This book will disturb you on a cellular level. Joyce Carol Oates drops you into the mindset of a sadistic, scheming serial killer and his day to day life. She shows you his thought process on everything from breakfast and navigating family dynamics to the stalking and choosing of his victims. I spent the entire book slightly nauseas with the creep chills. I probably would have stopped reading completely if it had taken more than a few hours to finish.
About the title, our protagonist has a dream,
“He would beg for his food & he would beg for his oxygen to breathe. He would be respectful at all times. He would lick with his tongue as bidden. He would suck with his mouth as bidden. He would spread the cheeks of his ass as bidden. He would cuddle like a teddy bear as bidden. He would rest his head on my shoulder like a baby. Or I would rest my head on his shoulder like a baby. We would lie beneath the covers in my bed in the CARETAKER’S room listening to the November wind & the bells of the Music College tower chiming & WE WOULD COUNT THE CHIMES UNTIL WE FELL ASLEEP AT EXACTLY THE SAME MOMENT.”
This is his idea of a perfect “zombie”. There’s actually more to his ideal candidate, but it was laboriously vulgar. How does he think he can create this situation? By giving people lobotomies with an ice pick in his bathtub.
It’s fucked up.
If you like true crime novels and shows like 48 hours, etc. you might enjoy this book. I can’t say that I did, more that I was lured in by my adoration of JCO and a passing thought that was something like “Oh she wrote a scary book! That’s intriguing.” As someone who also writes from a false perspective (Merlin diary, short stories from the p.o.v. of inanimate objects, etc.) I cannot imagine the mental place JCO had to inhabit while writing this book. Dark and twisty. No, thank you.