Review: The Ugly Spirit, by Steven La Vey

Steven La Vey’s The Ugly Spirit begins with a quote from William S. Burroughs, who also coined the term that give the book its title, “the ugly spirit”:

“Every man has inside himself a parasitic being who is acting not at all to his advantage.”

Within a few pages of the novel, we can see its protagonist clearly suffers from this problem. He can hardly control his sexual urges and in the first chapter is already attempting to procure a handjob from an unattractive seventeen year old while his girlfriend sleeps in the next room. As the book progresses we can see clearly that he’s also hopelessly violent. Yet, although he does little to improve his own situation, we feel for him a little because life seems stacked against him.

This “pornographic romance,” inspired by Charles Bukowski and Henry Miller, then continues in depraved fashion as Steve, the book’s protagonist and author, wanks and shags his way from page to page, helpless due to the parasitic being within. It’s an orgy of lust and alcohol and drugs (including Burroughs’ favourite, majoun). La Vey presents some interesting characters that seem familiar to those of us who came of age in the United Kingdom, and captures the language of Northeast England.

Though the book is filled with some very witty lines and we do want to know what will happen to our pitiful protagonist, it suffers badly from a lack of editing. This makes reading it a little more of a task than an enjoyment, whereas with some heavy editing it could’ve been a much better novel.

David S. Wills

David S. Wills is the founder and editor of Beatdom literary journal and the author of Scientologist! William S. Burroughs the Weird Cult and World Citizen: Allen Ginsberg as Traveller. His next book, High White Notes: The Rise and Fall of Gonzo Journalism comes out in November, 2021.

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