The Devil Inside

Friday, December 7, 2012

Nick Tosches. "Me and the Devil." Little, Brown. 387 pp. $26.99

If E.L. James had written "Fifty Shades of Grey" from a Christian's perspective and with a measure of literary intelligence, I imagine it would read something like Nick Tosches' latest, "Me and the Devil."

Nick, the main character who coincidentally -- or not -- shares at least a first name with the author, is an aging writer who cannot seem to find inspiration in any part of his life.

That is, until he spends a night with Sandrine, a woman whose single sexual experience seems to "awaken" him to senses he never knew existed before.

From here, Nick begins to experience life through a perspective between elevated human being and vampire. He begins to eat well, both in quantity and in quality. He starts to crave the blood of the women he picks up in bars, though he notes frequently to the reader of his triumph against alcoholism.

Though "Me and the Devil" is written quite well, the plot struggles to go anywhere after this first encounter. Even after waking the next morning and reveling in his almost euphoric breakfast and coffee, he doesn't seem to notice much change. At the very least, he doesn't seem plagued by it. There is no internal struggle to speak of, though the book is told in the first person and the reader spends much of the story within Nick's mind. There is no external struggle, either, even though Nick seems to fall in love with a girl while still sleeping around. His lover seems to have no qualms about their revolving-door relationship. And, certainly, not every girl Nick picks up is ready and willing for the sadomasochistic torture he has in store for her. However, they seem to have dungeons of their own, and they invite his fetishes.

Additionally, although Nick grasps each sense with acute awareness, the only pleasures he truly indulges in are food and sex. On those matters, Tosches goes into great detail, though he never mentions so much as a lowly, talented street performer. Nick, the character, lives in New York, surrounded by enough culture to appease every sense available, and he manages to avert his gaze, ears, and nose from everything that will not fill his stomach or satisfaction.

"Me and the Devil" appears almost as an expression of Tosches himself, as if his own Freudian id has struggled until now to release itself. Perhaps the title is to suggest the devil alongside Nick, though perhaps the demonic hold goes much deeper.

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