Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Gentle Degenerates, Volume III in the Vassi Collection, by Marco Vassi:
Is this a novel in the form of a memoir, or a memoir packaged as a novel? The New York City setting, esoteric interests, drug use, and bisexuality of the nameless first-person narrator all tally with Marco Vassi’s biography. But the book is as tightly choreographed as any novel, with some shifts of narrative backwards and forewards in time, while each of the fourteen chapters includes one terrifically detailed sexual episode, along with introspective passages that are sometimes positively grueling.
Written in 1970, the text is unselfconsciously composed in the now-extinct dialect of groove. E.g. “I got to rapping her old man and dug they were at a place where they could use a third to catalyze their mix” (60). The language alone makes the book a period piece, although it was clearly written with an acute sense of its contemporaneity.
Vassi’s narrator sees some sort of revolution as imminent, and himself in the vanguard as a mystic and sexual explorer, and there is a certain innocence to his sexual promiscuity. But he is also a harsh judge of himself and others. He mocks himself for playing at being Michael Valentine Smith (73), and his vigorous anathema against the Esalen Institute is full of bracing insight (174-176). Ultimately, the book delivers just the tone implied in the title: a mix of humane care and sorrowful condemnation. [via]
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