April 2005

Beth Dugan


Suicide Casanova by Arthur Nersesian

A Suicide Casanova, as defined in Arthur Nersesian’s black comic/tragic psychosexual underbelly romp of a book, is a man in the prime of his life and career who risks everything for an obsession of an erotic nature. Leslie Cauldwell, the anti-hero of the story, is such a man. A handsome and rich corporate lawyer, Leslie accidentally kills his beloved wife Cecilia, a professional dominatrix, during rough sex and is marked as a sexual deviant. Adrift in depression, impotence and trying to prepare for suicide, he falls back on an old obsession: Sky Pacifica. “With the help of the porn video I remember Sky’s beautiful lips. Her jaws seemed to dislocate like a snake’s when she swallowed. When my reddened member spurts further and hotter than it has since I was a teen, I realize -- hallelujah -- I’m cured! At that moment, at that place deep inside where primal decision aren’t so much figured out as recognized, I know that I have to locate her.”

Sky Pacifica is the screen name of a porn actress that Leslie fixated on 15 years earlier. Seeing her films in the porn arcades of old Time Square, Leslie tracked her down and became embroiled in her life, eventually supporting her during a pregnancy and complicating his budding relationship with his future wife. Sky née Jeane moved to New Jersey with her husband and child. Leslie hires a detective to track her down again and begins to stalk her in a feeble effort to regain his old passion, his old life. Insinuating himself into Jeane’s life with manipulation and deceit, Leslie is like a train hurtling down a track towards a dead end.

The stories of Leslie present day and of Leslie 15 years ago are told side by side, separated by font differences and dated like journal entries. Both narratives are compelling and disturbing in their nakedness and honesty about the thoroughly depraved, urbane, and complex Leslie Cauldwell. A picture is painted of a man driven by appetites many would find distasteful, who has a casual relationship with remorse and the truth, and for whom nothing is out of bounds. Leslie is the guy who says and does what people wish in their darkest places they had said and done. His motivations are usually sexual and the results are sometimes hilarious in an embarrassed that you are laughing, peeking through the fingers kind of way. “There I spot her. A bargain-basement Britney Spears. She’s looking for me and doesn’t even know it, sitting next to a liquor-scorched couple. They all look like off-duty cops. I pull up a stool next to her. It’s not that she’s pretty, or even attractive, but I can see a million little ways that she is the type of girl who’s attracted to the type of guy that I really am. Poor her.”

This is Nersesian’s sixth book and he has perfected a shocking take-no-prisoners style that drips with lust, wit and barely contained violence. There is no detail too grotesque, no dark fancy too private for his characters and yet at the bottom of the pit, he is able to maintain a well-paced believable story. He also creates characters that are not abominations but rather people with flaws, or as he titled his first book, fuck-ups. There is not a single character here that would be on anyone’s “Must Meet” list, but reading their story was deeply entertaining.

Suicide Casanova by Arthur Nersesian
Akashic Books
ISBN: 1888451661
350 Pages