Thursday, August 2, 2018

Powerful Pages: The Ninth Configuration by William Peter Blatty (1980)

Powerful Pages: The Ninth Configuration by William Peter Blatty (1980)

The Ninth Configuration is a curious venture, so it naturally makes for a curious read.  It defies expectations from the very start and interweaves some disparate genres in a quaint exercise in juxtaposition that makes it damn near irresistible.  Originally published as Twinkle, Twinkle, "Killer" Kane in 1966, the author revised the book and released it as The Ninth Configuration in 1980.  Blatty will forever be associated with The Exorcist, which is one of the greatest horror novels of all time.  Given the gothic trappings and a few macabre touches that are sprinkled throughout, many readers will expect something similar from The Ninth Configuration.  They will surely be disappointed.  In fact, anyone expecting anything that might equate to literal popcorn will be let down, as while the book exists largely as a comedy with a few horrific flourishes and one or two thrills, it is something entirely different at its core.  The structure is also something that may dismay many, as The Ninth Configuration is told mainly through colorful dialogue, and boasts a significant number of characters and events for a relatively brief tale that doesn't reach 200 pages in length.  At its quirky heart, this is a story of redemption, and it is frequently as much of a debate as it is a narrative.  The themes are complex, with the very nature of good and evil being explored as the power and authenticity of both psychology and religion are laid bare alongside equally insightful exploration of humanity itself.  These are heavy beats for a short book loaded with slapstick humor and a few provocative descents into terror and bloodshed.  While the end result is sure to be found lacking by those looking for something less quizzical and more titillating, I couldn't help but be overjoyed.  I laughed often, I was on the edge of my seat at times, and I found the conclusion to be profoundly moving.  Most importantly, The Ninth Configuration is the kind of book that you will not be able to experience without asking yourself some serious questions and pondering some of those powerful themes with a fresh perspective.

Final Grade: A-

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