I just finished reading As Meat Loves Salt. It was an extraordinary… - Tactical Ninja
Jun. 22nd, 2015
I just finished reading As Meat Loves Salt. It was an extraordinary read, one of those rare books that brings you so fully into its world that finishing it and returning to reality is almost painful.
The most glib description I've seen is 'tragic gay porn' but I think that's doing it a disservice. You spend the story inside the head of Jacob, a violent man of obsessive passions, who some have suggested is a sociopath but I'm pretty convinced is slowly succumbing to schizophrenia. The story begins as he is forced through his own behaviour to run away from his position as a servant, then immediately alienates the only people who might support him through more despicable acts.
Found starving on the road by the New Model Army, he joins and there meets Ferris, who quickly becomes the object of his obsession. After a beautifully described and particularly violent seige, they desert the army and travel to London where they become lovers. I won't reveal any more of the plot, but let's just say it's tragic, and Jacob brings it all on himself. Even at the last, when it seems external factors are at play, Jacob's failure to act destroys his last chance at redemption.
It sounds like a bloody awful read, eh? Why would you want to spend all those hours reading about someone tearing himself and everyone he loves apart violently? Well, the author's skill is such that I found myself empathising with this horrible man. Not sympathising, empathising. Some of the things Jacob does are horrific, yet the reader feels them as he does - and while this doesn't redeem him, it allows a glimpse of understanding. It's a delicate balance, understanding without condoning, and the author strikes it beautifully. You feel as he feels, the loss of control, the self-loathing, the rationalisation, and the book unrelentingly drags you along with Jacob's descent into obsessive delusion. I found myself wanting a happy ending for Jacob despite how I loathed his behaviour.
I think, on reflection, that most of us can identify with at least some of what goes on in Jacob's head. We feel the passions he feels, and watching him become a slave to them has a touch of "There but for the grace of god go I." And if I'm completely honest, some of it is deliciously erotic as well - and that's the thing. Once you've committed to this book you are along for the ride, the bad and the good, and a ride it most definitely is - an emotional rollercoaster of epic proportions that is so absorbingly rendered that the inside of your own head feels a bit pale and washed out when you return to it. And every time Jacob destroys another chance at happiness, the knife twists in your own heart. It's brutal, and beautiful, at the same time.
It bears saying again that it's also intensely erotic. Let's not forget that. Passion is as passion does, etc.
I find myself wanting to pick it up and reread it, even though I know that all my wishing won't make Jacob make different choices a second time. It says something, though, that I care at all. Usually I finish a book and move on to the next one. My next book is one written by a friend of mine, and to do her decent service I must wait till As Meat Loves Salt has let me go. It might be a while.
I haven't had a work of fiction take hold of me like that since Dragon Age 2. That was another descent-into-madness tragedy that chewed me up and spat me out, and it still haunts me. I think this one will too.
One thing, though. I don't think I've ever read fiction about a homosexual relationship between men, that wasn't written by a woman. Recommendations, please.