The first time I met Marlon James, he told me about his work as an exorcist.
The Jamaican novelist wasn’t speaking just to me, but it felt that way. He was one of five captivating performers at The Moth on Sept. 19 in New York. The evening was a special celebration of the 20th anniversary of Riverhead Books, which has just released James’s new novel, “A Brief History of Seven Killings.” (We’ve got a terrific review in Friday’s paper.)
James has a rather staid job now — teaching English at Macalester College in St. Paul. But as a younger man, he belonged to a Pentecostal church in Jamaica where parishioners wailed in tongues and were struck by the spirit and delivered of demons. At The Moth he described discovering that he had a special knack for casting out evil spirits. And yet he was haunted by his own demons and visions of naked men that he couldn’t seem to escape.
Finally, he called on his brothers and sisters in the church for help.
His Moth performance ended with a shocking description of his own exorcism, a spiritual ordeal that went on for hours and involved speaking in voices and lots of vomiting. Afterward, the demons were gone. The naked men, not so much.
If you’re in the Washington area, you can meet James on Sunday evening at 5:00 at Politics & Prose. Go get yourself exorcized.