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Suicide Casanova

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The critically acclaimed psychological drama from the author of the cult classic The Fuck-Up and Manhattan Loverboy.

$15.95 $11.96

More praise for Suicide Casanova

Leslie is a corporate lawyer, rich, but also a porn addict. Accidentally (on purpose?) he killed his wife Cecelia, who worked as a dominatrix, in a suffocation sex game. The judge in Leslie’s latest big important case was one of Cecelia’s infantilist clients, so Leslie is trying to blackmail him with photos and video evidence. Meanwhile, Leslie’s obsession with porn actress/stripper/drug addict Sky Pacifica (real name Jeane) has been going on twenty years. In 1980 he tracked her down in LA, posed as a photographer to meet her, then took her back to New York where she lived with him for a while. In the present day Jeane is long-retired, a middle-aged woman working as a hospital psychiatrist, when Leslie finds her again, and worms his way back into her life.

This is noir, but not in that corny hard-boiled R. Chandler style. It’s also much better than American Psycho, for instance, because Nersesian penetrates the surface of his characters and allows us to feel compassion for them, despite everything. These aren’t just low-lifes on parade. They’re weird, but never unbelievable. Leslie is definitely mixed up (to say the least!) and on a wicked downward spiral, but he’s not a monster. The reader can empathise with him and that’s what gives this novel its edge of danger. I’ve always been attracted to the idea of crime fiction, detectives, mysteries, but in reality they don’t often work for me because plot machinations tend to be to the fore and character take second place. Nersesian’s device of switching between three time locations works in an unforced way, though, not to the detriment of the characters. Events from different periods kind of flow together in the end and draw to a conclusion that’s satisfying, but not too neat.

Suicide Casanova is very New York, perverse and filthy, funny and charming, and utterly compelling. Nersesian may have taken some of his cues from a few disparate starnds of literature such as crime and the existentialists, but he fuses them in a new unique way. His writing is convincing and controlled, but never too uptight. I kept expecting the characters to turn unrealistic or the plot to unravel, but there was never any danger of that happening. The only thing I don’t like about this book is the way it comes packaged with a video box for a cover, which just makes it look like it needs a gimmick to sell. In fact, this is one of the best new novels I’ve read in a long time.

Any Cop?: Arthur Nersesian is a truly engaging and fresh writer who’s got things to tell you that are worth knowing. Especially if you’re into porn flicks and S & M.
—Bookmunch.co.uk

*

“…truth of the matter is there is only so much of anything.  You can take a life and chop it up into so many shits, pisses.  So many bankruptcies and restructurings.  So many cab rides….”, so muses Leslie Cauldwell, lawyer & sex addict, on page 84.

I have a hard time finding sympathy with characters who are lawyers unless it’s Oscar Zeta Acosta.  But Leslie, the lawyer creation of Nersesian, is an amazingly lovable sick bastard.

So he kills his wife and gets away with it, shit happens.  Time to move on.  But Leslie becomes increasingly obsessed with his past love of a porno star…..and oh man, the downward spiral goes.

A good story does not a great book make.  Suicide Casanova achieves greatness from the poetic prose of its author.

Page 275, sex scene:
“I lift the secret curtain of her dress and carefully dip my fingers into her foam, toying with her tumblers.  Now this Jeane stand-in is groaning big-time, throwing off smoke and sparks.  My hobgoblin is hard and hungry….”

If that paragraph doesn’t make you run out and buy this book you must’ve accidentally been steered here from a link on the Disney web site.

There is one down side to this book.  It’s bound in a video cassette case.  Conceptually a good idea, but it sucks to try to read it in the case.  The first thing I did was cut out the guts of the book for an easier read.  I hate mutilating fine literature, but there was no way I was going to continue to scratch my hands on the plastic of the case every time I turned a page.

Page 348, street scene:
“Amid garbage cans brimming with debris, I pass gregarious weekend people, inflatable Macy’s-parade girls and their protective, anchoring boyfriends.  Their normalcy rancors me.  Their joyous idiocy ruffles me.”

Every budding author should read this book.  Stop your creative writing class focusing on the technique of that hack Hemingway and study the elegant gritty prose of Nersesian.  Stop your literary theory class on Faulkner and read the next generation of literary genius.
—Tony DuShane
Cherry Bleeds Magazine

*

There aren’t any surprises in Suicide Casanova. Take the title literally and listen to Arthur Nersesian’s supreme anti-hero Leslie Cauldwell as he admits to everything he is: a creepy, twisted, naive stalker who works as a lawyer. Leslie’s only flaw is loving too much, and confusing love with obsession. That, and he ends up loving the objects of his desire to death. Leslie, a man with a bisexual name, has posed as an amateur photographer to get as up-close as possible to the people he loves, mainly porn stars and dominatrixes. Inside the industry, the managers and bosses see him as a swattable kid fan, but those who receive his affection see him as just another mark. And Leslie is a sucker. Everyone else is an expert, and he’s the novice, taking advice from porn stars on how to photograph them, and blindly obeying a dominatrix’s orders without ever remembering to use the “safe” word.

Nersesian (whose first novel, The Fuck-Up, was the cult hit that put Akashic Books on the map) has drilled out a tight noir novel, but upsets the genre by making the thrust of the story not about crime, but love. Sure, it’s a really fucked up kind of love, but the real thing can be just as sickening. Since Leslie is unapologetically himself, like any noir anti-hero, the only thing he has going for him besides his limitless love is perspective—a perspective severely muddled by booze and pills. How much good would true clarity be, when everyone around you is in trouble or dying? Exactly.

