Title: I, Lucifer
Author: Glen Duncan
Publication: 2002 (Scribner), 2003 (Grove Press)
trade paperback: (UK, Scribner) 0-7432-2013-7
trade Paperback: (US, Grove Press) 0-8021-4014-9
Other: shortlisted for the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize
You know, setting aside from all the melodrama and general angst about Lucifer ("Fallen Angel, Prince of Darkness, Bringer of Light, Ruler of Hell, Lord of the Flies, Father of Lies, Apostate Supreme, Tempter of Mankind, Old Serpent, Prince of This World, Seducer, Accuser, Tormentor, Blasphemer, and without doubt Best Fuck in the Seen and Unseen Universe") generated by overly sympathetic poets like Milton, the fallen angel is probably a bit of a wanker. Really, how could he not be? Aside from being God's private joke, he sits around for the rest of eternity tempting us humans to do silly things. The poor thing has really too much time on his hands and an unhealthy fascination for the colour red. So if he turned out to be a total punk smartass with the mentality of a rebellious adolescent, it wouldn't be all that surprising, right?
You know what? You'd be right. He is a wanker.
Sulking in New York City and amusing himself to pass the time, Lucifer is visited by Gabriel ("once a carrier pigeon always a carrier pigeon") and is offered, literally, a chance of a lifetime: if he can spend a lifetime inside a mortal body, he can return to Heaven. You know, go back to square one, with the heavenly hosannas and harps. Hang out with the cool crowd again. The alternative is a lot worse: being reduced to nothingness by God. Lucifer, the old chap, he's a natural-born skeptic - you can't play dice with God, after all - so he demands a trial run of one month ("not February") before signing up for the whole enchilada, name signed in blood on the dotted line and all.
Enter Declan Gunn1, a sad sallow-faced wreck of a man living in shabby flat in London. Flabby, pot-bellied, and not at all attractive, he's been as suicidal as a Disney lemming ever since Penelope, the woman he both adores and loathes, cheated on him. He is broke as a beggar ("two words for his bank account: oh dear"), is afflicted with a number of complexes (the Madonna-whore complex and the Oedipus complex being the least of them), and worst of all, has a bad back.
Guess who Lucifer has to live inside? (Well, if there's anything to be said about God, it's that He has a sense of humor.)
Aside from being a sorry specimen of humanity, Declan Gunn is also a writer. Lucifer takes advantage of this, using it an opportunity to pen a memoir about himself - this novel - while doing what the Devil does best: living in sin. The bank account adjusted to suit (£79,666), Lucifer does all the things that Declan never had the chance to do, manipulating the body like a puppet. Like get a proper wardrobe, for one. Write a screenplay to be made into a Hollywood movie. Oh, and of course, sleep with various women in various parts of London: Violet, a wannabe actress hungry to make it big (utilizing the time-honored casting couch technique); Harriet, a woman who sold her soul in exchange for a rich husband (who is, incidentally, now dead); and Tracy. In the meantime, Lucifer thumbs his nose at the constant stream of angelic visitors coming to visit (read: gawk at) him, giving them the finger and a farewell ("fack orrf!"), whether it's Michael, Uriel, or even Raphael, of which the latter, bizarrely enough, really, truly loves Lucifer more than anything else in this world (and this may or may not include God, but Raphael's not saying).
But even these sorts of things get old, and the longer Lucifer sits inside the body, the more familiar he becomes with the person known as Declan Gunn. And despite being well-known - famous, even - for encouraging people to give in to their temptations, Lucifer finds himself taking control of Declan Gunn's life to do the right thing instead. At least one right thing, anyhow, which spurs complete pandemonium in both Heaven and Hell.
Billed as a satire, I, Lucifer is a story loosely - very loosely - wrapped around a plot. The narrator frequently trails off into indignant ramblings, as if Señor Diablo really, really needed to get some things off his chest and didn't care if he ran over a couple of small cute animals in the process. Like what really happened with Adam and Eve. Or how he spent his entire time trying to convince Judas that betraying Jesus was, like, totally not a good idea. Or what was up with the Holocaust. Or how waving the results of the Milgram experiment in God's face totally back-fired on him. The arch, self-congratulatory tone to the text can probably be excused (hey, it is the Prince of Darkness after all), but unless you are very fond of this sort of thing, you will have to repress urges to (metaphorically) smack the protagonist. Kind of like the feeling you get when you encounter any Palahnuik character, come to think about it. Lucifer, frankly speaking, is a smartass, and apparently one of those people that must have the last word. (You know the type.) He can't help it. Having five senses is a new and wonderful toy to him, and by Jove, he's going to take advantage of it. Whether it's the London Underground ("depresses God"), New York City ("a toilet"), Gabriel ("sanctimonious pont"), or Michael ("irritating air of privy intelligence"), our sassy protagonist has a quip and observance about everything, delivered fresh and sharp in rapid-fire snappiness. The reader will either find Lucifer - and, in fact, the entire book - very amusing or very aggravating.
I'm supposed to be guilty of all sorts of crimes and misdemeanors, but when you get right down to it, I'm really only guilty of one: wondering. The road to Hell, you say, is paved with good intentions. Charming. But actually it's paved with intriguing questions. You want to know. Man do you want to know! I wonder what it'd be like to stick this bread-knife in his throat? Whose question do you think that is? You'd be surprised. It's the young mother's, slicing through the still warm loaf while her under-two sits facing her in his highchair, gurgling, a mauled and sodden Jammy Dodger clutched in his tiny mit. She's not going to, obviously, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, but you know, it's there, the wonder, the beautiful, abstract curiosity.
The memoir comes down to the problem of what, exactly, Lucifer wants. Evil doesn't exist for the sake of itself, after all. Does he love God? Sure, that's not a problem. Does he really want to be evil? Not really. Does he mind the pain? Sure. So will he go back? No sir, no thanks. So why...? It's pretty simple, if you think about it. Something that you, a human, would understand and something that say, God, might not. But Lucifer's not the type to tell all. If you get it, good; if you don't, that's fine, too. But he's really got to go, there's this, well, rebellion going on. Maybe Raphael will stick around to tell you.
but what you didn't count on
was another mother of a mother revolution
you could've have me right there beside you
you could've have me
right there beside you
Title: I, Lucifer
Artist: Real Tuesday Weld
- It's a Dirty Job But Somebody's Got to Do It
- Bathtime in Clerkenwell
- The Ugly and the Beautiful
- (Still) Terminally Ambivalent Over You
- Coming Back Down to Earth
- One More Chance
- The Eternal Seduction of Eve
- La Bête et la Belle
- The Life and Times of the Clerkenwell Kid
- The Show Must Go On
- Heaven Can't Wait
The novel and the CD were co-projects worked on simultaneously by their respective creators. The CD is partly inspired by the fact that the two creators once shared a flat in Clerkenwell. The CD stands in stark contrast to the book; while the book is brash, unabashedly smug and very hip, the CD is laid back, comfortable with being simultaneously retro and modern. Ranging from jazz to blues and updated with a touch of electronica, listening to the music is a bit like having the 1930s re-enacted in the present. The tracks employ a little of everything - the spoken word, scat singing, or white noise static. It's very old-school and rather stylish, with a little bit of a devil-may-care attitude that would be appropriate for someone like the Great Adversary.
1 Declan Gunn = Glen Duncan. Do you not see the cleverness?
Some information from Real Tuesday Weld's website (http://www.tuesdayweld.com/). Lyrics are courtesy of Tori Amos, "Mother Revolution." Yes, I know "Father Lucifer" might've been better, but this one is oddly appropriate.