The Columbine Pilgrim (英語) ペーパーバック – 2020/1/11
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"Columbine! My port in the storm of my life. Columbine, my religion! Oh, little town of Littleton…Immaculate Heart of Colorado, flower of my faith…sweet refuge."
Meet Tony Meander. He's a devotee of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the two teens who carried out the Columbine High School massacre on April 20th, 1999. The Columbine shooting may have shocked America and the world, but to legions of bullied nerds across the planet, "Reb" and "Vodka" became heroes, avenging angels striking back against a world that had abused them. Meander is one of those nerds, a man whose journey to Columbine changes him forever, setting forth a dark plot that will make his name go down in history.
Described as "Joker before Joker," The Columbine Pilgrim is an affecting and twisted examination of loneliness, bullying, and revenge. Andy Nowicki's novella is a look at the forgotten man: his trials, his self-deceptions, and what he becomes capable of when the world drives him to madness.
Originally published by Counter-Currents Publishing in 2011, Terror House Press is proud to bring this modern classic back into print. This second edition includes a new foreword by Colin Liddell and an afterword by Nowicki, where he looks back on the nine years since the book's publication.
“The Columbine Pilgrim is an intense, disturbing, and fascinating read. It’s certainly not for the squeamish, but it’s a great look into the fractured mind of a mass shooter.” — Ben Arzate, author of The Story of the Y
“...a volatile, though morally-centered cocktail that serves up a psychotic helping of revenge porn within the context of a tenuous redemption narrative.” — Chip Smith, The Hoover Hog
“...Nowicki communicates some of the likely emotions of all killers in all times, from 9/11 to Columbine and so back through a gory gallery of kamikazes, janissaries, fuzzy-wuzzies, Assassins, Thuggees, Golden Hordes and Berserkers. Like them, he wants to create mounds of skulls as his meaningful monument, believing it is much better to be unspeakable than to be unknown.” — Derek Turner, New English Review
"The Columbine Pilgrim is an intense, disturbing, and fascinating read. It's certainly not for the squeamish, but it's a great look into the fractured mind of a mass shooter." -- Ben Arzate, author of The Story of the Y
"...a volatile, though morally-centered cocktail that serves up a psychotic helping of revenge porn within the context of a tenuous redemption narrative." -- Chip Smith, The Hoover Hog
"...Nowicki communicates some of the likely emotions of all killers in all times, from 9/11 to Columbine and so back through a gory gallery of kamikazes, janissaries, fuzzy-wuzzies, Assassins, Thuggees, Golden Hordes and Berserkers. Like them, he wants to create mounds of skulls as his meaningful monument, believing it is much better to be unspeakable than to be unknown." -- Derek Turner, New English Review
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I found much to be fascinated with in this well-crafted novella but what grabbed me most was the artful manner in which the author portrays, with subtlety and keen accuracy, the psychological trajectory his anti-heroic protagonist traverses.
As a child and teen who attended nine elementary and high schools across Canada, being the "new boy" every two or three years saw me targeted for abuse by the nastiest bullies on a regular basis. Unlike Nowicki's character Tony Meander, however, I wouldn't hesitate to put a fast end to their efforts. An unexpected punch in the shoulder from the goon in the desk next to mine in English class, for example, would find his front teeth displaced by a stiff elbow (I played centre for the bantam -13-14 year olds - AA rep Mississauga Black Hawks in the Metro Toronto Minor Hockey league when fights were still allowed; didn't they know this on the left coast?). The point is, as I read the weakness of Meander's response to those who bullied him, I felt a mix of pity and frustration. Hit back, I kept thinking. So what if they jump you? Yeah, you might get beat up but at least they'll learn you're not easy prey and, more important, you'll save your pride.
Not everyone is lucky enough to have parents who see the value in signing their kids up for contact sports or martial arts training, though. Confident children know that, as long as they meet a bully's challenge - win or lose - they gain enough respect from the group to be left alone (as the young Meander desires) or establish friendships. Much of Nowicki's skill, as I perceive it in The Columbine Pilgrim, rests in his ability to take the reader well enough into the mind of Meander, the youth, that it is possible to set judgment aside and to appreciate, with compassion, how crippling low self-confidence, chronic anxiety, isolation and repressed rage can be to the healthy development of self.
Developmental psychologists have long informed us of the overriding need among adolescents to establish a sense of belonging, especially with peers. So, it makes sense that Meander's disconnection from various segments of the group (brutal bullies, unhelpful bystanders, and sexy humiliatrices) would manifest as dissociative in the story's second act when his young adult self sojourns west to Littleton, CO. I took an upper level course in abnormal psychology decades ago wherein the topic of my term paper assignment concerned dissociative disorders. I thought that knowledge had evaporated over the past 30 years, as I did not pursue a career in counseling or psychiatry, but it all rushed back as Meander's trip unfolded on my Kindle. The character's fractured identity is evident in such symptoms as memory lapses (dissociative fugue), a sense of detachment from the body or of being in a movie (derealization), his wondering if the entire trip is really happening (depersonalization), and his conversations with his "God self" - a protector alter-personality - and such other split-off selves as his persecutor and avenger alters (dissociative identity disorder). Being ostracized as the adolescent Meander is in the story is emotionally and psychologically traumatic for young people and dissociative disorders have long been known to result from trauma sustained in our early and formative years. Psychologically, The Columbine Pilgrim is consistent with the clinical literature and this lends an intuitive ring-of-truth to the narrative.
In the third act, the narrator's point-of-view shifts from first to third person, from Meander's self-described experience to that of the author of a journalistic report on the high school reunion he had attended in act two and what may have led him to act as he did while there. His identity has apparently crystallized. The alters that comprise his once fragmented self have surrendered to the avenger whose attitude is the opposite to that which he possessed when he last stood in the company of his classmates: resolute, self-assured and uncompromising.
If there is a message to take away from this story, it might be found in the need for those charged with the responsibility of raising, teaching and guiding young people to imbue them with basic respect for their own dignity and for that of others, and that failure to do so might well result in disastrous consequences. But the novella goes a step further in questioning if this expectation is realistic. The sad answer, expressed in the story's subtext, is probably not. Most people don't give a damn until something akin to what occurs in The Columbine Pilgrim's climax touches their own lives and, by then, they're too traumatized to approach it with competence.
When we hear those in mainstream media prattle on about school shootings as "senseless acts of violence" or "inexplicable tragedies," we would do wise to remind ourselves that such incidents do not occur in a vacuum. They happen for reasons society's leaders have yet to show an interest in confronting, aside from wearing a blue lapel ribbon one day out of the year. In the meantime, they appear satisfied to sneak through life in masked terror, uttering insincere bedtime prayers they well know their God won't hear.