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.
I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^
"The word MORE summarized my private agenda. It was sexual compulsion fueled by a terror of human contact and the forfeit of mental control. I could brood, peep, stalk, think and self-narrate. I could not act."
- James Ellroy, The Hilliker Curse
Probably 3.5 stars. It is funky, narcissistic, bizarre, transgressive, beautiful and brutal. It is Oedipus chasing the memory of his dead mother in the faces and windows of random women. It isn't a book I'd recommend to my wife or my mother, but it was fascinating and really did carry a certain amount of redemption and hope. Ellroy is one of the handful of living writers I actually give a damn about meeting some day. I'd certainly not want my daughter or wife or mother to meet him, however. Many writers who I adore I have no drive or motivation to meet. None. Ellroy is an artist I want to road trip with.
His voice, his openness both resonate strongly with me. I really think Ellroy is one of the handful of genre writers (King, le Carré, etc) that will be read in 300+ years. So, I guess this book will be a bit of a help for future PhD writers in further dissecting Ellroy's novels. He is both a dark room and an open book. He captures something about the 20th century and himself in every book he writes and seems to leave blood, sweat, and semen on every page.
There is something beautiful about the scar that is left when a scab is picked away. Some of the lines from this very exhibitionist memoir hit me hard and left a mark:
1. "The absence of a narrative line left me weightless. I didn't know what it meant then. I'll ascribe meaning now."
2. "I always get what I want. It comes slow or fast and always costs a great deal."
3. "My always-present self-absorption veered to vacancy."
4. "Opportunists ruthlessly cling to emergent imagery and people."
5. "I was having it both ways. I was mending fences I intended to jump."
Anyway, I've written more tonight than I wanted or intended. I'll add one more thing. It was fantastic hearing Ellroy narrate his own memoir. Wildman indeed!
1123 down, Millions To Go!
He doesn't spare the dirty details. It's honesty difficult to stomach sometimes, but his straightforwardness is what made it so interesting. He portrays himself as a filthy pig of a man: a thief, liar and real life creeper. He was a criminal and writing saved him.
It was a unique experience to get inside the mind of a man that writes such great fiction. His honest portrayal of his life was the best part of the story. He's still a mess, but he keeps trying.
The performance was similar to his other books. However, the passionate expressions of his own experiences (dirty as they were), along with the, 'Ellroy Style' of writing make this one particularly intense. James Ellroy is to crime fiction what Doug Stanhope is to comedy: he's not for everyone, but his real fans can't get enough.
The Making of the Biggest Name in Noir
It took me a long time to sit down and write this review. Part of that was ADHD, but the other was that I haven't ever read anything quite like this before. It's powerful, intense but also disgusting. There were parts that really turned me off, but there seemed a glimmer of goodness (like in many of his characters) that made me go on. The retelling of his story may not contain 100% of what happened in his life, but shows a willingness to be honest about what he feels shaped him. It challenged me to take a hard look at my own life in the sober way that he did. This may never be his biggest seller, but it was good enough that I listened to it 3 times. Thanks for the honesty, James!
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.
Kipp Poe Speicher
Yes he is a fascinating person and I love his fiction work
His Crime Wave series and My Dark Place
No this is my first I enjoyed it, He has a very strange way of talking but that is him
Yes how his inspirations from life mold his story and his relationships
Some have given bad reviews of his reading it is strange but hey thats the Man
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