Davey Davis Book ‘X’ Is Far From An Ordinary Love Story: NPR
Lee, the narrator of Davey Davis Xcould be anyone you see walking the streets of Brooklyn.
They have a day job at a big company, they crash into a friend’s apartment after a messy breakup, and they spend their time listening to true crime stories and meeting people they meet in clubs and parties. There is a difference, however.
“I listen to the murder podcast when I take my night walks, the salt squeaks under my boots,” they explain. “In the dark, I am not a pedestrian or a potential victim. I am the silhouette of the street observed – or not – by those inside. I am the one who is dangerous. I like that.”
Lee is a sadist, given to violent fantasies, trying to rebuild his life after a failed relationship, while navigating the dystopian society that America has become. X is far from your ordinary love story – it’s a shocking and moving novel about what it means to be an outsider in a collapsing world around you.
X opens with Lee in a dungeon, having agreed to participate in a woman’s dark fantasy. Although Lee would rather give pain than receive it, they indulge in the woman’s “Lynndie England fetish” – she wants to hose Lee down for his own satisfaction. It’s “not political, just sexy”, she explains to them.
Lee submits to the fantasy because they think the woman might know the location of X, a woman they met at a warehouse party. Lee is immediately drawn to X’s dark vibe: “There was something about her that was familiar, the way she held and moved her body, a visual aroma writhing against itself, a dynamic tension – like if Helmut Newton photos of Grace Jones and Sigourney Weaver had crossed eyes in the middle of an orgy, recognizing each other from a past life I didn’t know her, but I immediately knew something important about her , is that I had never seen someone like her before.
Lee follows X to his bedroom in a punk commune, and X subjects Lee to intense sadistic sex on a bench equipped with stirrups. “Of course I cried,” Lee says. “I knew what she was going to do, but I wasn’t angry…I wanted my anger, but I couldn’t find it.” Then, X disappears and Lee, now obsessed with her, searches for her in the spaces of the New York queer scene.
It is a difficult search. Rumor has it that X plans to ‘export’ or leave the country after being ordered by the government, which runs a program to attract people it considers undesirable – people of color, antifa and activists of Black Lives Matter, “drug addicts” and sex changers” – out of the country. “It’s all fun and games until your fascist state asks you to leave,” notes Lee.
At the same time, Lee reflects on their doomed relationship with ex-girlfriend Petra, Lee’s sadistic masochist: “It’s probably wrong – in a weird way – to wonder why I’m sadistic , but I do,” observes Lee. “Like with Petra. Despite everything, I was in love with her, and I knew it from the moment I started planning how I would do her hair for her funeral. I know that wanting to see your lover dead and beautiful isn’t normal, but it always felt normal to me.”
There’s a lot going on in X, but Davis weaves the threads beautifully. The novel is elegantly structured, with smooth transitions between the present – as Lee looks high and low for X – and the past, as they discuss their childhood and young adulthood as a sadist. budding. The technique amplifies the narrative tension – as we learn more about Lee’s origin, we become more invested in their search for X.
Lee himself is a fascinating character; introspective but not navel-gazing, and sometimes hilarious. Davis leaves it up to the reader to decide how reliable they are — there are hints that they might not tell the whole story, and perhaps charm the reader the same way they charm their lovers.
As you would expect from a book set in the kink world, there are sex scenes in X, and Davis handles them extremely well – nothing in this novel is made for shock. (That said, if you were outraged by the film adaptation of Fifty shades of Greythis book will definitely blow your mind.)
Davis is a remarkably confident writer, and X is a dizzyingly beautiful novel and a fascinating look at a subculture that mainstream American art has often shunned. It is also a grim vision of what happens when a government gives in to intolerance and hatred and turns its back on its own people. As Lee says, “In a world of certain death, what could I have to fear?”