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The Rapist Paperback – September 20, 2015
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Anthony Neil Smith gave 5 stars to: The Rapist by Les Edgerton
This is brave literary pulp of the highest order. Dark, dark stuff. No celebration here. It's going to get under your skin. Deserves all the awards next year.
From the Inside Flap
So, I'm reading Les Edgerton's The Rapist. The title has already made me uneasy.
Five pages in and I can hardly breathe.
Ten and I'm nauseous.
For the next 50, I'm a mixture of all of the above, but most of all, angry.
I feel like ringing my feminist friends and confessing: Sisters, I'm reading something you will kill me for reading.
I feel like ringing my ex colleagues - parole officers and psychologists who work with sex offenders in Barlinnie Prison, Glasgow - and asking them if they think it's helpful to publish an honest and explicit transcript which shows the cognitive distortions of a callous, grandiose, articulate sex offender; one which illustrates his inability to have a relationship with a woman and his complete lack of empathy?
I'm thinking I don't know what I should be thinking.
Will it turn sex offenders on?
Should we listen to this guy?
Is it possible to separate the person from the offence, and to empathise with him as he waits to die?
I don't ring anyone.
I read on.
And the breathlessness, nausea, anger and confusion increase all the way to the end, at which point all I know is that the book is genius.
Helen FitzGerald, author, Dead Lovely, Bloody Women, The Devil's Staircase, The Donor and others.
'I live in a small, dark realm which I fill out'. Jean Genet's words in "Miracle Of the Rose". And like Genet, Edgerton writes with lyricism and a sense of history of things that disturb, balancing through his superb style themes that may otherwise unsettle the narrative. Edgerton's brilliant archaeological dig into the motivations of a rapist is an unflinching look at the darker recesses of the human psyche. There is nothing gratuitous here and it takes a command to achieve a narrative pull in such territory. It reminded me of John Burnside's "The Locust Room" but it's better written. Edgerton voices the demonic forces at work within his narrator's head. He embeds the story with the protagonist's need for redemption set against the backdrop of his life. "The Rapist" is confessional, poetic, unrelenting, and as real as the newspaper lying before you. It challenges the assumption that fictions need to censor the things people read every day in what is deemed factual. It is told in a style that situates it among the classics of transgressive fictions.
Richard Godwin, Apostle Rising, Mr Glamour
What a . . .I mean, it's so . . . wow. Damn. Seriously.
Eric Beetner, author of The Devil Doesn't Want Me
Top customer reviews
We discover him on death row during his last hours before his execution for rape and murder. His voice has the tone of an ersatz Old Testament prophet, and he describes himself as "Perfidy. . .Liar, Blasphemer, Defiler of Truth, Black-tongued." Indeed, the whole first half or so of the book has a 19th Century stilt to it, like something out of Hawthorne or Poe. That voice is important for two reasons. First, it establishes our narrator/protagonist as someone with intellectual pretensions, if not the credentials to back them up. Second, it puts a storyteller's distance between him and the events he describes and thus establishes an illusion of objectivity. Consequently, as we read his description of the crime and the events leading to and away from it, we're inclined to accept his version. The moreso because he goes into graphic detail, including even facts that put a guilty and ugly light on his role in the affair.
Ah, but then return to those opening lines and beware. Edgerton has given us the most masterful unreliable narrator I have ever read. For me, it was not until Pinter's recounting of a conversation with the warden of his prison about halfway through the book that I realized that his purported declaration of guilt is far from the whole story. Other clues follow thereafter, but his initial description of his act is utterly convincing, to the point where he "confesses" not only his own guilt, but offers a rationale for it. He justifies what he did by declaring that it is what in legal circles would be described as an act, not wrong in and of itself, but wrong only in terms of the law. Sort of like jaywalking or speeding. His logic is twisted, but nicely argued in its own psychopathic way.
So much for the crime itself, which would make a well-told tale if it stopped there, but Edgerton adds another level or three that carries The Rapist from the realm of the merely excellent to that of the stellar. While he tells his story, Pinter (And it's no accident he shares a name with the playwright famous for his "comedies of menace.") prepares for life after his execution, and his preparations include revenge on his jailers and on society as a whole as well as a try at immortality. During these ruminations, we're treated to meetings with a being who appears as an old man, someone who exists simultaneously everywhere in the space-time continuum and who seems to offer Truman counsel regarding his past, present and future. Each meeting, however, creates more confusion until Pinter becomes as baffled about his past as about his future. It is during these sessions that we soar into the ethereal territory of writers like Camus and Dante, or that of films like The Seventh Seal-and I don't use those comparisons lightly. We believe that we, along with Pinter, may be face-to-face with God or with Death. And judgement day is terrifying. Even if we're not the rapist, we're all trying to hide something. Edgerton seems to suggest that it's no use, that we're all the unreliable narrators of our own lives, all defilers of truth who must pay somehow, somewhen. Not a pleasant notion, but when you finish The Rapist, you'll feel as if there's a truth in it you can't avoid, no matter how much you'd love to.
The book is profound yet easy to read. It begins as smut, some pages feel dirty. It is a slim book with a tightly woven narrative of surprises, ideas, even jokes. There would never be a love child between Henry Miller and Albert Camus but such an invention comes to mind for the book is one of a kind.
I won’t lie. When I saw the title of the book there was a little apprehension on my part to make the purchase. The cover is quite troubling, and the title….well I think that speaks for itself. However, being a big Edgerton fan, I knew I had to take the plunge. I am damn happy I did!
The protagonist, Truman Pinter, is a rapist, sociopath, and essentially a guy you will absolutely despise. Edgerton writes this character in way that should be studied by future and current authors. In fact, after reading the book, I am not at all surprised Les writes self-help books on the craft of writing.
The Rapist is a must read book. It’s flawlessly written, and the ending will leave you speechless.