20 October 2016

Library Limelights 118

Chris Carter. An Evil Mind. USA: Atria Books, 2014.
Another contender for the sadistic sweepstakes among crime authors. The book is the latest in a series (new to me) about Robert Hunter, an LAPD detective. This time, he is co-opted by the FBI to work with agent Courtney Taylor. They are to interview a captured serial killer in order to identify his many victims and locations of their bodies. Turns out the killer's real name is Lucien Folter, stunning Hunter who was his roommate at university; the two had been very close, both studying psychology. Folter has advance-planned every step of the interview. He bargains with the FBI to locate a still-living victim, meaning he will accompany the two agents on a field trip. You know bad things will happen.

This is not yer average psychopath here. Lucien's stated ambition for conducting a murderous twenty-year spree is that his meticulous diaries will provide the foundation for an invaluable reference work of pyschopathic behaviour. And he wants to force his old friend into impossible choices. Describing the suffering and torture inflicted on some victims can only be borne with a glazed speed-reading. I won't be looking for more Carter books. Guys, could we pleeease get off Silence of the Lambs and back to old-fashioned detective work?

Hunter took a deep breath while trying to remember the details.
"The crazy possibility of someone becoming a killer for an altruistic purpose," he finally said. "Lucien argued how groundbreaking it would be for criminal-behavior psychology if a fully mentally capable individual went on a killing rampage, escalating his or her way through different levels of violence, and experimenting with different methods and fantasies, while at the same time taking comprehensive notes of everything, including feelings and psychological states of mind at the time and in the aftermath of each murder. Some sort of in-depth psychological study of the mind of a killer, written by the killer himself ... by choice.
"He believed that a notebook, or even a series of notebooks, filled with such true accounts would become an encylopedia of knowledge, a bible of sorts to criminal-behavior scientists." (191-2)

And he follows up from this ...
Lucien saw a muscle flex in Hunter's jaw, but still he continued.
"As I've said before," he continued, "under the right circumstances, anyone can become a killer. Even those who are supposed to protect and to serve." His dead stare could've frozen ice. "Remember, Robert, a murder is a murder. The reasons behind it have no relevance, whether it was justified revenge or a sadistic urge." He brought his face to less than an inch from the Plexiglas. "So one day, you still might become the same as me." (248-9)

Annie Proulx. Barkskins. USA: Thorndike Press (Gale large print), 2016.
Personally, I will grab anything Proulx writes, even if it's a telephone book. Epic and odyssey are pale words in the face of this oeuvre that roams across three centuries of "taming" and "civilizing" North America. Proulx's mastery of language and contemporary idiom was never more evident; her wit flares in the essence of each character. And that's six (or more) generations of various family members, some of whose legacies entail more respect or notoriety than others. The cast of characters descends from two men of the late 1600s ― Charles Duquet and René Sel ― bound to work for a New France seigneur. One family evolves as a lucrative logging and timber giant in Quebec, the Maritimes, New England, and farther west; the other, as Métis and indigenous, ultimately turns inward to the loss of its mobility and identity, its literal and figurative roots. As each family line explores alternatives, we get details of lumbering, fishing, sailing, and other trades and crafts. Their destinies ebb and flow with marriages, alliances, partnerships.

Destroying the magnificent forests for European markets, then to make room for burgeoning settlements, took place on an unprecedented scale. It pushed the fur trade farther and farther west and north; it affected the aboriginal livelihood in fishing and hunting; it fostered huge whitemen fortunes in resources and transportation development. Proulx has the gift for encapsulating the growth of the continent such that we can only gasp at the rapaciousness, at the same time feeling personal intimacy with a range of key (fictional but representative) players. The seeds of ecological awareness are planted fairly early upon deaf ears, thus the painfully slow-growing environmental consciousness. Two serviceable, but not entirely satisfactory, genealogy charts assist us with names and relationships. It would be no surprise if Barkskins begins to appear on award lists. Genius.

