Satyr and Satire

I think it only right to declare my interest at the outset, for I have known Robert DeMaria for a quarter of a century as a friend and as a colleague at Dowling College. After all these years, I should have learned something from that experience, and just now three pieces of advice come to mind: always accept an offer of homemade lasagna from Professor DeMaria; never raise after he calls during a poker game; and read The Satyr, now that you've got a second opportunity.

First published twenty years ago. The Satyr is the fourth of DeMaria's 14 novels and stands apart from his other works for its sheer playfulness, its experimental nature, and its brevity. This work denies ordinary reality, focusing on the psychology of the individual—or so it seems, if we are to take at face value the claims of the sex maniac who is the narrator.

Without wishing to spoil the book for anyone who hasn't gotten through to the last page, I should discuss "face value" if only to dismiss it later. The narrative purports to be a Gogol-like diary of a madman. Marc McMann, who works as an editor in a publishing house in New York, wants to explain why he must murder his mother, Gertrude. But in explaining his motives he also reveals a satyriasis, a hypertrophy of the imagination, and a bent for philosophy that is compelling if perverse.

Killing your mom ain't easy and Marc flounders at the...

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