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Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin

Some years ago, I read a manuscript called CALF, a brilliant, ambitious novel about the eighties, about violence, and a world where a Washington socialite guilty of murdering her daughter and John Hinckley could both wind up at St. Elizabeth’s for reasons of insanity. And become romantically involved. I got down on one knee and asked the author, Andrea Klein, if she would have me as her agent. Our walk to the altar of publication was long and full of pot holes, but we got there. CONGRATULATIONS ANDREA on the publication of Calf. You slay me.

What is the most violent novel you’ve read and how has it affected you? I’ll ask Andrea to choose the top three responses and send the “winners” copies of CALF. You can’t win if you don’t play.

20 Responses

  1. I realized, as I tried to think of an answer for your question, that I haven’t read that many violent books. Shakespeare’s tragedies are an easy answer, and The Godfather seems almost kitschy in its violence. I mean, it’s violent and all, but its violence didn’t affect me. You, by Carolyn Kepnes, though, has a violence that did horrify me, and it made me think. Joe locks up women, murders them, and then thinks he’s fallen in love. In Joe’s world, the violence of love is almost as unnerving as the violence of murder.

  2. I don’t read or watch violence because more often than not it’s gratuitous and spawns more of what the world doesn’t need, even if that’s the opposite of the author/film maker intention. So I lose on the prize which isn’t the first time. However! Your pitch is so awesome, I want to read this. Maybe because as a kid, St. Elizabeth’s was where we would be sent if we were bad. I just ordered it. Congratulations to Andrea!

  3. DEAR MR. CAPOTE, by Gordon Lish. It was the first book I read that was both so good I wanted to recommend it to my friends, while at the same time being so brutal that I didn’t want to subject anyone else to it.

  4. It wasn’t a novel, but rather Vincent Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter. It was so real in its impact on me that I dreamed that I was at the gate outside Sharon Tate’s house the night of the Manson murders. I dreamed about the LaBianca murders the following night. After dreaming about Manson and his followers a third night, I never read the book again. No other story affected me as much before or since. Sent from my iPhone

    >

  5. LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN by Hubert Selby, Jr. Shocking and vivid. Extraordinary language and sentences. A novel that gave me permission to write novels with un-simple narrative shifts.

  6. Ooooo, I love me some contests!

    Hmmm. Well. All of Cormac McCarthy’s works are violent for one reason or another (and depraved) but, since I read Child Of God first, I’m going to pick that one. I’m picking that one because there’s no other author I’m aware of who has made me squirm with discomfort, while laughing at the same time. I felt scummy and rather demented after reading it. Scummy because after I realized what Lester Ballard was up to, I wanted to KEEP reading to find out just how far he’d go, and demented, because, honestly? Who could read about THAT and not feel a little twisted afterwards? I think I’m over it. I think.

  7. Generally don’t read ’em because I can’ t cope with ’em. Can’t watch a violent movie. Can’t deal with blood. Evidently I am missing out. Nevertheless… speaking of Capote, In Cold Blood was rife with curdling details. And true, of course. Mostly I was affected with admiration for Capote’s uncanny ability to get inside the heads of the murderers, and the murdered.

  8. For direct violence? Killing Floor from Lee Child comes to mind. For the most disturbing? Sharp Objects from Ms. Flynn.

    1984 would have to be in my top three. Room 101 speaks to all those familiar demons in the last hours before dawn.

  9. Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell. Meth fueled violence and strange family ties, lines like “I already told you once to shut up with my mouth” (Ree’s uncle to his blabbering girlfriend) and Ree getting beat up by not so distant female in laws and cousins. The pain of those beatings feels all too commonplace and real, the beaten but not broken young woman spitting out teeth and relying on the painkillers of others. It’s a truly gruesome scene when the same relatives that stomped her take Ree out to the frozen swamp and instruct her on how to bring back the proof she needs about her father to help save the family land, using the chainsaw not once but twice.

  10. I’d like to recommend Jerzy Kosinski’s “Steps” . All sorts of totalitarian absurdity amid the destruction of souls and dreams, yet none of it seems gratuitous. For a while after finishing it, most books seemed very meh.

    • The Painted Bird was one of the most upsetting books I’ve ever read, both psychologically and physically violent.

  11. The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Well, I sleep less well after having read it. I think of the people in the cellar and thank fucking god I’m not in the cellar. The true understanding of dread has stayed with me long after putting it down.
    xo

  12. Last Days by Brian Evensong, I think it was the ease of the self inflicted wounds being described that made the violence seem more brutal to the reader. A well written piece and yes, violent.

  13. Although John Sandford’s Rules of Prey may not be the most violent novel I’ve ever read, it is the violent novel that has had the most profound effect on me. Before I picked up this book in 1989 I was a total and complete science fiction aficionado, boasting more than 2,000 such novels in my collection. After reading Rules of Prey, which I picked up on a whim, I sold all of my science fiction books and turned instead to mysteries and thrillers, which to this day remain my much beloved reading addiction!

  14. Well now I’m reading Calf and You in the dark and am freakin’ terrified. Thanks everybody!

    No. Really. Thanks! Love this

  15. Blood Meridian was the most violent, but it didn’t affect me. I’ve been desensitized..

  16. “Bastard out of Carolina” I had murder in my heart for weeks.

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