(Ken Laidlaw’s cover for the 1977 edition)
I have fallen victim to hidden encyclopedic desires and delusions…
William Kotzwinkle’s Doctor Rat (1976) was so compelling that I went through and marked each and every historical event and invented scientific article. Kotzwinkle might have believed one of the historical events was real (allegations of chemical warfare involving spiders and anthrax by the US in the Korean War) although most likely it’s a fabrication.
I examined at length in my review Kotzwinkle’s use of these two categories to create a “substrate” underpinning the world. This well-realized background causes the reader to, in my words, “increasingly wonder what is possible, what is happening, and what has already happened.” I suggest “Doctor Rat derives its power from not only the brutality of what unfolds but also the careful integration of both the historical and the imaginary.” Simultaneously, as the scientific citations are mentioned as part of Doctor Rat’s own “contributions” to the scientific world, they tend to operate as satirical indicators of cruelty done in the name of scientific progress.
These citations also add to the “compulsive syndrome” (175) of the novel’s conclusion as scientific tidbits, pseudo-scientific citations, historical events (both real and imaginary) collide….
Invented Scientific Articles
“It’s a 12-inch metal disc (for more, see my learned paper, “Rats on the Wheel,” Psy. Journal., 1963).” (10)
“Thank you, friends and fellow supporters, thanks for your confidence. As you know, the rat is man’s best friend. You’ve seen the advertisement in Modern Psychology magazine: “The Rat is Our Friend.'” (17) Continue reading