Nemerever, Micah. “These Violent Delights: A Novel”, Harper, 2020.
Two Troubled Young Men
Micah Nemerever’s compulsively readable “These Violent Delights” is a story about two college students, each with his own troubled past and whose escalating obsession with one another leads to an act of unspeakable violence. Paul and Julian meet as university freshmen in early 1970s Pittsburgh and they are immediately drawn to one another. A talented artist, Paul is sensitive, insecure talented artist whose working-class family does not understand him. He is almost inconsolable after his father’s recent death.
Paul sees Julian as his only intellectual equal and as an ally against the world that he finds is suffocating him. He idolizes his friend confidence but as charismatic as is, Julian is also extremely volatile and cruel. We see that admiration isn’t the same as trust.
As their friendship becomes intimate, Paul is desperate to protect their shaky bond, even he realizes that pressures from the outside world are nothing compared with the brutality they that they inflict on one another. They cannot be separated and as their world becomes smaller, their hold on one another becomes stronger and they are drawn to an act of violence that will force them to confront a shattering truth at the core of their relationship.
This is an unsettling read that unfolds quickly and with furor as it explores human desire. Nemerever gives us a look at intimacy, desperation, and the damage that it can cause.
Filled with themes of obsession, belonging, normalcy, morality, and lies, I must say that this is one of the most intense novels I have ever read. The final act of revelation that happens between Julian and Paul is heart-stopping. Even when we learn the truth of their relationship, we enjoy watching them completely take over each other’s lives and not let anyone or anything else in.
It is impossible to truly write about the plot without spoiling it and so I will not even try. It is enough to now that Julian and Paul have such an unbelievable ability to grab the worst of each other and make it meaningful. There are strong philosophical underpinnings that explore moral and ethical dilemmas, particularly the agonizing events that define Paul’s own internal conflicts with himself and the world surrounding him. We feel the pain that Paul feels and as we do, we begin to look within ourselves. We are pulled into the story that will not let go forcing us to question ourselves. The universal themes are those we choose not to speak about.