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Tuesday, 27 April 2010


Look at THAT! Now that's what I call a cover!

Picked this up from a second-hand bookshop recently for 80p - as you can probably guess, it's the novel that spawned the film WILLARD. Except, the original title of the book is actually RATMAN'S NOTEBOOKS and takes the unusual and interesting format of diary entries, written by the titular 'Ratman'. There are no chapters, no dates and no times. The narrator also never mentions his name (Willard is from the film, not the novel) and in fact refers to most people by their job or sex ('The Book-Keeper', 'The Grocer', 'the girl'). Yet, none of this pulls you out of the fictive dream, and does indeed feel rather authentic.

The story follows the narrator as he is first tasked to kill some rats by his mother, but then studies them and realises how like people they are. After a little while he also realises that he has a 'thing' for them; an affinity. Soon, he's training rats to follow simple voice commands and plotting minor crimes, which in turn leads to...MURDER!

You see, the narrator works as a clerk in his father's business. But, when his dad died his business partner (a man known as 'Jones') took over, and now the narrator slaves away, doing exactly the same thing as he's always done, getting treated the same way and all the rest of it. The narrator starts to suspect he's only being kept around as a 'favour' and a sense of resentment starts to build up in him, compounded by Jones' smug and arrogant behaviour.

Suffice to say, a battle of wills builds up between the two men, and then between the narrator and his army of rats. Yes, he ends up controlling hundreds of the little buggers. There're also two love stories woven into the story, between the narrator and 'the girl' and the narrator and the smartest of the rats, Socrates, which is actually quite touching.

WILLARD/RATMAN'S NOTEBOOKS does very little wrong as it shows the somewhat pathetic world the narrator lives in, and his subsequent motivations to better himself and seek revenge on Jones, all of which ring true and, given the context, believable. And best of all, the ending is purposefully unfinished and ambiguous.

Here's the back cover, to further wet (whet?) your appetite:

I haven't seen the 70's (original) film version of WILLARD but I have seen the 2003 remake, and it's remarkably similar to the book, for the most part, and is very enjoyable despite being cut to ribbons by the censors/studio. Plus, it stars Crispin Glover in the title role and I fkkking love him (that reminds me...must re-watch BARTLEBY).