NOVEL ROOTED IN "SHEER PLEASURE OF ITS TWISTED CONSPIRATORIAL WORLD"
Yonca Talu has a brief review of Brian De Palma and Susan Lehman's novel Are Snakes Necessary? in the September/October 2018 issues of Film Comment:
The book surveys the contemporary American sociopolitical landscape through a mordant, erotically charged tale of corruption and revenge inspired by the sex scandal involving ex-senator and presidential candidate John Edwards. Are Snakes Necessary? is rooted not in serious literary aspirations but in the sheer pleasure of its twisted conspiratorial world that ensnares the reader in an anxious web of doubt by constantly toying with the boundaries between artifice and authenticity.
Permeated with allusions to his filmography, De Palma's first novel is as much a thematic as a formal extension of his cinematic preoccupations. The fragmented, labyrinthine structure presents itself as a novelistic equivalent of split-screen: each chapter espouses a different point of view and drives the ensemble narrative toward a theatrically orchestrated, morbid conclusion whose swift perspective shifts echo the filmmaker's experiments with intercutting and the failed heroism of Blow Out (1981).
The storytelling efficacy of De Palma's project lies in its ability to intimately chart the characters' deteriorating inner lives as the lines between hunter and prey dissolve. This toxic duplicity is counterbalanced by Fanny Cours, a student videographer who emerges as the epitome of idealistic innocence in her efforts to unearth vestiges of purity within Lee Rogers, the rotten, adulterous middle-aged politician she falls in love with while working for his campaign. But when the masks come off, what remains beneath the comforting illusion of romantic symbiosis is the insatiable narcissistic yearning for adulation.