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Wednesday, December 18, 2019

The Demon (Drama) (Experimental Fiction)

by Hubert Selby Jr.   

Publisher: Penguin Books (August 1, 2011)

Softcover, 288 pages

Amazon Listing

“And with this new consciousness came the pleasure of being able to make a game out of it. At least for now. Someday the killing would have to be a reality, but for now just the contemplation of it exalted him. That was one of the great things about this experience. He could delay the action almost indefinitely, and it added to the excitement. Nurture, pet, and caress the anticipation. That was the thing to do. And he would. He would tantalize himself just as long as possible. Someday the act would be a part of history, but now he would just dangle it in front of himself. He could create his own suspense. And master it!”
This is a sad story of man who achieved much, but couldn't conquer his demons. Many reviews claim that the main character is a sociopath, but this is obviously not the case. The protagonist is much more nuanced than that. He has genuine feelings for his parents, wife, and child. But is obviously suffering from an impulse control disorder which results in severe depression unless the main character indulges in some form of risky behavior. Once done, he is capable of living, the mental tension and anxiety that grows leading up to event is relieved, but never ultimately banished.
Author Hubert Selby, Jr.
The titular demon here is the mental illness afflicting the protagonist. While brilliant in his field, he pays the price for his genius by needing to indulge in increasingly risky behavior. Beginning with compulsive sex, he moves onto banging dirty, possibly diseased women after he married, then kleptomania, burglaries, riding trains like an old-time hobo, and finally murder. But like the old tale of Crom-Cruicak, one can satiate the demon but never ultimately satisfy it. The protagonist is no exception and suffers the ultimate penalty.
What may turn some readers off is the stream-of-consciousness writing style that plays fast and loose with punctuation, paragraph formation, and any actual punctuation you might like. Typical of the author's style, this formation is reflexive of the protagonist's mental state and becomes increasingly erratic the further he dips into his illness. Some critics claims that this style is weird simply for its own sake, but I found it consistent with the context of the book.
The only negative part is that the book tends to drag about a third of the way through. About twenty five pages could've easily been jettisoned without loss, and it would've kicked up the momentum. However, once the protagonist starts stealing the story steers right back on track.
For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

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