cover image The Triumph of the Spider Monkey

The Triumph of the Spider Monkey

Joyce Carol Oates. Hard Case Crime, $9.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-78565-677-4

Originally published in 1976 and long out of print, this novella by Oates (Hazards of Time Travel) is a dark, disturbing trek through the mind of a psychotic killer. Bobbie Gotteson was found as an infant inside a New York City bus terminal footlocker. From that strange beginning, Gotteson’s life, as disjointedly relayed by him, is marked by one institution after another, including prison, while in between he fruitlessly scrambles as a struggling songwriting musician, actor, and gigolo—but he finds fame through murder, specifically with the hacking to death of nine stewardesses. One can never be sure of what is truth and what is delusion, leaving the reader lost within a story with nothing of substance to hold onto. This may have been Oates’s intention, but it makes for an unsatisfying and often distasteful experience. More coherent, but not much more satisfying, is the companion novella that tells of a survivor of Gotteson’s and the obsession of a young man hired to watch her. This one’s strictly for Oates fans. (July)