Books: Sympathy For The Devil

The Epicure's Lament is a dazzling, daring novel about the sufferings of a totally insufferable man

There's a definite scarcity of good monsters these days. Oh, nobody says anything about it--nobody wants to be outed as a monster lover--but really nasty, credible, plausible evil is in short supply. (At least in the world of fiction. Plenty of it running around in real life.) Voldemort? Cardboard. Magneto? Not bad, except for that silly hat. Sauron? He's an eyeball. What, he's going to blink you to death?

This makes one appreciate Hugo Whittier, the narrator and quasi-hero of Kate Christensen's remarkable novel The Epicure's Lament (Doubleday; 351 pages), all the more. At 40, Hugo is a lazy, handsome, brilliant,...

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