Like a naughty child who only a mother can love, Permanent Obscurity is literature's naughty child; a mass-market delinquent considered either too experimental by commercial publishers or too commercial by experimental publishers. Is it Chick Lit? Romantic Comedy? Publishers don't like anything they can't slap a label on and neatly package, and that makes Permanent Obscurity label-less and unloved. PO author Richard Perez is to be commended for resisting genres and labels. His noir exploitation novel easily could have been outfitted with a predictable, mass-market formula and accessorized with cliched characters to suit the corporate suits. But that's not Perez's deal. He obviously wanted to portray life in New York AS IT IS sans the glam and happy endings that Sex and the City gave it on television. Perez's first book, The Losers Club: Complete Restored Edition!, was hailed for revealing the reality of NYC's eclectic cast of characters. But instead of cashing in on his success, Perez "kept it real" with PO, penning what he lives and breathes in the barrio. In a way, Richard Perez is the Larry Clark of literature. I would not be surprised if filmmaker Larry Clark (of Kids fame) were to someday turn Permanent Obscurity into a cult movie, because PO has screenplay written all over it. The rapid-fire dialogue, comically brutal scenarios and down-tuned ending seem like the author might have initially intended for PO to be a treatment rather than a novel. I can see it now: Lindsay Lohan as Serena and Rosario Dawson as Dolores. The Hollywood brass would kick and scream at their inter-racial love affair! Serena (the attractive one) and Dolores the "Nuyorican" are two tough, Lower East Side grrrls struggling to get by on the lousy hand that life dealt them. They are NOT loveable - they have admittedly rancid breath, treat men like dirt and steal from third-world grocers when hungry. Aside from their filthy habits and fondness for narcotics, S&D really could be any Middle American female: "After watching some cop show on TV and picking the lint out of my belly button, I got up to go to the bathroom, then fell out." Our twenty-something heroines are ambitionless ("smoke, procreate, drink, puke, give birth, die") and in a perpetual state of periods and panic. They constantly spat with each other, hurling profanities that would make Sarah Silverman blush, and have lost all faith in America's corporate culture and its wage-slave working class ("pod people, not quite dead but not alive either"). Desperate for money to pay off their drug debts, the two bisexual babes decide to make a bondage film. Reality segues into hilarity and the book really takes off. Exchanging their panties for a script, stealing a video camera from the mafia, and hustling narcotics from is all part of an ill-conceived master plan to make a movie. Enter a depressingly funny cameo by the author himself as a writer-turned-masochist, though it doesn't end well for him nor his manuscript. An over-dose, car chase and homicide round out the entertaining story arc. Permanent Obscurity is not for everyone, and I'm sure Perez intended it that way. The New York street slang will be a challenge to decipher for anyone who doesn't use urbandictionary.com ("A'ight," "Mad Sexy," "Five-O") and the stream-of-conscious dialogue is written in brief single sentences like Twitter on crack:
"This was wrong.
This was bad.
We were wrong.
We were bad."
As an aside, the publisher might want to reconsider their choice of book covers for the second edition of PO; in an ill-conceived Dolores-esque move, they brazenly chose to use a vintage photo of two half-naked women. Ironically, even during the girls' pornoshoot-gone-bad, there is really nothing obscene about Permanent Obscurity. If we must give it a label, call it exploitation-light. To conclude, Permanent Obscurity is an absolutely, positively, completely, thoroughly, back-to-front, front-to-back, up and down, backwards and forwards, then and now, as well as in the future, good read. I look forward to seeing it on the silver screen.