Friday, 28 February 2014

Headhunter by Timothy Findley

Headhunter is not a book to read if you want the word "settled" to enter your vocabulary any time in the near future. It is perhaps as unsettling a book as I am willing to read, and yet, I've read it three or four times now. It keeps drawing me back, for all its horror.

Kurtz has escaped from Heart of Darkness and is loose on the streets of Toronto. Well, not only loose, but the head of a psychiatric institution, and there, he is delving even further into the darkest depths of the human psyche than perhaps he has ever done before.

Lilah Kemp, schizophrenic and spiritualist, was the one who accidentally let him out of the book where he should have stayed. She attempts to negotiate madnesses real and perceived in order to get him back in.

And of course, every Kurtz has his Marlowe, a new psychiatrist taking up a job at the same institution, and walking into a world of more darkness and horror than he expected.

Where are these damaged children coming from? Why is one of his fellow psychiatrists becoming erratic and desperate? What secrets are the walls holding - and who do those secrets belong to?

Headhunter is a story of madnesses, of who wants to control the mad, and who wants to help them learn to live with their madness. Of what happens when the rich of Toronto, old money and nouveau riche alike find themselves in a maelstrom of hidden desires, unleashed on the city with the encouragement of some of those who are supposed to be helping them.

Money underlines this book, money and what those who have a lot of power, might also desire to do, and to what depths they might willingly sink.

Madness exists in this book on a societal level, on an individual level, on a family level. And it is accompanied by a desire for control, as Kurtz tries to see how much power letting others travel down the darkest depths of their own desires might give him.

As well as Kurtz and Marlowe, Jay Gatsby and Emma Bovary make guest starring appearances in this book, and it makes me wonder if there are other allusions I missed....

Findley went very, very dark with Headhunter and yet I keep coming back to it.

No comments:

Post a Comment