Picks and Pans Review: Dear Mr. Capote

UPDATED 06/20/1983 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 06/20/1983 at 01:00 AM EDT

by Gordon Lish

"Dear Mr. Capote, Effectuate a good grip on your socks! Get ready to shake, rattle, and roll! Is this your lucky day or is this your lucky day?" Style is everything in this amazing first novel by a noted editor at Alfred A. Knopf. Dear Mr. Capote is told in the breathless, hyper prose of a madman who is killing women by stabbing them in the eye with his knife, nicknamed Paki. He is writing this epistle in hopes that Truman Capote will tell his story; Norman Mailer has already refused. On one level, the killer is perfectly ordinary. He works in a bank and is devoted to his young son. On the other, he is a homicidal maniac who, mysteriously, kills women because "their eyes are bigger" than men's. The language is deliberately banal, laced with curses, relentless scatology and puzzling references that only gradually become clear. There are moments so ugly readers will recoil, yet the book is darkly funny, too—wild, difficult and, somehow, hypnotic. This one is for those with strong stomachs and a curiosity about what is happening in contemporary fiction. (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, $15.95)

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