Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Reason number two: look what I can do.

Current book: An American Tragedy
Pages read: 488-577

Murder, guys! Premeditated, bungled, whiny murder on a lake in northern New York, sure, but murder nonetheless. As you may have guessed, the major event of this section is Clyde's rather sloppily executed killing of Roberta, but man do we have to listen to a lot of whining and rationalizing before he does it. (Ok, ok, I accept that Drieser is just trying to make him human and believable, but the little conversations with himself where his evil side tries to quell the objections of his good side are a bit overdone, in my opinion. It's like shoulder-angel versus shoulder-devil. Only this counts as literature, apparently. I don't know who makes these decisions.)

Anyway, his method is this: he convinces the poor Roberta that he's finally going to marry her and asks her to meet him for a getaway to the Adirondacks. She complies, desperate as she is for any sign of either a resolution to the ruin that her life has become or, in fact, affection from the man whom she still seems to love. After traveling incognito on the train, in separate compartments and everything, they head to a semi-secluded lodge and embark on a day trip to the least popular of the local lakes, which Clyde had already taken the trouble to scout out beforehand as a likely scene for his crime. He has second and third and even fourth thoughts about the whole thing, and keeps observing Roberta's innocence and joy in life and mentally contrasting them with the fact that she's going to be dead in a matter of hours. None of this stops him from getting her into a boat and off to the most secluded corner of the lake, however. When they're in the perfect spot, he gets ready to commit the murder but finds himself unable to follow through. However, in the act of attempting but failing to outright kill her, he "accidentally" hits her on the head and upsets the boat, drowning her while he makes good his escape. Although he tells himself mentally that it's uncertain that he really intended to do it, it's murder in my book. (Legally, it'd have to be at least manslaughter, and certainly negligent homicide, since he lets her drown once she's already in the water. My knowledge of the definitions aren't that good, but he's a creep, ok?)

Anyway, then he runs off through the woods to go to Sondra, and we're left with a bunch of legal and political officials investigating the crime. They decide it's murder fairly quickly, since getting whacked in the face with a camera (Yep, you read that right. A camera. For taking pretty pictures of your illegitmate pseudo-honeymoon. And bludgeoning your pregnant girlfriend. New feature, that.) looks pretty different than just plain old drowning, and already suspect Clyde, though he's supposed to have drowned as well. That's about where we are. There's not a chance in hell he's going to get away with it, especially since the local district attorney is up for re-election. The questions, then, are how he's going to get caught, what he's going to say when he does, and whether they're going to give him the death penalty. (I think there may be a trip to the electric chair in store for our anti-hero.)

Well, it's reading like a crime novel at this point, which is a lot more entertaining than the initial moralizing, but it's far from literary. I mean, honestly, I feel as though I'm reading bestseller trash from the 20s. I don't know who decided that the older a book gets, the more literary it becomes, but I have to object. It's like how the AFI gives every movie that was made before 1960 an extra star, regardless of how completely awful it is. Sheesh.

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