The scariest villains, are the ones who totally believe what they’re doing is okay.
The Dumb House by John Burnside
The Dumb House is an experiment inspired by our leading psychopath’s mother when she tells him as a child a story about a house where children are raised from infancy, never exposed to speech in the hope that they will just start speaking in their mother tongue of their own accord. He becomes fixated with this idea, first exploring the origins of the soul as a youth by cutting open animals and trying to some physical sign of a soul, and then as an adult where he sets up his own dumb house experiment. Psychopaths have been studied and written about a lot, so it’s always interesting when the author gives the voice to them, because to write convincingly from the point to view of someone who is by definition unable to empathize with others means that they can’t be writing from experience (thankfully). The Dumb House does this particularly well, providing us with a narrator who not only doesn’t see a problem with any of the atrocities that he commits in the name of ‘science’, but speaks of them as if the audience is okay with it too.
Perfume by Patrick Suskind
Similar to the Dumb House, this is about a psychopath with a mission. In this, our guy has an almost super human sense of smell, and decides he’d quite like to become a perfumer, creating essential oils out of people. More specifically, young prostitutes that he kills on the streets of France and then stores in a huge vat of oil until he can distill their scent. It’s F**ked up. Seriously.
I’ve saved the best til last, as Annie Wilkes is the greatest, all time crazy in fiction. But Annie is no psychopath, she is capable of love so intense that it inspires her to kidnap her favourite author Paul Sheldon and force him to re-write her favourite novel because she doesn’t like the way he ended it. And lets be honest, we’re all readers here, who can’t sympathise with that? Annie Wilkes is terrifying because she’s so ambiguous and ambiguity makes us uncomfortable. She loves the author because he’s created a work of fiction that has become a big part of her life, she saves his life, she wants to impress him with her candle lit dinners and her flattery, but she’s willing to do great violence to him if he doesn’t do what she asks, and does, often. She’s a woman, a nurse no less, a voluptuous single lady who likes reading romance novels, and yet, you can’t categorize her as feminine even when she does have her girlish moments, because she isn’t, or at least not in the traditional eyelash batting sense of the word. She’s capable and lives alone in the middle of nowhere confident enough to driving through snowstorms on her own and strong enough to wade through snowdrifts and carry wounded novelists back to her car. She can be incredibly tender, but just so easily ice cold and while she’s managed to live her life as a rather peaceable member of her small community on her little patch of farm land, she’s more than willing to murder any member of that community that gets in her way. She’s awesome, and she’s my favourite. I guess you could even say that I’m her number one fan. Ha!
Happy Halloween everyone!