Today, I am reviewing Permanent Obscurity, by Richard Perez. He has a really cool website set up that details his inspiration for the book, and some of the ideas behind it. His book is concerned with some graphic subject matter - chiefly, drugs, sex and massive alcohol consumption. My feelings toward this book are somewhat divided.
I will begin with the cursing. The book primarily takes place in some not-very-nice parts of New York city. It makes sense, then, that the characters swear profusely and have a crude sense of humor. Initially, however, I was having trouble with the book because of the manner of speaking. I don't expect perfect English in novels - people don't talk that way, so neither should fictional characters. I understood WHY the characters talked the way that they did - still, it put distance between me as a reader and the characters, and made the characters less sympathetic.
On a related note, at times, when characters were joking, I wouldn't have known if the author had not specified it. The author may have been doing this on purpose, in an attempt to show that the characters are so inebriated that the things they find humorous aren't really funny. Again, it created emotional distance between myself and the characters.
Now, I will talk about the characters. Obviously, most of them do drugs and drink profusely. Most of them also consider themselves artists, and a big theme in the book regards art. There are the artists who ignore their calling in favor of a regular, 9-5 job so that they can afford to pay rent and buy food. There are the artists who have crappy, low-paying jobs so that they can continue to create art, but who usually favor getting wasted instead. Then, there's Serena. Serena is the protagonist's "best friend." She is a performance artist, but her band's not doing that well. As a result, she picks up some kinky modeling work. She also seems to live off of her male friend, whom she dominates, and whom she doesn't particularly seem to care about.
Serena seems to be one of those charismatic people who gets away with a lot of bullshit for a really long time because those who are close to her are hypnotized by her charm. Her life has been hard, and she has rather sociopathic tendencies, as a result.
Most of the art created by the characters in this book is pornographic in nature. Throughout the book, the idea of the protagonist and Serena creating a fetish pornography film is discussed, planned, and ultimately, carried out. The idea of the slippery slope with regards to modeling, stripping, etc. is introduced and/or implied several times.
The book is reminiscent of Hunter S. Thompson, both with regards to subject matter, and in terms of an unreliable narrator. Ultimately, the book ends with several serious questions.
I will say that the last 100 pages or so flew by. Pairing that with the admittedly slow-going beginning, I would say that overall, the book is okay.
I feel that the author probably accomplished what he was aiming for. The book just wasn't as interesting as I thought I would find it. It did raise some questions that I like thinking about. Then again, I wasn't particularly fond of the narrative tone. Overall, I found this book okay. I'm not sorry that I read it, but I don't know that I would read it, again.
To the right person, however, this book would be amazing.