The VicesBook | Lawrence Douglas By Tracy O’Neill
Life’s a mystery in a world without Vice.
Erudite, coy, dark, and charming: to describe its protagonist Oliver Vice is to describe the prose of The Vices itself. In this novel, Lawrence Douglas begins with the mystery of Vice's disappearance off a ship and circles back through the philosopher's life. The narrator, a Vice lookalike who teaches at the same college, plumbs his memory for clues. Is Vice's disappearance a suicide, an accident, or a murder? Were there aspects of Vice's life to make him unhappy enough to end it all, and if so, would he? How is his disappearance a discrete unit in a pattern of family mystery, dating back to the Holocaust? As the clues accrue about Vice's art dealer father Victor Vice, his mother's doctor father, and the women Vice loved and lost, less and less remains clear. The novel is one of doubles and twins, a world in which history and fiction are indistinguishable, and much like Vice's philosophical idol Ludwig Wittgenstein, Douglas succeeds admirably in complicating the search for truth. With the pacing of a good detective story and high dose of postmodern cleverness, The Vices is an alluring take on the mystery of despair.