The most alarming and remarkable thing about Nick Tosches’ latest novel, ME AND THE DEVIL, is that the protagonist --- an aging New York City writer named Nick --- may be an autobiographical version of himself.
The Nick Tosches of the novel is an over-the-hill writer with strong appetites. He is reminiscent of other old school writers of “new fiction” that drink hard and play harder. They almost always pour their lives and souls into their works but at the risk of coming across as self-absorbed and overindulgent.
"With ME AND THE DEVIL, Nick Tosches has pulled out all the stops in this profane, vulgar and enticing novel that reads like a high-speed railroad going off the tracks. You know the crash is coming, but you simply cannot look away."
Nick attends AA meetings, sometimes daily, while still pursuing the vices that have made him the writer he is today. He longs for youth and vitality, and lives vicariously through the various assortment of characters he meets in his daily jaunts around lower Manhattan. He has an unquenching proclivity for drinking human blood, yet is not a vampire. He simply seeks to live life to the fullest and exist far beyond what is acceptable to normal people.
While seeking a muse for his latest writing effort, he comes across a young woman named Melissa. She is many decades his junior, yet readily comes back to his apartment and engages in a night of sexual indulgence that would have made the Marquis de Sade blush. The result is a new-found inspiration and unknown source of vitality for Nick. Melissa seems to have infused him with a power that makes him feel nearly invincible and almost god-like. This can only end badly.
Nick mentions early on in the novel that writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a bout with a painful illness. His newly realized energy somehow lifts him above this but leaves him wanting more --- much more. Melissa represents the true nectar of life, and Nick somehow is not sated, no matter how much he “drinks” of her spirit.
The question remains: Who is Melissa? Is she a young woman with strange tastes of her own, a mythological muse sent to inspire, or the devil him/herself? Nick’s desires become more and more difficult to satisfy, and his crashing after each encounter seems to be pushing him closer to the edge and into a dark madness from which he may never recover.
With ME AND THE DEVIL, Nick Tosches has pulled out all the stops in this profane, vulgar and enticing novel that reads like a high-speed railroad going off the tracks. You know the crash is coming, but you simply cannot look away. The writing calls to mind the work of Burroughs and Bukowski in its stream-of-consciousness style, along with a lot of machismo that is akin to Hemingway at his burliest. While not for the faint of heart, this is a challenging read that depicts the dark side of the creative process.
Reviewed by Ray Palen on January 4, 2013
Me and the Devil