Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Audioreview: Suicide Casanova

Listened 3/19/12 - 3/30/12
1.5 Stars - Not Recommended as an intro to the author / Recommended to fans of freaky sex
Audio Download (approx 11 hrs)
Publisher: Iambik Audio / Akashic Books

(Originally read in 2002 w/ a 4 star review)

Holy wow. This is exactly why I should never, ever re-read a book. Never, ever, ever. The next time I even consider re-reading a book from my past, please step right up and smack me hard, right across the face, ok? If you love me, you will do this. And I will thank you. Because I never want to question my tastes in books ever again. What the heck was I thinking??!!

Well, I mean, I know what I was thinking. I was thinking that by downloading Suicide Casanova and listening to it after all of these years, I would throw myself down memory lane and rekindle my  love of its author, Arthur Nersesian. I clearly remember my obsession with Nersesian in the early 2000's. I had just graduated myself out of the chick lit and religious conspiracy reading loops I had somehow gotten stuck in and was devouring my way through the MTV Books catalog. When I began Nersesian's The Fuck Up,  I thought it was gritty and delicious and so unlike what I had been reading that I was completely knocked over. I went on a Nersesian binge. I gobbled up every book he had out at the time - Dogrun, Manhattan Loverboy, and Suicide Casanova. I couldn't get enough. Hell, after nearly a decade, I found myself snatching up a galley of his 2010 release Mesopotamia at BEA - though the book never did make it into my reading line up that year.

That's why I'm so confused with this whole re-reading thing. I mean, if I really liked his stuff back then, shouldn't I still really like it now? Or at least be able to see what it was I liked about it, even though I might not like it as much today? God, I never thought that this time around, Arthur Nersesian's Suicide Casanova would  have me seriously reconsidering his place on my list of recommendable authors.

 Ok, yes, this time around I listened to the audio version, rather than re-reading it in print, but really, that shouldn't make a difference. I've listened to enough audiobooks to know that I am capable of separating the way I feel about the narrator from the way I feel about the story itself. But isn't it strange that, upon hearing the story, the following two things become terrifyingly apparent to me: (1) I don't remember a thing about this book, except for the very beginning and the very end, and (2) I am drop-jaw shocked that I ever found anything remotely likable about this story! I'm sitting in my car, listening to the book, unable to believe my ears. I'm listening to... to... to soft core porn. Sure, it's not marketed that way, but I gotta tell ya, that's basically what this book boils down to.

Suicide Casanova features a split story timeline, bouncing back and forth between the 1980's and 1990's in which our protagonist Leslie shares his early obsession with Sky Pasifica - a porn actress he has stalked and started dating - and the current date, in which our sexually deviant man-with-a-woman's-name has just gotten away with accidently strangling his wife, Cecilia the dominatrix, to death during a night of some rather rough sex. There's a shitload of sex, violence, and funky stuff going on - which typically wouldn't bother me in moderation, but since the entire book revolves around Leslie's relationship with porn and the strange women he finds himself tied up with, there is no escaping the seemingly endless ways in which Nersesian can describe a penis, vagina, anus, or every conceivable combination of things that each can to do to or with the other!

Not to mention that the dialog between the characters comes across as somewhat fake and forced - absolutely befitting of what you would find in a porn film but not what you would be looking for in a work of literary fiction.  And that brings me to the narrator of the book, Mark Smith. While I  really enjoyed his reading of Matt Bell's How They Were Found, Suicide Casanova was definitely not the right book for him. His story telling style didn't match the pulse of this novel, in my opinion. Could some of the disconnect I had felt between the way the characters conversed with each other be due to Smith's interpretation of the text? That's a possibility. Though I wasn't a fan of his "female" voices - now tell me, why is it that men narrators have a tendency to make women sound nasal and lesbianish? - I'm pretty certain that the best audiobook narrators out there would have had a hard time making this book "listenable".

And that brings me back to my initial concerns with re-reading previously loved books. What was so different about me back then, compared to me now, that I would experience such an extreme dislike towards a book that I once enjoyed, or at least recalled enjoying, since I really didn't remember much of the story once I started listening this time. And what does it say about the me of back then? Who was this girl who liked reading a twisted, raunchy, soft porn and dominatrix kind of book in the first place?

Mommy, I'm frightened. I don't know who I am anymore. Hold me. Please.

This is why, from today going forward, I vow to never re-read another book again. I would much prefer to keep my memories of those books I liked and loved in tact, than risk scaring the shit out of myself, questioning my taste in all things literary, and taint my adoration of those authors of my past.

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