Waxing both pornographic and philosophical, Taylor’s “Adventure in Divine Nihilism” is a contrast of rejection and seeking, a twenty-one-year-old student dropout in Gainesville, Florida, in search of meaning scratched from the unstructured existence of a community of fringe-dwellers. After a revelatory journey through an obsession with Internet pornography to assuage a bone-deep ennui, David falls into the company of anarchists, burnouts and libertines who inhabit “Fishgut,” a rambling collective of ex-students in a college town.
The residents of Fishgut share alienation, bodies and drugs, dumpster-diving for feasts of other’s leftovers. They are wandering souls on disparate quests for meaning and/or the Divine in a world as foreign as a moonscape. This intellectual and drug-fueled pursuit is a constant, even as David rejects pornography’s “gleeful gilding of filth” and a dead-end job, a Brave New World of half-cubicles replaced by the twisted limbs of strange girls’ bodies and the camaraderie of hippies, punks and addicts.
Fishgut is nirvana after the wasteland David has endured, but even the week-long ménage a trois with wiry Liz and earthy Katy develops cracks, the communal sharing of sweat, drugs and filth yielding its own structure. Through it all, the unformed definition of God strides like a superhero, whether an individual imagines a reasoned existence or a rejected society litters even this disenfranchised group with existential angst. David’s safe haven has its flaws, a smelly Garden of Eden with its requisite guru, the mysterious hobo who first laid claim to Fishgut.
The corruption of government, the world at large, and any remote form of social contract has its own odd bones, the act of rejection birthing an anarchist’s dream of laissez faire self-indulgence: “What would anarchy look like if we just started calling it truth?” Things evolve, and nothing remains static, even David’s respite from life. Taylor is fearless in many regards, as evidenced in the beauty/ugliness of his novel: Here it is. Look at it. Problem is, halfway through, I’m bored with these people and their consciousness-altered intellectual posing. While the young must always rail against the status quo, the lifestyle of these characters is a choice - and therefore a conceit.
In one significant moment, Katy runs her fingers through new friend David’s hair while doing the same to lover Liz, sprawled across Katy’s lap. Near tears, David realizes how long it has been since anyone touched him. Such are the epiphanies of seekers in purgatory. Clearly Taylor is a talent in transition, willing to breach the boundaries of taste, causes, religion and politics. But, like the careless debauchery of youth, there is an expiration date. Free love is never really free.