THE DEVIL TREE
A novel about psychic attrition and fission by the author of The Painted Bird and most recently Being There which is about the dislocation and divisiveness of a young man, Whalen, while also featuring the emptiness of contemporary life. Whalen finally comes back home after his mother's suicide (a constant preoccupation) from unfulfilling romps in apparently not-so-exotic places like Katmandu and Mombasa to inherit one of America's largest estates. Having escaped the expatriate round of drugs and sex and encounter therapies, he is enmeshed in the equally vacuous scene of American corporation life ("This country's culture is antiseptic. . . . In America you've got to be as straight as a highway"). Ultimately he ends up in a mental institution overlooking Lake Geneva. The book is written in Kosinski's familiar non-chronologically ordered and spliced short sections, in an interchangeable first and third person, and in direct, declarative sentences without a word to spare which achieve the effect of a stylized oversimplification and heighten the tragic-ironic intention. All of this favors momentum while reflecting Whalen's most divided self. Some "people see exactly what they want to see. . . a spoiled rich boy dissatisfied with life" -- others will see more but one questions whether they will be really disturbed or involved.