The United States and its Dark Passenger, Part I: Red, White and Blue Synthetic Virtue
I could have been a vicious raving monster who killed and killed and left towers of rotting flesh in my wake. Instead, here I was on the side of truth, justice and the American way. Still a monster, of course, but I cleaned up nicely afterward, and I was OUR monster, dressed in red, white and blue 100 percent synthetic virtue.
Dearly Devoted Dexter
I teach creative writing in a maximum security prison in Philadelphia. During the week I scour two thrift shops for 35-cent paperbacks that I haul in to stock a small lending library I created for inmates. Amazingly, the prison had no library.
In the process of collecting used books, I’ve surveyed the crime, mystery and noir genre of popular fiction. I collect some books for myself and have read many in part or end to end. The range of quality in such a genre runs from garbage to genius.
I’m a Vietnam veteran and a veteran anti-war activist who follows the US war news closely. The psychological and mythic forces of Eros and Thanatos (Death) interest me and how they play out in popular culture. Freud in Civilization and Its Discontents writes about “the struggle between Eros and Death, between the instinct of life and the instinct of destruction.” Eros is the force that brings humans together and Thanatos is the force that drives us apart. “This struggle is what all life essentially consists of,” Freud writes. Chris Hedges also writes of this split in his great book War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning.
The other day I picked up Jeff Lindsay’s second book in the Dexter series -- Dearly Devoted Dexter -- about a Miami police department forensic expert by day and psychopathic killer by night. Lindsay's Dexter novels have spun off into a popular Showtime TV series. The Miami Herald called the book about a lovable serial killer “A macabre work of art.”
Personally, I wouldn’t pay the full cover price for this book. Still, Lindsay is a fine prose writer whose characters are well drawn and set within a fast-paced plot that ping-pongs from the sweet, personal and mundane to the truly horrific blood feast. Dexter as first-person narrator speaks in a tone of light, ironic gallows humor with the reader assumed as a friendly confidant. His day job is as a blood-spatter expert with the Miami-Dade Police Homicide Department.