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The Castle in the Forest: A Novel Paperback – October 16, 2007
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Top Customer Reviews
Astonishing Insight on the Nature Good and Evil
This is a wonderful book to treasure and reflect upon. The precision of the writing makes it easy to read while the intensity of the psychological analysis gives the reader a lot to ponder.
This book is a story of the development, creation and cultivation of pure evil. It is written from the perspective of a progenitor of evil. The narrator created evil on earth in a very amoral tone as if explaining directions to get to the grocery store. Norman Mailer shows banality of evil doers with the sharp style of a craftsman. The book is introspective and reflective without bogging down into sentimental fog and without ever becoming tedious.
Mailer elevates the reader outside of the comfort zone and suspends them, as if he were in mid-air, to the very end of the book. Since the perspective is introspective and reflective it would have been very easy for it to have become tedious. Yet, not one page of the book seemed redundant, unnecessary or excessive in detail.
Very little of the book is devoted to dialog. Mostly the reader is given the inner thoughts, rationalizations and motives of the characters. Yet the characters are very believable and all the more pitiful.
The central theme of the book is the question of how any human being could become pure evil. This question is answered by presenting a very gradual cultivation of otherwise normal men by an outside force. Obviously the outside force is not necessary for evil to triumph. Mailer shows that the only prerequisites that are essential are excessive pride and a dose of ignorance.
This book is provocative rather than comfortable; it opens more questions than it answers; and it can be offensive and demanding. Read it for all these reasons.
Read this book.
Mailer's work and his persona, deeply intertwined for the past six decades, irritate the hell out of some people. Fine. But nobody's personal irritation wipes out an author's 60-year output. The Naked And The Dead, The Armies of The Night, The Executioner's Song, Miami and the Siege of Chicago, Advertisements For Myself, to name only five, are major books of our time. Plainly the previous reviewer, in handing down such sweeping and unsupported dismissal of Mailer's work, is superior to the pinheads on the committees that awarded Mailer two Pulitzer Prizes, a National Book Award, and countless other honors.
Mailer's work is always a mixture of brilliance, clumsiness, audacity, dullness, and excitement. That is a big part of why he is so interesting -- the tension among these qualities. Some of these qualities are more pronounced in some of his works than in others. Many contemporary readers will find the premise of The Castle In The Forest outlandish -- the existence of a God and a Devil, and legions of lesser devils and angels, at war with each other, and intimately involved in human affairs. This notion is nothing new in Mailer's work, and he is completely serious about it. If you don't want to go with the premise, don't read the book.Read more ›
Taking that perspective, I understood what Mailer was trying to say with this book. Mailer, at the end of his life and confronting the ultimate reality, was thinking about the big questions. Is there more than this existence? Is there a god and a life after death? What are good and evil, from whence do they come, how do they function in this life? Why are we here? How much free will do we really have?
"The Castle in the Forest" leaves only hints at possible answers to these fundamental questions. In the end, I don't think Mailer found the answers. I certainly don't feel any closer to understanding after reading, but but have a warm sense of companionship in my unknowing. Reading "The Castle in the Forest" is an intellectual exercise, and that's emphatically not a criticism.
My final recommendation: if you are looking for insight into Adolf Hitler's character, don't buy this book. If you are looking for entertainment, relaxation, or fun, don't buy this book. However, if you are interested in expanding your intellectual horizons, if you want to discuss difficult questions and are prepared to forego conclusions, buy this book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Every mad man was once a child and had a mother that loved him. This interesting fictional account of the child Hitler tries to portray what could have been the psychosexual seeds... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Frank
This is my second attempt to read Norman Mailer (after "The Naked and the Dead"), and it will probably be my last. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Joseph Hirsch
This is one of the best books I've ever read. The Narrator is key. It's like nothing you've ever read on early 20th century Europe and the story of Hitler's roots and early life.Published 5 months ago by Karen S.
I was disappointed but intrigued by Mailer's last novel. I have read a half dozen others by Mailer, and this one was my least favorite. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Lee Whitlock
I couldn't stand reading this book so I quit and have tried to delete it from my Kindle but it's still there. Yuck.Published 5 months ago by Colleen Jane milller
I do not like this book. I had long planned to read a book by Mailer.
I wish I had not picked this one, I doubt I will give his book's another chance. Read more
a good read, wonderful prose. My first time with this writer, tough to read wondering how much fact, good twisting analogies. A dark read, but am glad I read it.Published 13 months ago by suzanne
At one and the same time both labored and sloppy, not a good combination. We know from J. Michael Lennon's biography that Mailer wrote this book under contract and was slow in... Read morePublished 16 months ago by David Curry