Words: ukases - edicts; from Russian
capric - goatlike
maenetic - this one eludes the usual dictionaries; either archaic or drill-down scientific term
champertous - sharing in proceeds of litigation by supporting one party
albedo - inner rind of citrus fruit; also used in meteorology & astronomy terminology

It was, they often told one another, like walking on a web of tightropes, but they swam in money as in a school of sardines. (179)
The Mi'kmaq had lost their spirit world to the missionaries' God. (570)
He was garrulous and obsequious, sprinkling yes sirs around as though casting handfuls of seed on new-raked soil. (431)
He fell onto the bed and she swarmed over him like ants on honeycomb. (474)

Two solitudes:
They stood opposed on the nature of the forest. To Mari it was a living entity, as vital as the waterways, filled with the gifts of medicine, food, shelter, tool material, which everyone discovered and remembered. One lived with it in harmony and gratitude. She believed the interminable chopping of every tree for the foolish purpose of "clearing the land" was bad. But that, thought René, was woman's talk. The forest was there, enormous and limitless. The task of men was to subdue its exuberance, to tame the land it grew on ― useless land until cleared and planted with wheat and potatoes. (74-5)

"We will stay here," said Duquet to Forgeron, "as the thieves have prepared a camp for us." He tried to speak calmly, but he was filled with a greater anger than he had ever experienced. After all the injustices he had suffered, after all he had done, crossing to the New World, escaping from Trépagny, learning the hard voyageur trade, working out a way to use the forest for his fortune, learning to read and write and cipher, traveling to China, all the business connections he had made, these Maine vermin had come to steal his timber. (182-3)

A priest writing to France:
Many of their tales tell of Women who marry Otters or Birds, or Men who change into Bears until it pleases them to become Men again. In the forests they speak to Toads and Beetles as acquaintances. Sometimes I feel it is they who are teaching me. ...
To them Trees are Persons. In vain I tell them that Trees are for the uses of Men to build Houses and Ships. In vain I tell them to give over so much hunting and make Gardens, grow Grains and Food Stuffs, to put order in their Days. They will have none of it. Therefore many French people call them lazy because they do not till the Earth. (202-3)

Cousins meet:
Bernard followed his nephew up on deck and saw Outger. He resembled Charles Duquet though he lacked his father's muscle mass and shrunken jaw. Limp yellow hair stuck out from under his tie wig, but the pale eyes had the piercing Duquet focus. He was thin and very white, obviously one who lived indoors. (302)

And agree to disagree:
Outger examined Bernard, displeased at what he saw ― a heavy, aging man, somewhat gimpy.
"Welkom, broeder," said Bernard. Outger pursed his lips.
"Please to remember, Bernard, that we are not brothers. My parents may have adopted you and the others, but we are, most emphatically, not blood brothers."
"I am in no danger of forgetting that. Yet we were ever closer to your father than you yourself."
He was surprised when Outger laughed. "Yes, yes. But that's hardly an enviable distinction. The man was a brute."
"He was also a very good businessman, to our mutual advantage ― yours as well as mine. A great pity for Duke and Sons when he vanished." (303)

James Duke catches up with family:
"But now he [Outger Duquet] is gone. His half-breed daughter lived in flagrant concubinage with an Indian in Outger's house on Penobscot Bay. They produced an army of Indian brats. They are quite unknown to us." (439)

Kuntaw dies:
The October air was sweet and every faint breath a pleasure. Wind stirred and he said, "Our wind reaching me here." A small cloud formed in the west. "Our small cloud coming to me." The hours passed and the small cloud formed a dark wall and approached. A drop fell, another, many, and Kuntaw said, "Our rain wetting my face." His people came near him, drawing him into their eyes, and he said, "Now ... what ..." The sun came out, the brilliant world sparkled, susurration, liquid flow, stems of striped grass what was it what was it the limber swish of a released branch. What, now what. Kuntaw opened his mouth, said nothing, and let the sunlight enter him. (765)

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