As in David Shobin's creepy The Unborn (1981), Satan is now a computer. But Leven isn't after chills, he's after laughs--and...


SATAN: His Psychotherapy And Cure By the Unfortunate Dr. Seymour Kassler, J.S.P.S.

As in David Shobin's creepy The Unborn (1981), Satan is now a computer. But Leven isn't after chills, he's after laughs--and he gets them in abundance here, thanks partly to mad scientist Leo Szlyck, the creator of the possessed super-machine: it operates off feedback only, off existing energy; it reads minds, knows all, feels pain. And then, during one of crazy Leo's many hospitalizations--this time in a mental hospital named Phlegethon in Citadel, New Jersey--he becomes the patient of Sy Kassler, a clinical psychologist with the sufferings of a Job. Sy feels that he killed his father through aggravation and disappointment; he has had a nervous breakdown of his own (to which he responded by becoming a psychoanalyst); he's divorced from beautiful but bitchy Vita, who neglected their two children but wouldn't let Sy have custody of them. And now, when Sy gets inventor Leo as a patient, things go really bad: Sy falls in love with Leo's wife Lupa, but she (in love with Satan the computer) becomes a call girl; Sy has a confused homosexual affair with a colleague who later kills himself; the hospital director turns out to be Satan's son-and does neurochemical research on kept-alive brains of the otherwise dead. . . . Yes, folks, this is just your average plot put into shock-therapy, attached to electrodes of Freud, Einstein, Milton--and then Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner. Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner Well, sort of--because Kassler, at the end of his tether, finally agrees to psychoanalyze Satan the computer; and Satan, it seems, is--like the scientist in Leven's first novel, Creator, 1980--simply a frustrated author, a fellow with all kinds of iconoclastic information to impart. (On Adam and Eve: ""I'll tell you Kassler. She looked at his crotch. She looked at her crotch. Then she looked back at his crotch. 'How do I get one of them?' were the first words out of her mouth. It's been a disaster ever since."") Admittedly, Kassler's trials and tribulations--psychiatry exposÉs (along the scabrous lines of Samuel Shem's House of God), divorce/custody nightmares, neurochemical research, hellish sex clubs--are unrisen dumplings swimming in the narrative broth, with the kooky plot just a framework for riffing excursions. But, technicalities aside, Leven has indeed become the self-propelling, science-based, equable comic entertainer that Creator presaged--and, though more bathos and buffa than Bosch, this is an engagingly longwinded, generously satisfying clever-devil of a showpiece.

Pub Date: May 25, 1982


Page Count: -

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1982