“Do all little girls have to die?”
The End of Alice (1996) is a complex, controversial tale that evolves through the correspondence between two disparate pedophiles; the narrator, an older, unnamed man imprisoned for murder and molestation and an 18 year old college kid referred to only as “the girl”. She is compelled to write to him about her maiden foray into pedophilia. The author, A.M. Holmes, uses the prisoner to weave us through both of their stories. As this biased narrator recounts the girl’s story of her summer “project”, it provokes within him the memory and recollection of Alice; his most important past victim. He weaves us back and forth from the girl and her letters, his own sordid past, to his current deteriorating life in prison.
Both the narrator and the girl question if her “true” calling is to be a pedophile as she recounts her seduction (and consumption) of 12 year old Matt.
“She slips the scab into her mouth. He shudders. She is eating him. He’s never seen anything like it. His eyes roll into his head; he falls back onto the bed. Fainted. Out for the night.”
At the same time we learn the story of his own road to pedophilia harkened by his horrific abuse as a child, perpetrated by his mother.
“My hand goes through a dark curtain, parting velvet drapes. My fingers slip between the lips of a secret mouth. My mother makes a sound, a guttural ahhh. I try to pull my hand out, but she pushes it back in. Pushes it in and then pulls it out, pushes and pulls, in and out, in, out. ”
The End of Alice, while extremely well written, is not a comfortable read. The explicit nature of the sexual acts paired with the sensual narrative and intellectual rationalizations is cause for much unease.
“For many people this book is erotically arousing. Part of the challenge was to put the intellectual, the horrific and the sexual all together. Attraction and desire are deeply, deeply complicated. They’re not always healthy, they’re conflicted. I think we have to acknowledge that. The book is also about the abuse of children.” A.M. Holmes, author interview, BOMB
And if you don’t feel dirty enough after roaming around in the narrator’s brain (and the girls’ brain by proxy), the author has published a companion piece, “Appendix A:” A pedophile’s scrapbook of sorts.
“Appendix A is like a file of folders, I keep calling it epistemological evidence…Appendix A is an illustration of the process of imagination. And it blurs fiction, fact, and art. I stole these police report forms and filled them out as though they were real.” A.M. Holmes, author interview, BOMB
Quite a controversial pair of books to give you a unique peek into a lurid world that asks more questions than it answers. Definitely not for everyone. The End of Alice pushes boundaries, but Holmes does it in a very high-end, skilled manner. It is not a glorification of child abuse but it does not tip-toe around the minds of those who perpetrate it. You won’t look at your shoe salesmen and babysitters in quite the same way again!