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Arthur Nersesian: Suicide Casanova

 

Crescent Blues Book Views Akashic (Paperback), ISBN 1-888451-66-1

Book: arthur nersesian, casanova suicide
This is a work of the most profound pornography.

Just before the editor of Crescent Blues rushes out to buy herself multiple copies, one for every room, that remark, while true, should be hastily qualified. While it would be impossible for its various graphic sex scenes to be accomplished free of any vestige of the erotic, such eroticism proves purely incidental to Nersesian's much more serious purpose -- to paint a group portrait of people consumed by their own obsessions.

The novel's primary narrator, Leslie Caldwell rightly qualifies as the most notable figure in this portrait. A successful lawyer, he recently lost his equally obsessional professional-dominatrix wife Cecilia to a supposed sadomasochism accident. Now, awash in booze and with suspicious cops harassing him at every turn -- was that really an accident or did he deliberately garrote her? -- he gives in to his long ill-suppressed obsession with the generously bosomed porn actress Sky Pacifica. His fixation on her began in his youth, when masturbatory addiction to her movie drove him to locate her, strike up a brief acquaintanceship, and enjoy an even briefer sexual relationship with her. Later, the pregnant Sky shamelessly abused the friendship…or perhaps she didn't. Perhaps they both got exactly what they wanted from their time together.

Heedless of the fast downward spiral of his career, Leslie once again tracks down Sky, discovering her to be a respectably married woman in Long Island. Incapable of making his life simple in any respect, Leslie sufficiently complicates his new approach to her that at one stage he appears to be sexually harassing her teenaged daughter. But finally Leslie and Sky reaffirm their liaison. Of course, though, there can be no happy ending here: obsession creates its own dooms.

There is a further dimension to the novel. In their obsessions -- and I don't apologize for the frequency with which I've used that word -- the central characters of Suicide Casanova enact in microcosm the behavioral frenzy of New York City, specifically Manhattan. Leslie's obsessions with sadomasochistic bondage and -- both youthful and middle-aged -- with Sky act as defenses against the lure of the obsessional mire of his career as a corporate lawyer. Anyone who ever lived in NYC will be able to identify a part of themselves in Leslie.

Suicide Casanova shares a similar "feel" with -- and offers as much to be admired as -- Luke Rinehart's classic novel The Dice Man. A much more recent but equally valid comparison can be drawn with Christopher Fahy's excellent Fever 42, where sex provides the primary obsessional focus. Or maybe, in both instances, the sex only serves as the excuse for the indulgence of the obsession -- if it weren't sex it could as easily be something else that the obsessive used as the tool to effect his slow, relentless self-destruction.

An impressive novel from an impressive writer. I strongly recommend it.

John Grant

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