Monday, May 11, 2015

Me and the Devil – review

Author: Nick Tosches

First published: 2012

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: An aging New Yorker, a writer named Nick, feels life ebbing out of him. The world has gone to hell and Nick is so sick of it all that he can't even have a glass of champagne. Then one night he meets a tantalizing young woman who agrees to come back to his apartment. Their encounter is the most strangely extraordinary of his life. Propelled by uncontrollable, primordial desires, he enters a new and unimagined dimension of the forbidden and is filled with a sexual and spiritual ecstasy that is as intense as it is unholy.

Suddenly Nick's senses are alive. He feels strong, unconquerable, beyond all inhibition and earthly morality. He indulges in life's pleasures, pure and perverse, sublime and dangerous, from the delicate flavors of the perfect tomato to the fleshy beauty of a woman's thigh. But Nick's desire to sustain his rapture leads him to a madness and a darkness far greater and dreadful than have ever ridden the demon mares of night.

Writing in a lineage that includes Dante, William S. Burroughs, Charles Bukowski, Hubert Selby, Jr., and Hunter S. Thompson, Nick Tosches may be America's last real literary outlaw-a fearless, uncensorable seeker of our deepest secret truths and desires, from the basest to the most beautiful. Me and the Devil is outrageous, disturbing, and brilliant, a raw and blazing novel truly unlike any other. Like the man said: Read him at your peril.

The review: The third paragraph of the blurb offers Nick Tosches prose an enviable lineage. As I read this novel I must admit that Bret Easton Ellis came to mind as did Burroughs. Perhaps Burroughs was the most obvious, on a superficial level – and I say that not to denigrate this novel but because the rhythm of the prose, the background music found in the sentences and structures, was actually very different.

What we have is a fictional biography – the main character is a writer called Nick Tosches – an exploration of aging, addiction and the seedy underbelly of human desire. The addiction, by the way, is alcoholism more than it is blood. The observations around the displacement of the need for alcohol to the need for sobriety that are made within are insightful. That said Nick does discover the joys of blood play within this and in doing so Tosches explores some of the sexual and sensual themes of the vampire genre and, in doing so, I was reminded of the excellent novel Throat Sprockets by Tim Lucas.

The character of Nick is not a pleasant character, casually racist, misogynist at times and self-centred. The imbibing of blood would seem to have physical effects on his libido and his physique, making him feel younger and causing his muscles to tighten, shifting his blood type (from A to AB), causing his eyes to change colour. Nick’s ego is shown in the fact that he feels he is becoming a God, however we become unsure as to what is reality and what is not. The apparent murder of two women, that he cannot remember, may or may not have occurred (or had his involvement). Nick’s beliefs and actions might all be part of a psychotic break.

If I had a complaint about the book it is that, towards the end, I felt it lost its way. Meandering where it had strode purposefully, the direction becoming almost lost. However that might have been a reflection of what Tosches was doing with the character, but for me it just felt a little adrift. That said the whole experience was very worthwhile. 8 out of 10.

No comments: