The Devil in Silver

Victor LaValle. Spiegel & Grau, $27 (406p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6986-6
Reviewed by Benjamin Percy.

New Hyde hospital—a cash-strapped mental institution in Queens—is the setting of Victor LaValle’s excellent third novel. Think One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest meets Dante’s Inferno. LaValle anticipates the inevitable comparison to Kesey and tips his hat early on, when a patient says that though Kesey’s novel takes place in a mental hospital, “it isn’t about mentally ill people.” In the same manner, LaValle makes it unclear who is crazy and who isn’t; the overlapping realities of the doctors, nurses, and patients really aren’t so different.

The omniscient narrator chases many perspectives through the fluorescent-lit corridors of New Hyde—even a rat’s—but the central character is Pepper, a big-shouldered, working-class troublemaker who ends up institutionalized simply because it means less paperwork for the police. Pepper is led to believe he will face a judge after 72 hours, but bad luck and bad decisions keep him at New Hyde—always medicated, sometimes restrained to his bed so long the small of his back “stopped feeling like a curled fist a day ago and now was just a pocket of cold fire burning through his waist.”

And you never want to end up restrained at New Hyde. Because the Devil is on the prowl. He is housed—or so the patients believe—behind a silver door at the end of an empty hallway. At night he visits his neighbors. His heels clop “like horseshoes on cobblestones.” He has the body of a frail old man, but the head of a bison, with a “deep, wet pit” of a mouth and “dead white eyes.” Pepper’s roommate—a malt ball-headed man named Coffee who spends most of his time trying to phone the president—believes, “The food makes us fat. The drugs make us slow. We’re cattle. Food. For it.”

The novel is genuinely unsettling—as the devil lowers himself from the ceiling, as the doctors and nurses abuse the patients, as a woman commits suicide by swallowing a bed sheet so deeply that its tip is stained yellow with bile—but it is also very funny. LaValle has a wicked sense of humor, and the gags often come as a relief, such as when an institutionalized teenage girl in baby-blue Nikes takes down a big man with her “crazy strength” or a monstrous rat crashes through a ceiling tile, snatches a box of Cocoa Puffs, and scampers through a gauntlet of nurses stomping their feet and swinging brooms. In a novel suffused with the tragic and sinister, humor is necessary, modulating emotion, keeping us off guard. But on occasion, LaValle gets too silly and cute. The hospital administration, always cutting corners, repurposes the building “like a motherfucker.” And as Pepper sneaks his lover into his room, the narrator says, “ladies and gentlemen, despite the perceived differences between them and you, the mentally ill like jooking, too!” Moments like these make the tone feel unstable, and the moments of genuine terror harder to take seriously.

But these are small gripes. The novel, expertly written, will leave you wondering about its many memorable characters and lingering over questions about fear, horror, madness, suffering, friendship, and love.

Benjamin Percy is the author of the novels Red Moon (forthcoming from Grand Central) and The Wilding, as well as two books of short stories. His honors include the Whiting Writers’ Award, and inclusion in Best American Short Stories and Best American Comics.

Reviewed on: 07/02/2012
Release date: 08/21/2012
Paperback - 412 pages - 978-0-8129-8225-1
Pre-Recorded Audio Player - 978-1-61120-857-3
Compact Disc - 978-1-61120-852-8
MP3 CD - 978-1-61120-856-6
Pre-Recorded Audio Player - 978-1-61120-910-5
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EVAL ERROR: syntax error at (eval 434) line 207, near ""Read more about "$ENV"
Global symbol "$author" requires explicit package name at (eval 434) line 207.
Global symbol "$html_title" requires explicit package name at (eval 434) line 211.
Global symbol "$html_title" requires explicit package name at (eval 434) line 211.
Global symbol "$default_title" requires explicit package name at (eval 434) line 211.
Global symbol "$meta_description" requires explicit package name at (eval 434) line 212.
Global symbol "$meta_description" requires explicit package name at (eval 434) line 212.
Global symbol "$default_description" requires explicit package name at (eval 434) line 212.
Global symbol "$meta_keywords" requires explicit package name at (eval 434) line 213.
Global symbol "$meta_keywords" requires explicit package name at (eval 434) line 213.
Global symbol "$default_keywords" requires explicit package name at (eval 434) line 213.
Global symbol "$html_title" requires explicit package name at (eval 434) line 215.
Global symbol "$meta_description" requires explicit package name at (eval 434) line 216.
Global symbol "$meta_description" requires explicit package name at (eval 434) line 217.
Global symbol "$meta_description" requires explicit package name at (eval 434) line 218.
Global symbol "$meta_description" requires explicit package name at (eval 434) line 219.
Global symbol "$meta_description" requires explicit package name at (eval 434) line 220.
Global symbol "$twitter_description" requires explicit package name at (eval 434) line 221.
Global symbol "$twitter_description" requires explicit package name at (eval 434) line 222.
Global symbol "$twitter_description" requires explicit package name at (eval 434) line 223.
Global symbol "$twitter_description" requires explicit package name at (eval 434) line 224.
Global symbol "$meta_keywords" requires explicit package name at (eval 434) line 225.
Global symbol "$html_title" requires explicit package name at (eval 434) line 227.
Global symbol "$meta_keywords" requires explicit package name at (eval 434) line 228.
Global symbol "$meta_description" requires explicit package name at (eval 434) line 229.
Global symbol "$last_modified" requires explicit package name at (eval 434) line 230.
Global symbol "$last_modified" requires explicit package name at (eval 434) line 231.
Global symbol "$html_title" requires explicit package name at (eval 434) line 234.
Global symbol "$default_image" requires explicit package name at (eval 434) line 235.
Global symbol "$meta_description" requires explicit package name at (eval 434) line 236.
Global symbol "$twitter_creator" requires explicit package name at (eval 434) line 241.
Global symbol "$twitter_creator" requires explicit package name at (eval 434) line 242.
Global symbol "$twitter_title" requires explicit package name at (eval 434) line 244.
Global symbol "$twitter_description" requires explicit package name at (eval 434) line 245.
Global symbol "$default_image" requires explicit package name at (eval 434) line 246.
syntax error at (eval 434) line 260, near "}
 }"
(eval 434) has too many errors.

Code:
line 1: package tmpevalpackage;
line 2: sub doEval { 
line 3: 	my(@sel,%data,$html_title,$meta_description,$meta_keywords,$default_title,$default_description,$default_keywords,$last_modified);
line 4: 	my($twitter_creator,$twitter_title,$twitter_description);
line 5: 	
line 6: 	$default_title = 'Book Reviews, Bestselling Books & Publishing Business News | Publishers Weekly';
line 7: 	$default_keywords = 'book news, book reviews, bestselling books, book bestsellers, book publishing, best selling books, list of books, book business, publishing business';
line 8: 	$default_description = 'Publishers Weekly is the international news website of book publishing and bookselling including business news, reviews, bestseller lists, commentaries and more.';
line 9: 	
line 10: 	my $default_image = "http://www.publishersweekly.com/images/data/IMG/img/000/000/1-3.PNG";
line 11: 	
line 12: 	# try the topic (or subtopic)
line 13: 	if($LayoutManager::url_resolved_values{'TOPIC_TREE.nickname'}) {
line 14: 		&Database::GetParentRow($LayoutManager::url_resolved_values{'TOPIC_TREE.nickname'},\%data);
line 15: 		if($data{'html_title'}) { $html_title = $data{'html_title'}; };
line 16: 		if($data{'meta_description'}) { $meta_description = $data{'meta_description'}; };
line 17: 		if($data{'meta_keywords'}) { $meta_keywords = $data{'meta_keywords'}; };
line 18: 
line 19: 		# we are in a subtopic get the topic and fill in missing fields
line 20: 		if($LayoutManager::url_values{'TOPIC'}) { 
line 21: 			&Database::Select('TOPIC_TREE','nickname',$LayoutManager::url_values{'TOPIC'},\@sel);
line 22: 			if(@sel == 1) {
line 23: 				&Database::GetRow($sel[0],'TOPIC_TREE',\%data);
line 24: 				if($data{'html_title'} && !$html_title) { $html_title = $data{'html_title'}; }
line 25: 				if($data{'meta_description'} && !$meta_description) { $meta_description = $data{'meta_description'}; }
line 26: 				if($data{'meta_keywords'} && !$meta_keywords) { $meta_keywords = $data{'meta_keywords'}; }
line 27: 			}
line 28: 		}
line 29: 	}
line 30: 
line 31: 	# fill in missing info from page
line 32: 	if($LayoutManager::url_resolved_values{'PAGE.description'}) {
line 33: 		&Database::GetParentRow($LayoutManager::url_resolved_values{'PAGE.description'},\%data);
line 34: 		if(!$html_title) { $html_title = $data{'html_title'}; };
line 35: 		if(!$meta_description) { $meta_description = $data{'meta_description'}; };
line 36: 		if(!$meta_keywords) { $meta_keywords = $data{'meta_keywords'}; };
line 37: 	}
line 38: 	
line 39: 	# article takes precidence over topic and subtopic
line 40: 	if($LayoutManager::url_resolved_values{'ARTICLE.nickname'}) {
line 41: 		&Database::GetParentRow($LayoutManager::url_resolved_values{'ARTICLE.nickname'},\%data);
line 42: 		$html_title = $data{'headline'};
line 43: 		if($data{'title_web'}) { $html_title = $data{'title_web'}; $twitter_title = $data{'title_web'}; };
line 44: 		if($data{'html_title'}) { $html_title = $data{'html_title'}; };
line 45: 		if($data{'abstract_web'}) { $meta_description = $data{'abstract_web'}; $twitter_description = $data{'abstract_web'}; };
line 46: 		if($data{'meta_description'}) { $meta_description = $data{'meta_description'}; };
line 47: 		if($data{'meta_keywords'}) { $meta_keywords = $data{'meta_keywords'}; };
line 48: 		$last_modified = &GetLastModified($data{'pub_date'});
line 49: 		
line 50: 		my($canonical,%topic_data,%sub_topic_data,%issue_data);
line 51: 		if($data{'the_topic'}) {
line 52: 			&Database::GetRow($data{'the_topic'},'TOPIC_TREE',\%sub_topic_data);
line 53: 			&Database::GetParentRow($sub_topic_data{'parent'},\%topic_data);
line 54: 			$canonical = "http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/$topic_data{'nickname'}/$sub_topic_data{'nickname'}/article/$data{'nickname'}.html";
line 55: 		}
line 56: 		else {
line 57: 			if($data{'issue'}) {
line 58: 				&Database::GetRow($data{'issue'},'ISSUE',\%issue_data);
line 59: 				$canonical = "http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/print/$issue_data{'date'}/$data{'nickname'}.html";
line 60: 			}
line 61: 		}
line 62: 		if($data{'the_photo'}) {
line 63: 			my(%image_data);
line 64: 			&Database::GetRow($data{'the_photo'},'ARTICLE_PHOTO',\%image_data);
line 65: 			if($image_data{'photo__file'}) {
line 66: 				$default_image = "http://www.publishersweekly.com/images/data/$image_data{'photo__file'}";
line 67: 			}
line 68: 		}
line 69: 		if($canonical) {
line 70: 			&Templates::SetMeta("<link rel=\"canonical\" href=\"$canonical\" />");
line 71: 		}
line 72: 	}
line 73: 
line 74: 	# reviews by ISBN
line 75: 	if($LayoutManager::url_values{'ISBN'}) {
line 76: 		my($isbn,@sel,$work,%issue_data);
line 77: 		$isbn = $LayoutManager::url_values{'ISBN'};
line 78: 		
line 79: 		$isbn =~ s/\-//g;
line 80: 		$default_image = "https://booklife.com/image-factory/http/localhost/amazongetcover/$isbn.jpg/w204.jpg";
line 81: 
line 82: 		&Database::Select('WORK_INSTANCE','isbn_std',$isbn,\@sel);
line 83: 
line 84: 		if(@sel) {
line 85: 			$work = $sel[0];
line 86: 			@sel = ();
line 87: 			&Database::Select('REVIEW','book',$work,\@sel);
line 88: 			
line 89: 			# my $root = "images/cached/INGRAM";
line 90: 			# my $row_path = $isbn;
line 91: 			# $row_path =~ s/^(...)(...)(...)(.*)/$1\/$2\/$3/;
line 92: 
line 93: 			# if(-e "/disk02/PW/htdocs/$root/$row_path/$isbn\.jpg"){
line 94: 			#	 $default_image = "http://www.publishersweekly.com/$root/$row_path/$isbn\.jpg";
line 95: 			# }
line 96: 			
line 97: 			if(@sel) {
line 98: 				&Database::FetchRow($sel[0],'REVIEW',\%data);
line 99: 				my($tmp) = $data{'info_line'};
line 100: 				$tmp =~ s/<[^>]+>//g;
line 101: 				$html_title = "$data{'category'} Book Review: $data{'title'} by $tmp";
line 102: 				$meta_description = substr($data{'body'},0,200);
line 103: 				if($data{'pub_date'}) {
line 104: 					$last_modified = &GetLastModified($data{'pub_date'});
line 105: 				}
line 106: 				else {
line 107: 					&Database::GetRow($data{'issue-UNRESOLVED'},'ISSUE',\%issue_data);
line 108: 					$last_modified = &GetLastModified($issue_data{'date'});
line 109: 				}
line 110: 
line 111: 				$twitter_creator = '@publisherswkly';
line 112: 				$twitter_title = $data{'title'};
line 113: 				$twitter_description = $meta_description;
line 114: 			}
line 115: 		}
line 116: 	}
line 117: 	
line 118: 	# reviews
line 119: 	if($LayoutManager::url_resolved_rows{'REVIEW.nickname'}) {
line 120: 		my(%issue_data);
line 121: 		&Database::FetchRow($LayoutManager::url_resolved_rows{'REVIEW.nickname'},'REVIEW',\%data);
line 122: 		my($tmp) = $data{'info_line'};
line 123: 		$tmp =~ s/<[^>]+>//g;
line 124: 		$html_title = "$data{'category'} Review: $data{'title'} by $tmp";
line 125: 		$meta_description = substr($data{'body'},0,200);
line 126: 		
line 127: 		$twitter_creator = '@publisherswkly';
line 128: 		$twitter_title = $data{'title'};
line 129: 		$twitter_description = $meta_description;
line 130: 		
line 131: 		if($data{'pub_date'}) {
line 132: 			$last_modified = &GetLastModified($data{'pub_date'});
line 133: 		}
line 134: 		else {
line 135: 			&Database::GetRow($data{'issue-UNRESOLVED'},'ISSUE',\%issue_data);
line 136: 			$last_modified = &GetLastModified($issue_data{'date'});
line 137: 		}
line 138: 
line 139: 		if($data{'book-UNRESOLVED'}){
line 140: 			my (%instance_data);
line 141: 			&Database::GetRow($data{'book-UNRESOLVED'},'WORK_INSTANCE',\%instance_data);
line 142: 			
line 143: 			my $tmpisbn = $instance_data{'isbn_std'};
line 144: 			$tmpisbn =~ s/\-//g;
line 145: 			$default_image = "https://booklife.com/image-factory/http/localhost/amazongetcover/$tmpisbn.jpg/w204.jpg";
line 146: 
line 147: 			# my $root = "images/cached/INGRAM";
line 148: 			# my $row_path = $instance_data{'isbn_std'};
line 149: 			# $row_path =~ s/^(...)(...)(...)(.*)/$1\/$2\/$3/;
line 150: 	
line 151: 			# if(-e "/disk02/PW/htdocs/$root/$row_path/$instance_data{'isbn_std'}\.jpg"){
line 152: 			# 	$default_image = "http://www.publishersweekly.com/$root/$row_path/$instance_data{'isbn_std'}\.jpg";
line 153: 			# }
line 154: 		}
line 155: 	}
line 156: 
line 157: 	if($Templates::in{'channel'} && $Templates::in{'podcast'}) {
line 158: 		my(%podcast_data);
line 159: 		&Database::GetRow($Templates::in{'podcast'},'PODCAST',\%podcast_data);
line 160: 		$html_title = $podcast_data{'title'};
line 161: 		if($podcast_data{'description'}) { $meta_description = $podcast_data{'description'}; }
line 162: 		if($podcast_data{'image__file'}) {
line 163: 			$default_image = "http://www.publishersweekly.com/images/data/$podcast_data{'image__file'}";
line 164: 		}
line 165: 		$last_modified = &GetLastModified($podcast_data{'date_posted'});
line 166: 	}
line 167: 	
line 168: 	if($Templates::path =~ /\/bookit\//) {
line 169: 		if($Templates::in{'record'}) {
line 170: 			my(%data);
line 171: 			&Database::GetRow($Templates::in{'record'},'MARKETING_CALL',\%data);
line 172: 			$html_title = "$data{'headline'} | Publishers Weekly";
line 173: 		}
line 174: 		else {
