Chandler Morrison’s ‘Along The Path of Torment’ illustrates a more significant societal problem. The issue of vanity is explored heavily within this book. Tyler, our main protagonist, is a vain, damaged, sick, twisted, and condescending man. Tyler is a character who will only acknowledge your existence if you bring something to his life, which is usually sex and gratification. I have met many people like Tyler who underestimate your fine intelligence because on the outside; you aren’t the bombshell they were hoping for.
There are various instances throughout this novel where Tyler is often surprised by women who he has immediately prejudged as dumb. This quote backs up this point on the first page of chapter 19:
“They are, on the contrary, vapid and vacuous, little more than insipid, brainless fame-whores.”
Our main protagonist projects his insecurities onto women a lot in this book. I would surmise that he feels very out of place in Hollywood, which causes him to insult the intelligence of every female he meets. In his view, they must prove themselves to be worthy of his seemingly apparent superiority.
“Whatever it was, it gave me a much-needed sense of superiority. I’d been starving myself for years, but never so successfully. I could look down my nose at all the fat slobs who complained about their ‘diets’ that ‘didn’t work’ and at all the fools who were slaves to their own biology. I had conquered biology.” – Page 1 of Chapter 22
Personally speaking, I am what Tyler would call one of those fat slobs. I am indeed overweight, but I find it incredibly amusing to see such self-obsession and misdirection displayed. As I mentioned earlier, I am no stranger to the Tyler’s of the world. However, their tune soon changes when they face my sharp wit and mind. You see, the main issue with people like Tyler is that they only see their mistake once they do away with their tomfoolery.
In one scene, Tyler spots a young woman sucking on a lollipop. He observes her using her phone and thus goes on to assume that she is scrolling Instagram. Once again, this demonstrates the sheer stupidity and arrogance of Tyler’s character.
Considering this, it is likely that this is why he desires to hurt women. He makes that connection himself later on in the book. We also must acknowledge that Tyler has a diagnosis of cancer. This revelation struck me in my gut because last year, I lost my boyfriend to that disease. We were long-distance, and because of the pandemic, we didn’t get to meet. Devastatingly, he passed away at Christmas, leaving me grief-stricken.
I thought that this line, in particular, was thoughtful and very authentic in an existential sense.
“But the cancer I had—it has a fifty percent recurrence rate. I don’t think it’s really gone. It’s asleep. It’s waiting. My life is nothing more than a coin toss.”
When Tyler discusses the night sweats he suffers from, I was brought back to November last year when my boyfriend had these. I was unaware of his diagnosis for the entire time we were together. I find Morrison’s decision to keep Tyler as vain throughout the novel despite his deteriorating illness a curious one. I understand that Chandler Morrison resides in Los Angeles, so one can assume that he is around such vanity and disgust daily.
I have been to Los Angeles only once, and I was fifteen years old at the time. As an English girl, I grew up watching all the Hollywood blockbusters. I always dreamed of visiting American someday. When I went to LA, I was in awe of how clean it was. There is something to be said about the atmosphere of Los Angeles. It is a place to drive with your windows down and play your music as loud as humanly possible.
We managed to blag our way into a little whistle-stop tour of all the infamous places during my travels there. One of those places was Beverly Hills, and we even spotted a Playboy Bunny Girl on our way. Her bunny tail bobbed up and down with every step she took. Even then, I couldn’t help but wonder how dreadful it is to be so obsessed with your looks. People praised Marilyn Monroe for how she looked, and because she was blonde, people assumed she wasn’t very bright. If Tyler had lived in the ’50s, he would have made that same snap judgement because as much as he believes he is intelligent, he isn’t. Only someone with delusions of grandeur could make such elementary judgements. In fairness, this behaviour could be a product of his environment.
All in all, Morrison’s ‘Along The Path of Torment’ is a lesson in the human condition. How far will we go just to hurt each other? What judgements will we make? Beyond the lude sex acts, a more profound message lies within. It’s not hidden at all. It will only become evident to us when we are willing to accept it.
In some ways, I wish this book would have been longer. There is plenty of room for Tyler to put himself in the spotlight and examine every flaw. He does this briefly near the end, putting his vanity down to self-loathing, which is one explanation, but it’s not the entire reason. I also want the Tyler’s of the world to read this and understand their ignorance. Somehow, I feel that Chandler Morrison’s book isn’t entirely fictional…