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The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle
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Aug 16, 12



Original Post on Fangs, Wands and Fairy Dust at THE DEVIL IN SILVER: One Man's Incarceration and Society's Failure to Put Things Right

THE DEVIL IN SILVER
Victor Lavalle
Spiegel & Grau/Random House
Hardcover 432 pages
E-book Kindle 5K, Random House Digital

There's magic, and then there is a perception of the supernatural when things don't fit how we believe they should be. Then there is true mental illness requiring hospitalization and something that could be handled otherwise if someone had the wherewithal to get treatment.

Pepper, hot tempered and perhaps, as his doctor says, a narcissist, mistakenly hits a cop. Because those cops are near the end of their shift and the City isn't giving overtime. just take him to the city's most forgotten, inefficient and inexcusable excuse for a mental hospital for a "72 hour hold."

He does something stupid and then is forgotten by the system, and the cops who originally put him there. The doctor in this hospital, there is but one, does nothing but sign off on meds. The food is inedible. In some cases the staff is just in a hurry. In others they are just nasty. Some of the other patients are marginally in need of assistance, a few really need to be there, many are just warehoused.

The magic is in the form of a beast, half man, half something else that lives in the underbelly of this awful place. It's locked in a place the other patients are not allowed to go. Yet, it visits, it kills.

Is it a beast, a devil; or,just a man? One thing is certain being in a mental hospital can drive you crazy.

Literary Fiction is not my norm. But, I met the publisher and she thought I should give this book at shot. So I did. I found a deep, yet funny book, much more character than plot driven.

This is a very well written character study. Mostly we get to see inside Pepper's character, seeing the world through his behaviors, motivations and world view. But not in the first person. There is an omniscient narrator. Actually, narrator is narrating the book as it's written. There are asides, bon mots and contemporary references. It's very conversational and contemporary in its voice. The plot serves to show, examine or develop a character.

I would say it's modeled on Dante's Inferno, but honestly I haven't read Dante so I can't. But it feels like a soul's passage through the hell of the world of the destitute mental patient and at the same time through his own mind. Although he is far from crazy, or criminal, he does experience a "dark night of his soul" and then growth, perhaps, even, an epiphany. The experience changes him, probably for the better. Unlike much "literary fiction" I did not finish it feeling depressed, although it is certainly depressing to read about people without hope.

Beautiful, and occasionally funny, this is obviously the work of a brilliant writer. Is there anyhthing supernatural in it? I don't think so, some minor magic maybe, or it could be those magical moments are just coincidence.

Maybe all magic is coincidence and the supernatural is just what we don't understand as natural.

If you like dark character pieces of literary fiction this may work for you. It's a bit wordy for me, not florid but not spare in description of mental processes. Some reviewers have called it horror; I think it is more of a political statement. The treatment of mental patients in this hospital is horrifying that's for sure. I can easily see it as a film; if it weren't such a cutting comment of the way people are treated in poverty, it would be comedic. I Highly Recommend THE DEVIL IN SILVER as a very well-written piece of literary fiction.
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