[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]
Robert Bloch’s 1959 novel, best remembered as the basis for Hitchcock’s 1960 classic film. I read a British paperback edition.
2 out of 5 stars.
Times Read: 2
Seen the Movie: Original, yes (though it’s been 10+ years); 1998 remake, no.
After stealing $40,000 from her employer, Mary Crane checks into a hotel run by strange, awkward Norman Bates.
At 153 pages this is more novella than novel. It’s a breezy read, handling its dark subject matter as though it was old-hat instead of a kick-off to the sympathetic-serial-killer genre.
I kept thinking of Ian Fleming’s Bond novels while reading Psycho; they have a similar matter-of-fact style and tendency to spend pages on inane inner monologues, each of these one-person conversations ending with the character nodding, shrugging or shaking their head (something I don’t believe many humans actually do while thinking. Let me know if I’m wrong). In a Bond novel I roll with it because they’re dumb and fun and the established world is ridiculous to begin with. In Psycho, I feel like Bloch was filling pages either because (a) He wanted to make the book novel-length or (b) He wasn’t sure what to do with the story and the characters’ thoughts are partly him trying to sort things out, too.
I’m going to lean into (a): Bloch had a great concept for a story, wanted to write a novel out of it, then realized there wasn’t enough meat for a novel. So he padded.
The chapters alternate third-person point of views, so we’ll get Norman’s side of a scene, then in the next chapter Mary (or Lila or Sam) will recount the same events from their point of view. It messes up the rhythm of the story and takes away tension. If Bloch had stuck with one perspective (Norman’s or Mary/Lila), this could have been incredibly tense.
The twist is so tied into pop culture that it’s no more surprising than the killer in Jaws being a shark. If, somehow, someone could read Psycho with absolutely no knowledge of Norman Bates committing the murders, then maybe this would be a fun read.