C. B. Murphy’s End of Men is a satiric tour de force about the ambiguity of identity where art intersects relationship. Inspired by The Magus, the book takes a successful Chicago couple through life-altering experiences ending on an Italian island run by a Warholian student of Aleister Crowley and his Iranian-feminist femme fatale. Adrift in midlife angst, ﬁnancier Ben withholds the secrets of his wild past from his younger wife Kay. In horror at becoming a suburban “Beige,” Kay longs for her own walk on the wild side. As assistant curator of a feminist-themed outsider art exhibit, the End of Men, Kay contacts Ben’s estranged friends, the narcissistic Gordon and the exotic Shiraz, who run a ﬁlm school on a Mediterranean island. Their secret is that it is a struggling place where underpaid Eurotrash produce factory art while working as grips and extras on Shiraz’s underfunded masterpieces of neo-feminist surrealism. When the self-styled enfants terribles premier their ﬁlm at Kay’s museum, Ben’s past crashes through its barriers. Caught in the nether zone of grief and confusion, he accepts an invitation to “vacation” at the island described as an artists’ paradise. In Magus territory now, Ben and Kay become pawns in bizarre psychological games of erotic adventure with the promise of a renewed marriage through the reawakening of Ben’s wild heart. In this swirling circus of eccentricity, Ben’s ability to distinguish what is real quickly erodes as he and Kay become performers in Gordon and Shiraz’s ﬁnal ﬁlm, a reenactment of the immolation of Jacques de Molay, the last Knights Templar. As simmering violence threatens to become more than cinematic metaphor, Ben and Kay realize the manipulations have become dangerous.
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