Over the weekend I read Norman Mailer's The Castle In The Forest.
What an odd, odd book. I'm not sure how I feel about it.
It's sorta a combination of Anne Rice and "Serious Literature."
The basic plot is that there are two supreme beings, The Maestro (The Devil) and The Big Dumkoff (God.) Both supreme beings are in a competition to take over the Earth as the one Master Supreme Being.
The two beings each have minions whose job it is to subtly change people's personalities in minor ways in order to push society or history in the direction they want.
It starts out with one of these minions being assigned a newborn baby in Austria named "Adi Hitler."
At first, the minion is a bit depressed to be assigned an infant, but the Maestro promises him that this boy has "potential."
So, he does what he can to fuck up the baby Hitler. First off he makes sure the kid's mom pays way to much attention to his anus during diaper changes. Then he gets Adi's dad to be both physically and mentally abusive.
Adi's dad eventually becomes a beekeeper and, of course, the minion makes sure that Adi's job is to gas the sick bees to death.
Along the way the minion gets distracted by other assignments, including causing a peasant riot after Tsar Nicholas II's coronation and engineering an assassination in Switzerland.
Mailer only takes the story to the point where Hitler is about 12 or 13, so you don't get any World War II stuff. There are also long passages dedicated to incest in every form imaginable, scat play, straight anal sex, gay sex and one old man who gets off by urinating while blowing adolescent boys.
That there is no overt rape scene is astounding. (I'm using the word "overt" intentionally.)
All in all a generally unpleasant book, but it is interesting. It has to take guts for a major American writer to write Hitler as a semi-innocent victim of larger forces. And Mailer writes very, very well.
But, I'm not sure I'd recommend it to anyone.