I don’t read a lot of contemporary “literary” fiction. I find most of it otiose, self-referential and far too pre-occupied with the banalities of suburban white folks’ unhappy marriages. But every now and then I stick my toes in the water, or rather, I try reading some new stuff from new young authors again, just to see. I call it the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” way of modern literary exploration. Why? Well, every few years I have to go see the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” to remind myself why I haven’t seen it in the last few years, and to remind myself just how bad it is. All this is a rather long winded way of saying I read a new book by a newish author and all I can say is, holy fuck, “The Devil in Silver“, the book in question, was excellent.
The story centers around a blue collar white guy from somewhere in the greater NYC area who inadvertently gets thrown into a psych-ward. When I say inadvertent, I mean, the police pick him up on an assault charge (mostly bogus) and because they won’t get paid overtime for booking him (lots of paper work and stuff) they drop him at a psych-ward by way of protesting the city’s budget cuts and say, “he’s all yours.” Then they disappear and the story really gets going.
That’s all I’m going to tell you of the story or plot, except to say it’s well plotted and the narrative doesn’t disappoint, nor is it predictable.
I want to talk about how the book made me feel. If it makes me feel it’s art. And this book made me feel a lot.
It made me angry. It made me tense. It made me sad. It made me want to stop reading it because I wasn’t quite sure what it was I was feeling, or perhaps I’m too much of a coward to explain in a blog post why I felt what I did. And some of it was so damned hilarious I laughed out loud multiple times and once had to cover my face at Starbucks out of embarrassment for laughing so hard. I also had to get up and leave at one point to because of tears.
But mostly the book is about demons, my demons, your demons, our demons and how we think we can lock the fuckers up, or in my case run away from them. But we can’t because as the best line in the book says, “you’ll meet your demons everywhere.”
Take me for example, I’ve traveled the world, 55 countries and counting and I’ve lived in 5 different ones. I’ve done a lot of running away. And one thing I’ve learned is this: wherever you go, there you are. I might get ahead of myself for a couple of weeks, maybe a few months at a time, but then I always seem to bump into myself somewhere, maybe in the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul or in an office high rise in Singapore. And that, to me, is ultimately what this book was about. (And also how absolutely fucked up our mental health system is, especially in the age of austerity).
If you want to learn something about yourself, if you want to feel uncomfortable and laugh and cry and you want to experience some fine English prose, do yourself a favor and go buy “The Devil in Silver” by Victor LaValle.
It’s art. I can offer no higher praise than that.