The Devil in Silver: A Novel Hardcover – Aug 21 2012
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“A fearless exploration of America’s heart of darkness . . . a dizzying high-wire act.”—The Washington Post
“LaValle never writes the same book and his recent is a stunner. . . . Fantastical, hellish and hilarious.”—Los Angeles Times
“It’s simply too bighearted, too gentle, too kind, too culturally observant and too idiosyncratic to squash into the small cupboard of any one genre, or even two.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Embeds a sophisticated critique of contemporary America’s inhumane treatment of madness in a fast-paced story that is by turns horrifying, suspenseful, and comic.”—The Boston Globe
“LaValle uses the thrills of horror to draw attention to timely matters. And he does so without sucking the joy out of the genre. . . . A striking and original American novelist.”—The New Republic
About the Author
Victor LaValle is the award-winning author of two previous novels, The Ecstatic and Big Machine, and a collection of short stories, Slapboxing with Jesus. Big Machine was the winner of an American Book Award and the Shirley Jackson Award in 2010, and was selected as one of the best books of the year by the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, The Nation, and Publishers Weekly. He teaches writing at Columbia University and lives in New York.See all Product Description
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THE DEVIL IN SILVER is not your typical horror novel. In fact, in most ways, it's not a horror novel at all. It wears the trappings--monster stalking psych ward patients--but it isn't really ABOUT the monster, so much as it is about its protagonist, the cast of quirky--but three-dimensional--supporting characters. Victor LaValle's novel is equal parts satire, dark comedy, and emotional character study. It has genuine twists and turns that you don't see coming; but it also has avant-garde characteristics such as an entire chapter devoted to the biography of Vincent Van Gogh, or the anthropomorphizing of a rather pitiable rat. Even these latter sections move along flawlessly, thanks to LaValle's expert prose (some sections read like poetry, while at the same time remaining realistic and true-to-life; Langston Hughes and Charles Bukowski come to mind).
This is a clever, funny, haunting, emotional novel. Hardcore horror fans may want to stay away, as you won't get your usual cliched trappings. But for people who like to see real intelligence and wit brought to genre fiction, who like to see such things as monsters and devils elevated to literary-quality status...THE DEVIL IN SILVER is a book you have to read.
But the book's narrative perspective (often filled with this type of parenthetical and often humourous omniscient observations) prevented the novel from maintaining its creepy atmosphere. The novel also went off on some substantial tangents - completely summarizing the plot of Peter Benchley's Jaws and the biography of Vincent Van Gogh. The point-of-view, though for the majority of the book aligns with Pepper, made some radical shifts - by the fortieth chapter, the P.O.V. is that of a large, gray rat. The scariness built up in the beginning of the book shifted to more of a social, racial and economic commentary.
Though in the end, Pepper found his purpose, the book had shifted so far from my original expectations that I felt a bit disconnected from it. It is, however, an interesting and surprisingly complex read and one that I may re-visit again in the future.
Midway through the book, chapters of real life summaries of mental health patients are thrown in, then as abruptly as these couple of chapters are thrown in, they are gone. Is there a monster there or do the patients see a monster? Regardless, the staff just allows 'the Devil' to kill, torture and maim people??? Why the deep character studies, narratives, conversations, names just to suddenly stop talking about them or not elaborate on an important factor about them (Dorry (is that her son??????????? How do you sweep THAT under the rug?) Nurse Josephine, Scotch Tape, Coffee, the therapist guy at book group, Loochie's chapter at the table with her family, the conversation of Pepper and his mom, the folders, Sue, the cops, the Devil-- WHY ALL THIS STUFF??! To just forget about it. They don't escape, determine if the thing is a monster or man, or get released.
OH and there are a lot of racist jokes, ideas, tones, stereotypes etc. LOTS. I suppose he meant it to be funny but I didn't find it so (and I am a New Yorker too so that is not why ;-) If you are not from NYC you may not get 1/2 the references.
The author has a way with words and the book is nicely written. However, there is no suspense and this is more social commentary than horror. While I am more than willing to grant literary license, the horrific environment in the hospital was exaggerated. NYS taxpayers spend a small fortune funding services such as Mental Hygience Legal Services which aggressively advocates for the rights of the confined and those deemed in need of supervision. The fact tht the staff flagrantly disregarded the law including their brutality to the patients and knowing participation in Medicaid fraud, is an insult to mental health professionals everywhere.
Additionally none of the patients seemed so mentally ill as to warrant lifetime confinement. Quirky, yes, but a danger to themselves and others no. (with the exception of the man/beast)The author's jokey asides were jarring. Dramedy is rarely successful and I wish the author had committed to drama or comedy instead of straddling the middle.I was not engaged by any of the characters and found their routines tiresome. I did not feel any sense of exhiliration at the end other than having completed all four hundred and six pages..