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The Hilliker Curse: My Pursuit of Women

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture Posted by Joshua Chaplinsky

The Hilliker Curse: My Pursuit of Women

"The Hilliker Curse" by James Ellroy
Joshua Chaplinsky
Ellroy continues to work out his mommy issues in his most candid piece of writing to date.

Onanist. Pervert. Peeping tom. Glue huffer. Panty sniffer. Homeless drifter. John. By his own admission, James Ellroy has been each of these things; he wears it like a badge of honor. In his mind, as a child, he was a murderer. As an adult- a dedicated son and a devoted husband. But what a lot of people don't realize, is that above all else, he always has, and always will be, a man whose life is ruled by women.

In fact, past allegations of misogyny are almost laughable in light of his obsession with woman and their approval. It is a pursuit that consumes him. The Hilliker Curse is a document of this relentless need, painting him as a man whose existence revolves around the women in his life, as well as the women who might be in his future. 

It is all unabashedly Freudian. In the wake of his parent's divorce, young Ellroy, brimming with equal parts hatred and lust, "summons" his mother dead in an imaginary act of vengeance. Little does he know that in three months time, his wish will be fulfilled. In a crime that parallels the famed murder of Elizabeth Short, his mother's lifeless body is found by the police.

The dreaded curse is enacted and follows Ellroy throughout his life- from his delinquent years living in the park to his nascent career as a crime novelist, through his first and second marriage and beyond.  As we read an obvious pattern emerges. Ellroy craves the company of strong women, but is also a self-destructive loner haunted by his past.

Curse centers mainly around the author's doomed relationships, but also gives tantalizing glimpses into the mind of Ellroy the writer. Historical context provides reference points with which to track his career in relation to his personal life. His first novel, Brown's Requiem, is written while working as a golf caddy, frequenting prostitutes, and lusting after an unattainable cellist, and is heavily influenced by these events. Fast forward to the release of Blood's A Rover and women are still wreaking havoc on Ellroy's life and writing, as evidenced by the pervading presence of The Red Goddess Joan.

As always, the writing is razor sharp, infused with Ellroy's patented abrasive black humor. He holds nothing back, putting his every flaw on display for the whole world to see. Whether this cathartic act is embellished for the sake of the audience or is 100% genuine cannot be known for sure. Ellroy has always been a showman, especially when it comes to his personal life.

Ellroy crushes and pursues as the story builds, then sabotages what he holds most dear. It becomes almost predictable, in a sad sort of way. But a story needs an ending, and The Hilliker Curse finishes on a note of hope as Ellroy embarks on a new relationship. This is the one, he tells us. The fabled "Her" destined to break the curse. We hope for his sake that he's right, although his history with women speaks for itself.