Posts Tagged ‘arthur nersesian’

Dogrun by Arthur Nersesian – Review

August 26, 2010

Another in a recent run of books I’ve enjoyed reading but can’t find much of anything to say about it. Our hero is Mary Bellanova and her quest of identity (Mary! I am your father! NOOOOOOOOOOOO) begins when she comes home, cooks dinner and gets into the sort of pointless, pedestrian fight everyone gets into when they have lived too long with the same person and have come to the realization that they care for them too little to put up with all of it for much longer. Then she discovers that her lover, Primo, has become a former lover and is now a corpse.

Over the course of the novel, Mary comes to realize her best friend has done some less than best friend things, another friend from her childhood has some questions he needs to answer and a friend of Primo before corpsehood becomes the nicest guy she knows. She rediscovers an artistic streak, has some escapades with various mortal remains and has to figure out what to do with a dog she inherits from Primo.

Over the course of the novel there seems to be a general theme about control over one’s life and finding what’s important. Mary’s a temp, a habitually unstable job, and she just sort of fell into a relationship with a guy she came to realize she didn’t really care for but was too overcome with malaise to change. After Primo’s death, her weird obsession with making sure anyone who cared about Primo finds out about his death (which really boils down to a litany of ex-girlfriends/ex-wives) leads her to losing her temp job and beginning the job of finding some semblance of self.

On the opposite end of this is Primo. He stands for who Mary could become. Living a similarly unstable economic life, bouncing from girlfriend to girlfriend, we see how little of himself is left. And how Mary has to venture into Primo’s past to find anything really tangible from his existence. As he got older, he gave up his painting, his music, his everything. He became the life Mary was living.

It’s a short novel, with the hustle and bustle of low-mid income people in New York trying to eke out a living that is simultaneously sustainable and fulfilling. It’s a good read, with Nersesian’s prose being smooth and rolling, beautifully painting his characters and his neighborhood. But I’m not sure it’s much beyond that.  The fertile place for Nersesian seems to be his characters, with more juxtapositions could be drawn(such as Primo and ex-gf Sue Wott, or Mary and Sue Wott, Howard and Zoe, etc.). However, I think Dogrun‘s biggest positive is its readability. It’s just an enjoyable book to fall into with an unconventional female lead. In other hands, his characters could become charicatures, with their self-made oddities, but they don’t. Nersesian excels at giving them an authenticity that speaks highly of his skill.


Manhattan Loverboy – Review

August 18, 2009

 Manhattan Loverboy is the third Nersesian novel I have read. I began with what most people probably began with, The Fuck-up. After that I went through a very long Nersesian drought because I have been dirt poor and have relied on used bookstores for nearly my entire book shelves. so I waited and waited and finally came across Chinese Takeout and bought that and read it, too. In a weird way, Nersesian’s tales of disfunction and fuckups and love and sex in NY is one of the things that actually made me want to visit the city and maybe live there.  They struck me as a modern version of Go or On the Road with real people doing real things and not always with the best of consequences but still being in the moment and enjoying the trip.

Manhattan Loverboy (MLB) is more like Breat Easton Ellis through a meat grinder.  It’s quick, it’s funny and it’s obscene in all the best ways.  The lead character is lewd and takes social awkwardness to new levels while not realizing how socially awkward he actually is. The plot twists around on pins and dimes, and reads as much as a pulp noir as a social satire.

But, with all of this said, it also lacks a certain polish that The Fuck-Up and Chinese Takeout possessed.  some of the lack of polish is assuredly intentional as part of it becomes gradually stripped away as the story unfolds and the plot twists around. But it also makes somewhat irritated read at times as the style does grate on your nerves a bit.

someone with a higher threshhold for this pain would probably argue it as the writing most fully expressing how irritated the character is and they would have a point. But there’s also a bit of it that simply feels forced. It is as if you can feel Nersesian’s naturally prose like writing is under the surface somewhere and is attempting to break free and make itself known. I wonder if this novel was difficult for Nersesian to write or if it came easy – something he labored over or something that burst forth in a moment of creation. I could see either being true but I suspect the former.

But if you have enjoyed Nersesian in the past or if you like Palahniuk now, I don’t think you wouldbe disappointed with MLB. And, even if you are, it’s such a short read that it’s not that large of a sacrifice to make.  So take it off the shelf at the library and give it a night. It’ll be enjoyable.


Manhattan Loverboy Homepage

Manhattan Loverboy at Amazon