Closing in on Death
An inconclusive report on the lifestyles of the rich and famous
It is peculiar that Jessica Hagedorn's fourth novel, Toxicology, is preceded by epigraphs about Lorca's idea of the duende—an enigmatic Spanish term "about the struggle and state of possession that go into making great art," as one of her characters puts it. "Duende's hard to explain. Sorta like when black singers are said to have soul." It’s peculiar because as the story unfolds, we are introduced to artists who have lost their passion—base creatures posing under the guise of genius whose real struggle seems to be between hedonism and self-pity.