Review: These Violent Delights by Micah Nemerever

Title: These Violent Delights
Author: Micah Nemerever
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: September 15, 2020
Genre: Psychological Fiction
Rating: ☕☕☕☕ ☕ (5/5)
Content Warnings: *highlight to view* {mention of suicide, attempted suicide, violence, murder, self harm, alienation}

BLURB

When Paul and Julian meet as university freshmen in early 1970s Pittsburgh, they are immediately drawn to one another. A talented artist, Paul is sensitive and agonizingly insecure, incomprehensible to his working-class family, and desolate with grief over his father’s recent death.
Paul sees the wealthy, effortlessly charming Julian as his sole intellectual equal—an ally against the conventional world he finds so suffocating. He idolizes his friend for his magnetic confidence. But as charismatic as he can choose to be, Julian is also volatile and capriciously cruel. And admiration isn’t the same as trust.
As their friendship spirals into an all-consuming intimacy, Paul is desperate to protect their precarious bond, even as it becomes clear that pressures from the outside world are nothing compared with the brutality they are capable of inflicting on one another. Separation is out of the question. But as their orbit compresses and their grip on one another tightens, they are drawn to an act of irrevocable violence that will force the young men to confront a shattering truth at the core of their relationship.
Exquisitely plotted, unfolding with a propulsive ferocity, These Violent Delights is a novel of escalating dread and an excavation of the unsettling depths of human desire.
The Secret History meets Call Me by Your Name in Micah Nemerever’s compulsively readable debut novel—a feverishly taut Hitchcockian story about two college students, each with his own troubled past, whose escalating obsession with one another leads to an act of unspeakable violence.
(via Goodreads)

THOUGHTS

All they were—all they had ever been—was a pair of sunflowers who each believed the other was the sun.

These Violent Delights caught me off guard with its beauty. I’ve finished this days ago and even now that I’m typing all these up, I feel like I still don’t have the right words to say anything about it. It’s easy to discount this as a dark academia novel that closely follows the same vein as Call Me By Your Name… but it is more than that. DATVD leans towards the obsessive relationship and the toxic co-dependency between Paul and Julian that spiraled into a destructive affair.

It was oh so incredibly complex and lovely and sick in the best and worst possible way. I don’t read about this kind of relationship much in the past and I can say that this is probably the most detailed exposition of such I’ve ever read (“To stop hurting you, and to hurt you so badly the scars will never fade“). Such deep and raw exploration reminds me of some Japanese lit that I’ve read (usually in mangas) where the compulsion is too much that you can’t do anything to escape it. It was obsessive and romantic (i.e., escapist) and überly destructive. Per the Author’s Notes, “the most prevailing concern in TVD […] is the kind of toxic and identity-consuming romantic friendship that many queer people experience in their teens”. Nemerever wrote about “queer alienation” with such abandon and and in a way that these repressed strong emotions as the most logical thing that could come out of it. Such deep seated feelings needed an outlet – and it translated to the need to hurt and the need to be hurt. Two landmark cases were mentioned as the jump-off points for the book: the Leopold-Loeb case and the Parker-Hulme case (which honestly sent me into a Wikipedia reading frenzy when I finished reading the book). And though this book was not mean to be a speculation of “what really happened”, it was a fascinating examination of a type of relationship that I am not the least bit familiar about.

What a lonely, dreary thing it is to know the truth. What a relief it is that now neither of us has to be alone in knowing. I hope you looked west while I was looking east, and that for a moment you met my eyes without knowing it. I know you never look away, even when your eyes are closed, but I’m never certain you can see what’s really there.

With the exception of the Prologue, everything was told in Paul’s perspective. And what an incredibly depressing and twisted way to be in. Paul is probably one of the most unreliable narrators I’ve ever read. The thing about this whole ordeal was that you would be so deep into Paul’s mind that that it’s hard to escape his twisted and depressive perspective. The way he projects his insecurities in Julian and their relationship is something that I was only able to realize the magnitude of upon second reading. There were a lot of details and subtexts throughout that I completely missed the first time because I was incredibly wrapped up in his head. When I reread the book, it transformed – some of the scenes take on a different meaning. Case in point: the quote “You just keep pushing me into the deep end and then acting like I’m drowning to spite you.” (which was the quote that made me read the book btw) felt different in my second pass.

“It’s always been real for me, every second—anything else I’ve ever loved is so wrapped up in you now, you’re all that’s left.

And the prose? It was exquisite. This is probably one of those books that I really enjoyed more because of the writing rather than the story. If given a generic treatment, I don’t think this story would shine. But luckily, it was an intoxicating riot. This was obsession and compulsion and subtle cruelty – painted in the most breathtaking of ways through words. This book was slow burn in its approach – but when you’re already falling, there’s no stopping till you reach the bottom. That ending and that last line would haunt me for a long time. Micah Nemerever is a revelation. It’s hard to believe that this is a debut – but I am excited and will be looking forward for his future works.

RATING

QUOTABLE QUOTES

“Whatever I do has to mean something.” He hugged his knees and stared at them; it took all his nerve to raise his voice above a mumble. “I need to make something beautiful, something that lasts. I don’t know what, but I have to, if I want my life to matter at all.”
“Surely it can matter even if it doesn’t last,” said Julian—not disagreeing, just prompting, the way he did with all their other thought experiments. “If you painted a masterpiece and then set it on fire, it still would have mattered. If you know you’ve made something beautiful, who cares how long it lasts? Après toi, le déluge.”

“There’s this idea in psychoanalysis that I’ve always liked.” Julian pulled himself closer and rested his head in the crook of Paul’s arm. “It’s that what we call ‘love’ is actually letting your identity fill in around the shape of the other person—you love someone by defining yourself against them. It says loss hurts because there’s nothing holding that part of you in place anymore. But your outline still holds, and it keeps holding. The thing you shaped yourself into by loving them, you never stop being that. The marks are permanent, so the idea of the person you loved is permanent, too.”
“But I’ve always been shaped around you.”

“There are degrees of perfection,” said Julian airily, “the same way there are degrees of being dead.”

GET THE BOOK>> Amazon | Indiebound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble

About the Author

Micah Nemerever was trained as an art historian. He wrote his master’s thesis on queer identity and gender anxiety in the art of the Weimar Republic. He is an avid home chef and amateur historian of queer cinema.

After studying in rural Connecticut and Austin, Texas, he now resides in the Pacific Northwest.

Micah’s work appears or is forthcoming in SLICE Magazine, The Carolina Quarterly, Claw & Blossom, and elsewhere. These Violent Delights is his first novel.

Author Website | Twitter | Instagram

Find me elsewhere: Blog | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | YouTube

Care to buy me a Kofi? CLICK HERE.

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Auditor by profession and a 'round-the-clock geek 🤓 from the 🇵🇭. I'm a coffee-holic INTJ with an unhealthy obsession with books and stationery. I word-vomit over at Twitter and posts book pics at Instagram: @pagesandcc . I also blog at https://pagesandcoffeecups.com/ .

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