While most noir heroes run away from relationships and domestic settings, Leslie embraces them fully. He’s well-rounded like that. Sensitive. He just wants to be loved, is that so wrong? Nersesian has written a tight, gripping, erotic thriller sure to make every pervert who reads it feel more well-rounded, and every vanilla-flavored “norm” who reads it may look at stalkers and go, “aww.”

—Alex Richmond
Philadelphia City Paper

*

Yes, this book is trash, but it’s sleek, funny, and sometimes sickening trash. In other words, it’s pure crap with a small amount of street cred because the book’s author, Arthur Nersesian, has written a few edgy New York City novels already (including The Fuck-Up). These are not complaints. The novel’s trashy flavor even extends to the way it’s being marketed: This is the first book ever bound into a hard-plastic videocassette case. (Note to bookstore retailers: Make room on the shelf for this revolutionary innovation in book design yeah, right.) It gives new meaning to the term hardback.

Suicide Casanova is also a paean to Times Square’s squalid hardcore past when the area was festooned with porn theaters and massage parlors. The author makes no attempt to veil his contempt for the Disneyfied family fun zone it has become in recent years. He even dedicates the book to “The Real Times Square.” It’s a porn nostalgia novel, if you will, a weepy nod to the sleaze pond that once was. Anyone who ever spent quarters in a porn-theater booth or purchased a film from Swedish Erotica should find something to identify with here.

The novel’s protagonist is Leslie Cauldwell, a self-confessed stalker who accidentally killed his dominatrix wife in a campy, bondage three-way. He deals with his grief by looking up/stalking a former porn star, Sky Pacifica, whom he lived with in the late ’70s/early ’80s. Sky is now a social worker on suburban Long Island, a wife and mother of two. Cauldwell’s increasingly desperate and bizarre efforts to reestablish contact with Sky are what drive the plot, that along with flashbacks to the time when he lived with her. Cauldwell is a wealthy and (up until his wife’s untimely demise at his hands) a high-powered corporate attorney. He is also a peeping tom, a bondage freak of sorts, a binge drinker, a swallower of a smorgasbord of pills, and a crazed middle-aged man intent on destroying what is left of his professional and personal world. His journey through dark sewers, past and present, to oblivion is this novel. You know how Cauldwell is going to end up, but you keep reading to find out how he is going to dispatch himself.

Cauldwell is also as skanky and unsettling a lead character as you’re likely to find in literature. Just about everyone he comes into contact with soon loathes him, and he hates himself with equal gusto and justified passion. Nersesian never makes him a sympathetic character; Cauldwell stays a dangerous, squirmy dweeb from beginning to end. That Nersesian keeps up our interest in this worm over the course of 370 pages is quite a feat. For porn nostalgists of all ages.
—Ross Johnson
Memphis Flyer

*

“‘Suicide Casanova’ gleefully trashes the ‘Good Life'” By Jeff Parker

Leslie, the androgynously named narrator of Suicide Casanova, would seem to have it all, or at least to have done it all in that ’80s materialist misogynist kind of way. Even if he was a bit of a dork most of his life, at middle age he’s a staggeringly rich attorney who’s bedded porn stars and later landed the woman of his dreams.

Now that he’s killed said woman (his wife) during a twisted three-way S&M session, things are falling apart for him. Imagine that.

Casanova is the latest release from Arthur Nersesian, who made it big when Akashic Books published his The Fuck-Up, which put Akashic on the map and propelled Nersesian to true cult-figure status. MTV Books eventually picked it up, and Fuck-Up has since sold in the neighborhood of 60,000 copies, a gargantuan success for any literary book.

Fuck-Up chronicled a similar kind of descent, following the main character’s dismissal from both his girlfriend’s apartment and his minimum-wage job. But Leslie in Casanova obviously has much farther to fall, which can be an enjoyable thing to read about, as most people who aren’t staggeringly rich attorneys would probably agree.

“Let’s watch this son of a bitch lose it all” would seem to be the readers’ rallying call.

Nersesian indeed runs the guy through the ringer. Casanova sets up the back-story: As a law school geek, Leslie had a thing for this porn star, Sky, who he tracked down while posing as a photographer. She played with him a little, but when she found herself pregnant—not his—and with nowhere to go, she sucked up her pride and moved in with him.

This would seem to be a dream come true for Leslie, but he looked at Sky differently than he used to in the pages of magazines and on video screens. She was no longer the object of his infatuation, and despite himself, he found himself annoyed by her very presence. He was finally happy when she moved out after having the baby and married a hot dog vendor.

Yes, a hot dog vendor.

But now, having killed his wife, Leslie finds himself again infatuated with Sky and her porn-star-turned-suburban-wife-of-a-hot-dog-vendor life. This time, his infatuation is more sinister, and he intends to get to her through her teenage daughter.

Much of Casanova seems to be a condemnation of living your life “right.” The kid who went to law school and worked hard ends up, at middle age, unhappy, psychotic and doomed. The porn star, who spent her youth in the debaucherous adult film world, seems well adjusted to her simple but happy new life.

Sky’s only problem is that she’s dissatisfied with her sex life with the hot dog vendor, something Leslie is happy to ameliorate when he arrives back on the scene and briefly gets in Sky’s good graces—before she discovers what he’s up to.

The book has a nice rhythm, fast-forwarding and rewinding between the past and present.
The Other Paper (Columbus, OH weekly)



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