Monday, 16 May 2011

The Ninth Configuration by William Peter Blatty

It's such a wonderfully rare feeling to pick up a book and from the very first page you are instantly hooked. William Peter Blatty's The Ninth Configuration is one of these books for me where I just could not put it down and ended up finishing in one sitting. I've always been a fan of brevity, and Blatty accomplishes so much within only 130 pages: a well-written and devastating story with such vividly memorable characters, focusing on mental illness wrapped around religious parable and anti-war sentiments with perhaps even a touch of allegory sprinkled in for good measure.

Blatty prose is subtle, distilled and simple in its structure, which to a certain degree, reminded me Hemingway's style of writing. His characters are not used as didactic mouth pieces. He skillfully sets up philosophical debates that battle each other out within the context of the story amonst the different characters; namely, between Cutshaw and Colonel Kane. Blatty has a natural ear for dialogue and much of the novel consists of sharp dialogue between the characters but it never comes across as contrived or ostentatious; that is, it does aid in driving the story forward but contains its own unique rhythms and intricacies to flesh out the characters that never feels forced. While the novel does deal explicitly at times about the existence of God and can be very serious at times, there is also a lot of humor to be found especially in the witty dialogue. I particularly enjoyed the allusions to Hamlet's madness as a way to potentially explain the roots of mental illness: "Cause acting nutty is a safety valve, a way to let off steam; a way to get rid of your fucking aggressions and all of your guilts and your fears...(75). I couldn't agree more with this statement. A great and absorbing read that I am bound to revisit in the future. Thanks for the recommendation, D. 

Read on May 13, 2011 

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