Sunday, May 22, 2011

Dog Run by Arthur Nersesian

"Soon as I hung up, I suffered the acute and divine epiphany of being jobless. It was the modern equivalent to what medieval monks recorded after weeks and even months of starvation and sensory deprivation. I lay in bed and watched moments break into phenomenal particles of panic and could actually see the divine crack of God’s ass as he completely turned his back on me. I rose, dressed, grabbed doggy, and went to the ATM where I checked my balance. Doing some basic math, I realized that I had about three weeks before I would be in debt. I got a New York Times and a cup of coffee and brought the dog back home. Flipping through the classifieds, I looked for employment. I saw a couple of lousy-looking, tele-sale jobs and realized that this was going to be a real disaster. I cringed at the thought of having to start the whole job search again, updating my bogus resume, finding a costume that made me look responsible and professional, and then, worse of all, making calls and going for torturous interviews. Instead I turned on the TV and watched some white-trash sex nuts charging at each other on the Jerry Springer Show. For all the country’s political sensitivity and moral outrage, we secretly hungered for pornographic gladiator fights. Numb put her chin on my knee just like she used to do with Primo."

I can tell a book that’s been spat out from the fine folks at MTV Books a mile away because their jacket designs make me salivate even though I have to be automatically skeptical about them due to the company behind their imprint. To be fair, these are the same people that brought us the angsty gem Perks of Being a Wallflower. Dog Run by Arthur Nersesian beckoned to me while I was recovering from too much wine at Barnes and Nobles and I decided to see if I liked the inside as much as the cover. I won’t tell you it was as bad as I expected it to be, but it’s certainly no Perks.

On the back, a Jennifer Bell (who wrote a book I’ve never read) was quoted saying “Nersesian’s writing… is beautiful, especially when it is about women and love.” I’m pretty sure that I was misled by this, because while there was plenty about women and men and sex, there wasn’t a damn thing about love in this novel anywhere.

Our main character, Mary, is a 29 year old fuck-up that has been drifting from one temp job to the next without any real sense of purpose or direction. She’s got a book she’s been writing about shitty minimum wage franchises called The Book of Jobs and until maybe the third page, a live in boyfriend named Primo who she comes home at the opening to discover dead on her couch. Through a strange turn of events she finds out that everything she knows about the dead beau has been a lie and finds him infinitely more interesting dead than she did while he was alive. To put all of Primo’s puzzle pieces together, she hunts down (and sometimes stalks) all of his former lovers. Her detective work takes her to seedy strip clubs, art galleries, and a band audition where she ends up accidentally becoming the bassist for Crazy and Beautiful, whose singer is Primo’s ex wife and baby mama Sue Wotts. Sue has a reputation for being “that crazy Cambodian bitch” and even without Sue knowing what Mary’s connection to her is or her agenda, Mary still manages to rile Sue up incessantly throughout the novel.

I think most people have SOME degree of morbid curiosity about their partner’s former significant others, so it was interesting to see someone act out on that in ways that no one in my actual life (I hope) ever would. As long as it’s fictional, I enjoy a good train wreck.

While Mary tries to come to terms with Primo’s life and death, she also has to deal with recurring bouts of unemployment, manage a friendship with a histrionic husband-hunter that’s trying to find any decent remaining unattached Jewish men in New York after sleeping with the rest of the city of New York in its entirety, a string of dates with bizarre men, not pissing off Crazy and Beautiful, and being a decent dog mama to Primo’s overly needy canine Numb. Her relationship with the dog leads to a relationship with the local dog run (hence the book title), where she meets her new love interest, scatters Primo’s ashes, and bludgeons someone in the head and almost gets arrested. I found most of the subplots to be more interesting than the Primo fascination, which became tedious to read about a lot faster than I thought it would. The only subplot I could have done without involves Mary doing write ups on novel manuscripts sent into a publisher for a literary contest. The novels that she has to read all leave a lot to be desired, and Nersesian beats us over the head with that by making us endure three page stretches that describe their crummy plots, involving things like strange sex machines and self flagellating priests. I guess he’s trying to get us to feel sympathetic for Mary but I quickly became impatient with him, instead.

The book was entertaining enough over all, but there were quite a few boring stretches and bad sex scenes to work through before getting to the end, which was a landmine of back to back plot twists I never would have seen coming. I devoured the last quarter of the book right up until the last page, where Nersesian seemed to have forgotten that he made his main character neurotic and self involved and tied things up a little too nicely for them to be believable. The last page is not the right place for warm and fuzzy epiphanies.

I feel like I should follow this up with something more respectable and literary for my next review, but I probably won’t.

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