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By Nick Tosches. Little, Brown, $27.
Here’s hoping there’s little in common between the author of Me and the Devil and his narrator, other than that they’re both graying New York writers called Nick (who also both happen to be great friends with Keith Richards). Nick the narrator is a cocksure, alcoholic ne’er-do-well—or, more appropriately, a ne’er-do-anything—who abstains from booze while discovering a new tipple: blood. To satisfy his vampiric habit and the gnawing premonition he’s becoming an earthbound deity, Nick seduces lovely young things with a penchant for self-abuse and sucks out their sweet, sweet plasma. Sadly, no high lasts forever, and when the call of the demon drink grows deafening, how far can a budding godhead fall?
Regardless of his plummet, it’s hard to care whether Nick feels better or ought to just spin into a drunken coma so he’ll stop talking. The trek is offensive not because he’s a dark character pushing limits in search of the truth, but because he’s a bloviating, self-congratulatory, ostentatiously dark character who overestimates the reader’s awe for his tastes, deviancy, humanity and aforementioned Rolling Stones connection.
Tosches can, of course, rap with great erudition and effective belligerence. Devil uses a supernatural lens to distort autobiographical details as Ellis did with Lunar Park, but it doesn’t pack a satirical punch, nor does it make a cogent point about addiction. On the other side of conversations with some sage barmen, Heraclitus and (yep) the devil, Nick finally shrugs off the nagging fear he might have killed a couple of girls—did we fail to mention that bit?—and plunks into his newly found freedom on a barstool. Oh, he’s a bad man, all right; don’t worry, he’ll keep patting himself on the back until you’re ready to take over.