cover image UNLUBRICATED


Arthur Nersesian, . . Perennial, $12.95 (357pp) ISBN 978-0-06-073411-4

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UNLUBRICATED Arthur Nersesian . Perennial , $12.95 paper (384p) ISBN 0-06-073411-6

With a title like Unlubricated and an epigram by radical feminist Valerie Solanas ("Eliminate men and women will shape up"), Nersesian (Chinese Takeout , etc.) foregrounds his countercultural chops in his latest chronicle of lower Manhattan's demimonde. Nersesian's raw, smutty sensibility is perfect for capturing the gritty city artistic life, but this novel has as much substance as style. In the dramatic, agonizing aftermath of 9/11, a scrappy young actress named Hannah struggles to make something of herself. When she overhears a man discussing Unlubricated , a "lost work" by a deceased Solanasesque author named Lilly Bull, she strong-arms him (after all, she saved his life in college) into letting her act in and produce the play. The book quickly develops into a fast-paced, sexy ensemble play-within-a-play, populated by a cast of wonderfully drawn characters, including a pathologically self-important British director and a drug-addled actor on a very slippery slope. Nersesian continuously ratchets up the suspense, always keeping the fate of the production uncertain—and at the last minute he throws a curveball that makes the previous chaos calm by comparison. Nersesian is a first-rate observer of his native New York, and while the book is a little long-winded and slow to start, and the denouement feels a bit hokey, these are minor squeaks in an otherwise slick, well-oiled machine. Agent, David Mandel at Sanford Greenberger . (Oct. 15)