It’s hard to imagine Nick Tosches ever having been young. His interests, the way he dressed, the language he used, his love of cigarettes—everything about Tosches was out of time. He wasn’t so much from a different era as he was from a different sensibility, one that refused to distinguish between highbrow and lowbrow, didn’t countenance small talk, wore ties and stood when a lady entered the room, but also trucked in ethnic slurs. He saw no contradiction in being both courtly and vulgar.
Tosches, who died on Sunday at the age of sixty-nine, began his writing career as a record reviewer for Creem and Rolling Stone. Throughout the seventies, he wrote about music with audacious flair, mixing Latin phrases and Biblical themes with a sailor’s vocabulary. Album reviews couldn’t hold him, and in 1988 he published his first novel, Cut Numbers, about a loan shark.
In 2012, he published Me and the Devil, a novel about a writer named Nick who lived in the same downtown New York neighborhood Tosches lived in, and had the same opinions, friends, and outlook, and who regained his waning vitality by drinking the blood of young women during violent sexual bouts. “It’s the vampirism of trying to regain something of youth through young flesh,” he said when I visited him, on a magazine assignment, in his brick-walled apartment. We talked for two hours, sometimes about his book, but more often about vanity, technology, illness, how New York had changed, and old age. Tosches was observant, restless, and hilarious. Our conversation remained unpublished—here’s a small part of it, in tribute.
I think this is a book that no one under the age of forty or fifty could have written.
No matter how gifted, or what powers of imagination they had, no one under forty or even fifty could pull it off. It’s a book about aging as much as it is about anything else. And seeing the world change. It’s a book about love. And it’s always, in a way, about books, because there are certain small parcels of ancient wisdom I’ve been fortunate enough to discover through the years, and have held closely. And I keep trying to spread them. I don’t even know if people are looking for wisdom these days. Read More