suicide casanova

by Arthur Nersesian

(Akashic Press, 374 pages, $25))

Since when were porn, kidnapping, murder-suicide and blackmail so damn boring? It takes a rare talent to turn the seedy underworld of New York (even in the post-Giuliani era) into a complete soporific--but this is a talent Arthur Nersesian has in abundance.

When you pick up a book with a title like Suicide Casanova, you expect sleaze, death and decadent sex. And you get what? A mere tease, one or two awkwardly written mash scenes mitigated by the whining sensitivity of Nersesian's irritating protagonist, Leslie, a rich lawyer who plays out his latent S&M tendencies via corporate takeovers.

When Leslie's wife, a dominatrix, is strangled during a rough-sex episode, he flips out and starts stalking his ex, a former junkie porn star called Sky Pacifica. "She is now a professional social worker, a mother of two to boot, pinned down like a dissected frog in the waxboard of the suburbs," Nersesian writes, in one of the book's all-too-rare biting lines.

The novel not only reads like a low-grade (but not nearly low enough) porn flick with more "acting" than action, it actually comes in a videocassette box instead of a hardcover. To be fair, it's possible Nersesian's playing a joke. But even if he thinks it's cleverly ironic, there's no excuse for dime-novel banalities like this: "Despite all the flowers and cards he had delivered to her house and all the phone messages he had left on her machine, she wasn't sure if he felt guilty or merely enjoyed the kinky sex. Few girls would put up with it. She couldn't afford another crappy relationship...."

Really bad porn can be great, but this is bad in all the wrong ways. Becky Ohlsen