Great story. Engaging conflicted characters, funny, tragic. Author understands the psychology of self-destruction.
PERMANENT OBSCURITY is not always an easy book to read. It all depends on your tolerance for dark humor, foul language, and abrasive female characters.
"Now it's Dark," is actually a quote from the David Lynch classic BLUE VELVET, yet this novel conjures up that phrase, especially at the end. There's no true villain like Frank Booth in this drama. Oh, there's the threat of a bad man drug dealer, referred to comically as "Charles Manson," and there are other various drug dealers threatening to exact some revenge on the screwed-up protagonists, Dolores and Serena. But the real enemy, the real source of antagonism in this novel, lies within the main characters themselves. Literally, they are their own worst enemies. And if nothing else, PERMANENT OBSCURITY is a dark comedy about the limits of friendship and limitlessness nature of self-sabotage.
Let me start at the beginning. This is a memoir of sorts (or a faux-memoir), and our narrator is Dolores Santana. The story she tells is about her meeting -- and her relationship with -- Serena Moon, a singer and a performer in a number of short-lived rock and roll bands. Both are young women, early twenties, at the telling, but meet as teenagers. Serena becomes a kind of idol for Dolores, and Dolores is enamored of her wild friend right from the start. This book has been labeled a "lesbian" novel, but that isn't exactly an accurate description. In fact, both women have boyfriends that play a large part in the narrative. Dolores has been dating an older man named "Raymond" for several years, and early in the book, she's dumped by him, after discovering she's pregnant. Serena is also dating; although the nature her relationship(s), by conventional standards, is odd. Serena is a female dominant or dominatrix (a "domina" is the expression used in the book), and the man she's mostly involved with is married and goes by the submissive pet name of "Baby."
Since this is a narrative largely about Dolores' meeting of Serena and her entrance into Serena's strange world, the book goes into some detail about the subculture of BDSM, in particular the placing of Craigslist female domination ads. It can be argued that the book's central plot is about the search for the ultimate "female domination" scenario, which would mirror Serena's vain attempt to gain full control of her life, which has already spun too far out of control. Like Dolores, who is addicted to pot, Serena's substance abuse problem is cocaine; and it's obvious from early on that both characters should be in rehab -- however, both sadly and ironically, neither character has yet hit "rock bottom."
Split into three large episodes or parts, PERMANENT OBSCURITY is largely about an attempt by these two women to gain control of their lives, before going into an even deeper tailspin. The comedy arises from the obvious fact that neither of these women have any idea on how to do this: the further they try to gain a footing, the deeper they sink. The blame, of course, is entirely theirs; yet, on some level, it's easy to see how all the events are linked to their addiction problems, which is in itself linked to their own neurotic need for self-sabotage.
PERMANENT OBSCURITY is not always an easy book to read. It all depends on your tolerance for dark humor, foul language, and abrasive female characters bent on self-destruction. If this book were about two men instead of two women, it might be more culturally acceptable; there's no question about it. Men getting f*cked up -- that's funny; women behaving the same way -- that's sad. The book might also have a fratboy friendly title like I HOPE THEY SERVE BEER IN HELL or ASSHOLES FINISH FIRST, with the two characters cheerfully under arrest on the cover. But since the term "fratire" can't be applied to PERMANENT OBSCURITY, a new term (not "lesbian") may need to be invented.
Review by Daniel Fletcher
(Reviewed book on Amazon.com)
Challenges notions of "acceptable" behavior and double standards regarding gender. While the book itself is a fun read.