”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.”
Thoughts: In Me and the Devil Nick Tosches may have been attempting to push the envelope with his utterly unlikable main character – an alcoholic, pedantic snob with brutish sexual proclivities. He instead succeeds in disturbing and isolating readers with the aging author’s obsessions and navel-gazing. With its exacting descriptions of food, alcoholic benders, sidebars about Greek and Latin grammar, diatribes against societal milieus that do not fit his standards, and most importantly its questionable main character who may or may not be fantasizing the entire plot, Me and the Devil novel feels like a wannabe Bret Easton Ellis plot (see American Psycho). Unlike Mr. Ellis’ novels though, there is a rage within the main character that antagonizes a reader more than it intrigues.
Too much about the novel leaves the reader wondering why Nick acts the way he does. The questions get to the heart of Nick’s character, and answers would go far in creating someone that readers could at least understand. Instead, readers are left with a shell of a main character with no clear understanding of his goals, drive, or motivations that cause him to act in such a grossly offensive manner. Yes, suave and psycho Patrick Batemen is more sympathetic than this old man.
There are many authors out there today who specialize in the shock and awe factor with their novels, who actively write about characters who buck societal norms – Dennis Cooper is the first one that comes to mind. Me and the Devil is an attempt at the same but one that falls short. Yes, everyone has their own penchants, but Nick’s turn towards blood play is so sudden and so unexplained that it remains all but inexplicable. Compounding the problem is his unreliability as a narrator due to his drinking. The entire novel has a tired, repetitive quality to it that fails to shock and awe readers as much as it annoys and drives one to put down the book.