“The problem with movies and books is they make evil look glamorous, exciting, when it’s no such thing. It’s boring and it’s depressing and it’s stupid. Criminals are all after cheap thrills and easy money, and when they get them, all they want is more of the same, over and over. They’re shallow, empty, boring people who couldn’t give you five minutes of interesting conversation if you had the piss-poor luck to be at a party full of them….”
I did it again. Bought a Dean Koontz book I thought I hadn’t read, but I had. However, it’s such a sprawling, multi-threaded epic work that I’d forgotten most of it and didn’t tip to my mistake until I was a long way in.
From the Corner of His Eye is ostensibly about a remarkable, gifted boy who goes blind. But that boy, Bartholomew Lampier, actually occupies the stage for a small portion of the book, and much of that while he’s a baby. The real central character might be his mother Agnes, “the pie lady,” who has devoted her life to baking delicious pies, which she delivers to disadvantaged neighbors, along with groceries. Or it might be Detective Thomas Vanadium, former Jesuit priest and amateur physicist, who devotes his life to hunting down murderers, sometimes employing magic to apply psychological pressure.
One day in the early 1960s, a pastor in a small Oregon church delivered a radio sermon called, “This Momentous Day.” It focused on the career of the obscure apostle Bartholomew as an example of an individual who seemed undistinguished, but who in fact had eternal and world-spanning influence. Junior Cain, a murderer and a rapist, happened to hear that sermon. Somehow, within the foul fistula that made up his mind and soul, he came to believe that there was a man named Bartholomew – somewhere out there – who was bent on destroying him. So Junior makes it the obsession of his life to find this Bartholomew and kill him.
Junior is an interesting villain, mainly because he’s not really interesting at all. Having found his lifestyle guide in the books of a particularly egregious writer of the “Looking Out for Number One” self-improvement school, he considers himself a superior human being. In fact, though he is handsome and rich, he is thunderingly stupid. But that doesn’t make him less dangerous. There’s much dark comedy in the embarrassing physical reactions his vestigial conscience produces every time he kills someone. But the murders are still real, and the consequences tragic.
And that’s typical of the entire book. It’s about good and evil – how they intertwine in our world, how good comes out of evil and evil out of good. How we can’t know final ends or make comprehensible sense of it all, any more than quantum physics. But that we can live each day striving to do good and to love other people, and that we can have faith that our work and our love are not wasted. It’s sometimes heartbreaking and sometimes hilarious – just like real life.
I can’t really call From the Corner of His Eye a Christian book, because although it’s full of biblical allusions it doesn’t really say a lot about grace. But there’s nothing wrong with a book about virtue. You’re likely to put this book down with a desire to be a better human being on “this momentous day.”
Cautions for language, for troubling images, and for intense violence. Recommended.