Sunday, June 14, 2015

Review: "Blood Will Out" by Walter Kirn

The first book in my non-fiction mini-break for the year is easily one of the best books I have read so far, and is for sure the creepiest since it is true. Walter Kirn’s self-eviscerating memoir Blood Will Out, about his friendship with a real life Thomas Ripley is the kind of haunting book that slowly, methodically sinks it’s way into the subconscious, much life a knife slowly puncturing the surface of your skin. It’s a nightmarish journey not only because it is true, but also because it is easily recognizable. We have all met someone like the “villain” of this book, a man who Kirn knew as Clark Rockefeller, and maybe even become friends with. He is someone who is entertaining to be around, has a strong presence and constantly makes you feel good about yourself. But all the while, you get hints about the type of person they really are. they aren’t dependable, they don’t have a lot of emotional depth or tangible personality, and you slowly realize the relationship has become parasitic, and you begin to question not only why they have this power over you, but why do you voluntarily give it to them, like Kirn did in this book. Granted, it is highly unlikely that the person in your life I am describing is as sociopathic as the one Kirn’s, but in just how malleable Kirn was in the process, and how it arose very simply, is the true horror and terror of this book. The book reads like a novel, that switches time periods; from the time Kirn first met Clark Rockefeller while on a cross-country trip from Montana to New York to deliver a crippled dog to him, to the time, almost a decade later, where Kirn found out that Rockefeller was really Christian Gerhartsreiter, a German immigrant with a history of false identities, forgeries and compulsive lying, after he is arrested and charged with a brutal 20 year old murder. The real curiosity here is witnessing Kirn’s look back on all the tiny details of Clark’s life that might have lead Kirn to his true nature as a con artist, such as the first time they met, and lowly sum he paid him for the trip, the false promises of meeting his personal friend, J. D. Salinger and the mysterious obsessions he has with Star Trek, global conspiracies and eventually, Kirn himself, all which tie into the murder Clark is accused of. I won’t reveal much else, but I will say that Kirn doesn’t let himself off the hook. He writes with a little bit of shame that he was so utterly gotten, despite his tumultuous personal life at the time. If I could pull a quote from this book that describes it perfectly, it is when a famous author gives Clark his opinion of the books he has written: “You’ve got industry, but you don’t have talent.” It can be taken in many ways, but the fact that someone like Kirn, Ivy League educated with a few novels under his belt, fell for Clark’s complex ruse, shows that none of us are safe against it. This is a cautionary tale with a silent vicious bite, and it never once failed to hypnotize me.

Rating: 5/5

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