all. I've been listening to it while driving to work for three weeks, and it's all I can do to avoid driving over a bridge to end it. Ellroy has a certain rhythm in how he processes prose. Perhaps it helps him to be a genius writer. But the reading aloud -- must stop.
It's bad enough that I would advise against getting this. Just read this book in print if you're interested.
Ellroy's delivery is comically bad. The book itself is degrading to one's soul. That sounds corny but his content is trashy, pre-adolescent, not even a titillating peek into a pervert's mind, but a flat-out mud wrestle. It's like sitting next to a drunk in a bar telling his disgusting life story.
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