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Gurglings of a Putrid Stream

Thoughts on books and other assorted topics.

See also:  http://goppf.wikidot.com/swstart

My name:  Brian Martin

Twinkle, Twinkle, "Killer" Kane by William Peter Blatty

Twinkle, Twinkle, "Killer" Kane - William Peter Blatty

TTKK is a truly remarkable book, albeit one with very little intrinsic value. It's about Colonel Hudson Kane, who comes to the Bela Slovik mansion as a famous psychologist tasked with "curing" its nutty Air Force inmates, among whom is the astronaut who flaked out prior to America's first mission to the moon. Kane, however, doesn't much act like a psychologist and Cutshaw, the astronaut, doesn't appear to be entirely batty. Things aren't exactly what they seem.

Before he wrote The Exorcist, William Peter Blatty wrote three comic novels, this one being the last and, I can only hope (not having read the others), the worst. Yet I feel pretty confident in saying it is the most interesting of the three.

What makes it bad are the characters: they're all insane. Or, worse, they're all pretending to be. Either way, they act like fools. It's a particularly lazy brand of comedy that finds its humor in absurdity for its own sake. One character continually hammers the walls of the mansion to make their atoms pay for not allowing him to pass through without benefit of a door while another spends his time writing (and eventually casting) the plays of Shakespeare...for dogs. Oh, Blatty manages some funny lines along the way -- one about whether or not it would be considered bad form to cast a Great Dane as Hamlet -- but that's easy enough when you can tailor the situation to the lines, rather than the other way around. Nor does it help that, this being an irreverent, vaguely anti-war novel (it was published in 1966), the brass, including a Senator, are portrayed as idiotic madmen.

What makes it interesting, though, is this: it is one of the most blatant blueprints for a later work you will ever read. Not that it was intended that way. But all the obsessions that led Blatty to write The Exorcist are present in TTKK -- from the simple love of movies to the coexistence of evil and a benevolent God; everything, in fact, including a discussion of possession and exorcism. Readers of The Exorcist will note that Blatty even uses an astronaut in both.

The religious and philosophical discussions of Kane and Cutshaw are the meat of the book (and if that juxtaposition, of absurd comedy and religious exploration, seems odd, you're right, it is), but there's too little of it to make a decent meal. Especially when the rest is fluff -- meringue minus the pie.