Saturday, September 18, 2010

Book review: The Hilliker Curse by James Ellroy

The Hilliker Curse: My Pursuit of WomenThe Hilliker Curse: My Pursuit of Women by James Ellroy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

James Ellroy's crime and political fiction is by turns compelling, awe-inspiring and annoying as hell, so it stands to reason that his non-fiction should follow the same pattern. Ellroy's mother was murdered in Los Angeles when he was a young boy and he has carried feelings of guilt and responsibility throughout his whole life. These feelings imbue his fiction with desperate tales of passionate strong willed women and have also led him to search in real life for a woman to fit this model. This book is a quasi-autobiography that glosses over his life as a writer for a painfully in-depth description of his relationship with women and his search for the ultimate soul mate. As always Ellroy writes with a gargantuan egotism, but also like many narcissists, he is at heart, a deeply lonely, haunted and troubled man. His descriptions of failed relationships, and self-imposed exile are alternately heartbreaking and cringe inducing. Ellroy lays it all on the table: love, sex, spirituality and the need for companionship are examined in excruciating detail. What makes this palatable and even enjoyable is his absolutely unique command of language and writing style, born of hard-boiled crime fiction, but evolved as something all his own. His shuck and jive dark humor survives intact, making this something more than an excoriating lovelorn self flagellation. Love him or hate him, the man can tell a tale, and when he's talking about his favorite subject (himself) it makes for a wild ride.

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