Reviewed by Mr. Dark
Written by William Peter Blatty
Published by Forge Books
William Peter Blatty isn’t a horror writer. Sure, he just happens to have penned the book that became what many believe to be the most terrifying movie ever made as well as its sequel, Legion. He’s also written comedy novels as well as the first Inspector Clouseau movie, A Shot in the Dark.
With Crazy, his latest novel, you might say he’s jumbled all of the above up into one big…well…crazy story.
Crazy tells the tale of Joe El Bueno, son of an immigrant single father, who is writing down events from his life. He’s writing as an elderly man in Bellevue Hospital in New York. Bellevue is best known for its psychiatric care so you probably have some idea where we’re going here.
Joe’s memoir is…challenging. You see, when he was a kid, he had a strange relationship with a girl named Jane. Jane was his friend and confidant…and usually around his same age. I say “usually” because Jane seems to change ages, jump around in time, knows the future, can read Joe’s mind, and once (if a rather skittish usher is to be believed) levitated above the snack bar at the local theater.
We’re never sure of Joe’s true mental condition, but the book is a wild ride. Sentences run on, points get lost in ephemera, time keeps shifting in the narrative…there were times when I wasn’t sure if Joe or Blatty himself had gone round the bend.
Buried in the confusion are tales from Joe’s youth, growing up in New York prior to World War II. There’s a great deal of heart and humor in these stories, and every time things become morally questionable for Joe, Jane shows up and (mostly) attempts to guide him down the proper path.
Until she disappears and nobody except Joe seems to remember she existed.
This is not a horror novel. As I said in the beginning, Blatty isn’t a horror writer. The nature of Crazy, however, is inherently frightening. You can’t help but feel, for much of the book, that you’re getting a look inside a truly disturbed mind. Either Joe is indeed crazy, or he’s having run-ins with some supernatural being whose motives are less than clear. This is not a scary book, but it’s a scary concept: How does age ravage us? Is Joe’s present state a new development, or has he always been this way? Has a once clear and brilliant mind been dragged into confusion by Father Time? We really don’t know, and it leaves the reader uneasy yet captivated by Joe’s repeated encounters with Jane.
As the very short book (less than 200 pages in all) wraps up, things do become clearer, at least a little, and there is a satisfying resolution. I don’t want to call it a twist as no resolution to this story could be conventional. Whether you believe the truth as Joe writes it or if you feel there’s some bigger, more grounded ending that Blatty is showing us, it’s satisfying. It’s also poignant, bittersweet, and…wait, no, it’s just sweet. And warm.
Crazy left me with a smile on my face and a tear in my eye. It surprised me a great deal. It’s a bumpy ride at times, trying to keep up with the inner workings of Joe’s elderly mind, but Blatty is an amazing writer. He knows where he’s taking us, and there’s no need to be afraid. Well, okay, maybe a little.
4 out of 5
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