Cormoran Strike, Dungeons and Dragons, and Creepy ‘Eileen’

I’m utterly enthralled by Cormoran Strike, the private detective at the center of JK Rowling’s pseudonymous crime series. The third book, Career of Evil, finds Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott the target of a psychopath with a penchant for dismemberment–and Robin seems to be his target. Rowling (as Robert Galbraith) understands that she can’t just deliver an intricately plotted crime story, she also has to take the characters further on their journey. At the end of the book, I was so heavily invested in Cormoran and Robin that I kept reading and rereading the last sentence, just to make it last.

I came across this New Yorker profile of Gary Gygax, the creator of Dungeons and Dragons. My interest in participating in role-playing games is pretty low, but I find the phenomenon fascinating, particularly as a child of the 1980s raised in a very conservative Christian environment. I had totally read (and been scared straight) by that Chick tract mentioned in the article. But what really jumped out at me was the mention that Rona Jaffe wrote a book about D&D called Mazes and Monsters. It was every bit as schlocky as I hoped it would be.

Eileen by Otessa Moshfegh ticked many my preferred boxes: lonely, isolated heroine, psychologically complicated relationships, and an unreliable narrator. The titular narrator tells the story of a horrific incident that happened when she was much younger, all while letting us know that she’s a much different person now. Eileen lives in squalor with her hoarder father, and works in the most grim boys’ prison you could ever think of. She’s captivated by a new employee, a counselor named Rebecca, who seems eager to win the stolid, repellent Eileen’s friendship. The unraveling is rightly compared to both Hitchcock and Shirley Jackson. It may have been too sordid for me, but it was expertly written and I’m certainly keen to read what Moshfegh writes next.

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