Confessions from a Dark Wood
By Eric Raymond
Does anyone use Blackberries anymore? According to the New York Times, they’re “black sheep” nowadays, but two years ago they were ubiquitous—in large part because they were given to corporate employees as part of the company plan. Raymond’s debut novel concerns that time—and the feeling of being welcomed into a corporate structure that’s fundamentally flawed. Nick Bray (not to be confused with DeLillo’s Nick Shay) starts out as a copywriter at Purv, a website specializing in industrial-machine porn, but at his father’s funeral he meets a polished intern from LaBar Partners Limited, a consulting agency that deals in capital brand management. The intern gives Nick a business card and then takes off after the CEO’s Porsche with a videocamera. Nick is confused, but later learns that this is part of the intern’s job: what’s the point of owning a Porsche if you can’t see yourself drive it?
Self-regard plays heavily in Confessions; LaBar Partners owns the tallest building in midtown-Atlanta but only occupies its top four floors. Its ventures range from a high-priced kidnapping service called the “Soldier of Fortune 500 package” to NFL superstar Shaun D. Braun’s dream to build the First National Dogfight League. Within a week Nick has an obsidian AMEX, slicing through “hostesses and concierge and resistance” as Media Vice President (everyone in the company starts out as a VP), but there are kinks in the infrastructure of his high-maintenance lifestyle. Bray falls in love with an aspiring suicide bomber who has new corporate logos tattooed on her body every time he sees her; he gets visits from his father’s ghost—mirroring scenes from Hamlet—who tells him, “all the ant does is dig a tunnel and move the food around.” Then there’s the surprise that awaits at the end of Shelby the orangutan’s leather harness…
The similarities to American Psycho are obvious, if you replace a hyper-privileged insider eviscerating everything atop the social pyramid with congenial Nick Bray. But American Psycho was a grotesque from the get-go, making it obvious that it was a work of fiction; in both its title and execution, Confessions is a satire that sounds more like real life. Bateman kills people; Nick can only manage to drown his Blackberry.