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So Far Gone: A Novel by Paul Cody

So Far Gone: A Novel (edition 1998)

by Paul Cody (Author)

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213495,208 (4)9
Title:So Far Gone: A Novel
Authors:Paul Cody (Author)
Info:Picador (1998), Edition: First Edition, Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:picador, anti-hero

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So Far Gone: A Novel by Paul Cody

  1. 00
    Angels by Denis Johnson (EnriqueFreeque)
    EnriqueFreeque: Cody quotes an excerpt from Denis Johnson's "Angels," along with one from Joan Didion and William Blake, so it's obvious Cody is giving Johnson a nod. Both deal extensively, though quite differently, in the details that brought their respective characters to the precipice of death row.… (more)

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At age 25, Jack murdered his mother, father and grandfather. The novel opens 10 years later as Jack is on death row, appeals exhausted, awaiting execution. His priest suggests he write an account to explain his actions. The novel consists of the story of "why" written by Jack, interspersed with the accounts of other witnesses, including neighbors, detectives, journalists, etc., who had knowledge of the events.

Jack is clearly psychotic, and his father was an alcoholic, his grandmother was abusive, and his mother failed to intervene. So there is plenty of dysfunction in his family to explain Jack's actions. As I was reading the novel, I was reminded of the book Red the Fiend by Gilbert Sorrentino, which is a much better book dealing with similar themes than So Far Gone.

2 1/2 stars ( )
  arubabookwoman | Mar 11, 2016 |
Mental illness and mass murder. The death penalty for a perpetrator who was grotesquely victimized by those he murdered. Hints of satanic ritual abuse (which could just as easily have been Jack Connor's delusions or dreams rather than memories), though the very real psychological abuse and daily double-binds he suffered at the controlling hands of his sadistic grandmother were just as satanic, and certainly the most destructive and damning forces in the long sad haul of his sorry, isolated existence (I won't call it a life), that he endured in a bleak house that might as well have been Death Row.

Is it seriously possible to empathize with this immature and mentally ill man who killed his grandmother and parents? Probably not. Not even when we see how his parents regularly threatened him with yet another psychiatric month-long incarceration at the local institution if he didn't shape up, and stop shuffling around late at night in his dreary attic room, keeping them awake with worry or driving them crazy, as if they needed any further assistance in the crazy department. Yet Paul Cody accomplishes this impossible feat, using "eyewitness" vignettes from a multitude of sources who knew him in school or from the psychiatric hospital, in rendering the decades-long process it took for Jack Connor to become that irreparably damaged human being capable of then being that automatic monster the police and media made of him, after the fact. But Jack Connor was not a psychopath.

Cody gave a knowing nod to Denis Johnson's first novel, Angels, and to Joan Didion, quoting both as a preface to his novel. Fans of either Johnson or Didion might be already predisposed toward appreciating a complexly disturbing novel like Cody's as I was, which is not to say that Cody, while certainly skilled as a storyteller, is as accomplished a writer as they are. Regardless, So Far Gone is still unforgettable, if uncomfortable, to read and then contemplate, considering how the murders might've been prevented or how Jack Connor, like unknown numbers of mentally ill, fall through the system's cracks, especially in light of too many recent mass murders in the news. ( )
3 vote EnriqueFreeque | Dec 30, 2012 |
This is a chilling look into the mind and history of a man awaiting execution for killing his parents and paternal grandmother. Jack Connor is the first person to be slated for execution in the state of MA in fifty years. The reader is also given a glimpse into the peripheral players in this man's life - a neighbor, a journalist, a prison guard, etc. Somehow, along the way, a sympathy is developed for Jack, who grew up in the most dysfunctional family possible where drugs, alcohol, abandonment, abuse and mental illness were integral to his chldhood. Each of the victims carried baggage from his or her own childhood, and we are left realizing the inevitability of Jack's horrific crime as his soul was destroyed.

I am impressed with Paul Cody's writing, and his skill in portraying Jack's memories in a way that makes him as much a victim as his parents and grandmother. ( )
3 vote pdebolt | Jul 25, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312200145, Paperback)

"I used to lean my chin on the windowsill and stare outside. It was cold or hot, the glass had ice on it or the window was open and air blew in. I looked out at the sky and trees, and everything was there, and I would someday go out to see all of it. Then I was much older, standing in front of the same window, and the sky and the air were the same, and the window was no bigger than twenty-five years earlier, but everything else was changed. Don't do this, I thought. Don't do this anymore, I whispered. And then I wanted to run and shout, wanted to get out somehow from my skin and be some other person in some other place..." The voice belongs to Jack Connor, who 10 years ago, at age 35, killed his parents and his grandmother. Now he sits on death row, waiting to become the first person executed by the State of Massachusetts in 50 years, taking the prison chaplain's suggestion and writing down everything he can remember. Connor's thoughts--clotted by years of clamping his feelings inward, but pierced with moments of intense sadness--alternate with the more coherent memories of other people who became a part of his story: a frightened neighbor, a pompous undertaker, an ambitious journalist, and other accidental tourists along Jack's road to violence. Author Paul Cody's major achievement here is hiding the art it takes to provide a chilling, completely unglamorous look into the soul of a murderer. --Dick Adler

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:14 -0400)

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