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[personal profile] viktor_haag
Very different to the movie, a quick read, and pretty unrelentingly bleak, "The Grifters" is perhaps one of Jim Thompson's best known books (because of the Frears' film from Westlake's adaptation script). This is the first of Thompson's books that I've read through (currently working on "The Killer Inside Me" as well), but it's strong and I recommend it, especially if you like the dark noir crime genre.

One of the really interesting differences between the film and the book is Westlake's excision of the Carol Roberg character. It seems to me that the book provides Roberg as a means to show the reader that people can and do rise above their circumstances, are capable of making ethical and moral choices even in the face of hideous emotional difficulty. I'm not sure that Roberg's role is needed in the film: it's certainly not central at all to the triangular struggle between Roy, Lilly, and Moira/Myra. But it lends the book a balance that the film must depend upon the viewers to supply on their own.

I very much enjoyed Thompson's book, and recommend it without reservation, but only if that sort of thing is to your taste. None of the principal characters are sympathetic, although Roy teeters on the brink of sympathy as Thompson does make some effort to portray his internal conflict. In the end, though, Roy's nature is so far gone that his glimpses of movements towards decency were pretty much groping around in the dark: knowing that he was broken, knowing that there was supposed to be something he might be able to do to fix himself, but just not having the emotional equipment to form an adequate articulation toward that regard. Whether or not Dillon is, in the end, redeemable and worthy of our sympathy is a crux of the narrative: to a certain extent I rather feel that Dillon deserves sympathy only in the way that any person deserves sympathy, and the very fact that Roy, Lily, Moira, and others like them, live in the world without this basic connection to other human beings points at the thing that distinguishes us from the single-minded predators that the Dillons and Langtrys of the world typify.


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October 2012

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