I don’t watch a lot of TV. You might raise an eyebrow at this considering pretty much all of my character book lists are for TV characters, but I mostly tend to rewatch the same things over and over again, and by the same things I am mostly referring to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. So, you will be happy to know that I watched not one, but TWO new shows this year! The first one being Game of Thrones a million years late (I READ THE BOOKS WHEN I WAS IN COLLEGE, OR AT LEAST THE BOOKS THAT WERE OUT, BITE ME.), and the second one being True Detective. I got totally hooked by the occult murder mystery, the gorgeous cinematography, and the DELICIOUS and WISE Rust Cohle, who is the most recent addition to my list of “emotionally unavailable men whom I’d love to have break my heart.” He’s socially idiotic, a brilliant detective, and spouts some seriously bleak existential nuggets of wisdom, such as:
“I think human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution. We became too self-aware, nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself, we are creatures that should not exist by natural law. We are things that labor under the illusion of having a self; an accretion of sensory, experience and feeling, programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody, when in fact everybody is nobody. Maybe the honorable thing for our species to do is deny our programming, stop reproducing, walk hand in hand into extinction, one last midnight – brothers and sisters opting out of a raw deal.”
Isn’t that exactly what you want to hear during a post-coital spoon? Me, too!
But enough about that, what would he read?
The King in Yellow by Robert Chambers: This collection of truly weird early horror stories are the obvious and often quoted inspiration for the Yellow King referred to throughout the show, so this is an obvious choice.
Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: Yes, in its entirety. This isn’t just a good match because it’s about a really astute detective, but it’s also a good match because it’s about a really astute detective who is kind of a sociopath who has a drug problem. In other words, Rust Cohle is basically a Southern, twentieth century Sherlock Holmes.
A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick.: P.K. Dick’s semi-autbiographical account of one person leading dual lives as a serious drug user and a police agent investigating the drug user’s house should have some pretty serious resonance for Cohle, not only because he developed a serious drug habit through his work as an undercover detective, but also because I think Rust would really dig the psychedelic feel of a lot of Dick’s writing.
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami: As far as I’m concerned books don’t get much trippier than the stuff that Haruki Murakami writes, and this one is my personal favorite. There is mystery, there are sinister characters, there are endearingly nutty characters, there is time travel of a sort, and huge swaths of existential weirdness that must have, at a bare minimum, been created in the spirit of a hallucinogenic episode, though my money is on Murakami having done some serious drugs to produce that shit. I think that Cohle would really dig this super trippy, haunting, and mysterious piece of speculative fiction.
The Diviners by Libba Bray: OK OK OK so I really seriously doubt that Rust would read a YA novel, but this one is SO GOOD and SO APPLICABLE to his life’s work! It’s about a serial killer who returns to the world as a ghost to finish his ritual murders so he can manifest as THE BEAST. Sound familiar? This book is full of the same sense of darkness and dread that permeates True Detective, and it’s also just a totally bangarang read.
The Conspiracy Against the Human Race by Thomas Ligotti: Executive producer and writer Nic Pizzolatto has named the work of literary horror writer Thomas Ligotti as being one of the inspirations behind the creation of Rust Cohle’s character, and so it only seems fitting that he would read his darkly existential nonfiction.
****EDIT: It was brought to my attention that I couldn’t have a book list for Detective Cohle without some Nietzsche, so here is one more heavy he would most certainly have read and pondered:
Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche: I know I already have one bleak work of existential nihilism on here, but I’m pretty certain Cohle would have read this classic work on one of his favorite subjects.