Thursday, March 12, 2009

Book Recommendation: The Tenant

I finished The Tenant by Roland Topor. I should mention that I'm not a big fan of existentialism. The novel is often described as existentialist horror. Not my thing, either.

I liked parts of the book--the feeling of paranoia present in the final few chapters is fantastic. Some of the images are haunting: the teeth Trelkovsky finds stashed in a hole under his baseboard...weird. The morning he wakes and realizes he is missing a tooth and knows just where to find it...priceless.

It was the pacing of the novel that disappointed me. Sometimes, pacing issues are due to the translation. This was different. For the first 2/3 of the book, each chapter stands alone, seemingly unconnected. Yes, most elements do come together in the end, but some bits just float.

The same is true for certain images/events. Trelkovsky wakes in the night and sees strange, carnival-show goings on in his courtyard. While strange, I finished the book scratching my head. What was that all about? The old, dark woman sitting on a trash can when he tries to sneak into the building at night...also very weird and scary. But, how does she fit into the overall narrative?

Is it all just to unsettle the reader? Do I feel alienated? Yes...but disappointed, too. A string of disturbing events does not a plot make. Maybe that is the existentialist message--there is no plot in our pathetic, alienated lives. (twirls finger in the air with sufficient sarcasm)

I usually post these reviews on Amazon, and there I will be the odd man out (the current average is 5 stars). The book is important piece of the "horror canon"; I won't deny that. But I can't, in good conscience, rate it higher than 3/5.

A note on Centipede/Millipede Press: This is my third book from them this year (Some of Your Blood, The Other, & The Tenant), and I must say the quality is exquisite for a trade paperback. The layouts are professional, the introductions quite insightful, and the cover art perfect. Each includes additional writings from the author--a nice, added bonus. I'll be checking out more of their catalog soon.

6 comments:

Jamie Eyberg said...

I have never heard of this press before. this doesn't sound like my kind of book but it might be close enough in the horseshoe and hand grenade type way.

Natalie L. Sin said...

Maybe the weird stuff if inspired by fitful, disconnected nightmares?

Jeremy D Brooks said...

I don't know much about existentialism...is that like old-school literary emo? Like Rene Descartes playing drums for Fallout Boy?

Aaron Polson said...

Jamie - there were some nice, spooky bits...but...

Natalie - probably. No, definately.

Jeremy - I like to think of it as "define your own reality". A philospher would spin better BS than that, but it cuts to the core.

Catherine J Gardner said...

It sounds as if there was a lot in the book to turn it into something weird and wonderful. I worry that I give too many books 5 stars. I'm either a five or a 1 star girl.

Jeremy Kelly said...

Sounds good, but also sounds like it may leave me putting down the book and wondering where the hell I am, like after I've watched a David Lynch film.