line 175: 			$html_title = "BookIt | Publishers Weekly";	
line 176: 		}
line 177: 	}
line 178: 	if($Templates::path =~ /\/newsbrief\//) {
line 179: 		if($Templates::in{'record'}) {
line 180: 			my(%data);
line 181: 			&Database::GetRow($Templates::in{'record'},'NEWS_BRIEFS',\%data);
line 182: 			$html_title = "$data{'headline'}";
line 183: 			$twitter_title = "$data{'headline'}";
line 184: 			$meta_description = "$data{'abstract'}";
line 185: 			$twitter_description = "$data{'abstract'}";
line 186: 			if($data{'image__file'}) {
line 187: 				$default_image = "http://www.publishersweekly.com/images/data/$data{'image__file'}";
line 188: 			}
line 189: 		}
line 190: 		else {
line 191: 			$html_title = "BookIt | Publishers Weekly";	
line 192: 		}
line 193: 	}
line 194: 
line 195: 	if($Templates::path =~ /\/charlie\//) {
line 196: 			$html_title = "Publishers Weekly's Tribute to Freedom of Expression";
line 197: 			$twitter_title = "Publishers Weekly's Tribute to Freedom of Expression";
line 198: 			$meta_description = "Find out how to participate in a special section of the January 19 issue of Publishers Weekly and raise money for international nonprofits dedicated to freedom of expression.";
line 199: 			$twitter_description = "Find out how to participate in a special section of the January 19 issue of Publishers Weekly and raise money for international nonprofits dedicated to freedom of expression.";
line 200: 	}
line 201: 	
line 202: 	if($Templates::path =~ /\/authorpage\//) {
line 203: 		my $author = $LayoutManager::url_values{'AUTHORNAME'};
line 204: 		$author =~ s/-/ /g;
line 205: 		$author =~ s/([\w']+)/\u\L$1/g;
line 206: 		$html_title = "Books by $author and Complete Book Reviews";
line 207: 		$meta_description = "Read more about "" and other books by $author";
line 208: 	}
line 209: 
line 210: 	# use defailts is nothing else found
line 211: 	if(!$html_title) { $html_title = $default_title; };
line 212: 	if(!$meta_description) { $meta_description = $default_description; };
line 213: 	if(!$meta_keywords) { $meta_keywords = $default_keywords; };
line 214: 	
line 215: 	$html_title =~ s/\"//g;
line 216: 	$meta_description =~ s/\"//g;
line 217: 	$meta_description =~ s/<\/[^>]*>//g;
line 218: 	$meta_description =~ s/<[^>]*>//g;
line 219: 	$meta_description =~ s/<\/[^>]*//g;
line 220: 	$meta_description =~ s/<[^>]*//g;
line 221: 	$twitter_description =~ s/<\/[^>]*>//g;		
line 222: 	$twitter_description =~ s/<[^>]*>//g;
line 223: 	$twitter_description =~ s/<\/[^>]*//g;		
line 224: 	$twitter_description =~ s/<[^>]*//g;		
line 225: 	$meta_keywords =~ s/\"//g;
line 226: 	
line 227: 	&Templates::SetTitle($html_title);
line 228: 	&Templates::SetMeta("<meta name=\"keywords\" content=\"$meta_keywords\">");
line 229: 	&Templates::SetMeta("<meta name=\"description\" content=\"$meta_description\">");
line 230: 	if($last_modified) {
line 231: 		&Templates::SetMeta("<meta http-equiv=\"last-modified\" content=\"$last_modified\">");	
line 232: 	}
line 233: 	&Templates::SetMeta("<meta property=\"og:type\" content=\"article\"/>"); 
line 234: 	&Templates::SetMeta("<meta property=\"og:title\" content=\"$html_title\"/>"); 
line 235: 	&Templates::SetMeta("<meta property=\"og:image\" content=\"$default_image\"/>"); 
line 236: 	&Templates::SetMeta("<meta property=\"og:description\" content=\"$meta_description\"/>");
line 237: 	&Templates::SetMeta("<meta property=\"og:site_name\" content=\"PublishersWeekly.com\"/>"); 
line 238: 
line 239: 	&Templates::SetMeta("<meta name=\"twitter:card\" content=\"summary\"/>");		
line 240: 	&Templates::SetMeta("<meta name=\"twitter:site\" content=\"\@publisherswkly\"/>");		
line 241: 	if($twitter_creator){
line 242: 		&Templates::SetMeta("<meta name=\"twitter:creator\" content=\"$twitter_creator\"/>");			
line 243: 	}
line 244: 	&Templates::SetMeta("<meta name=\"twitter:title\" content=\"$twitter_title\"/>");
line 245: 	&Templates::SetMeta("<meta name=\"twitter:description\" content=\"$twitter_description\"/>");			
line 246: 	&Templates::SetMeta("<meta name=\"twitter:image\" content=\"$default_image\"/>"); 
line 247: 
line 248: 	
line 249: 	sub GetLastModified {
line 250: 		my($timestamp) = @_;
line 251: 		
line 252: 		my($mod);
line 253: 		
line 254: 		if(length($timestamp > 8)) {
line 255: 			$mod = substr($timestamp,0,4) . '-' . substr($timestamp,4,2) . '-' . substr($timestamp,6,2);
line 256: 		}
line 257: 		
line 258: 		return $mod;
line 259: 	}
line 260:  };
line 261: &doEval();
line 262: 1;