cover image The Swing Voter of Staten Island

The Swing Voter of Staten Island

Arthur Nersesian, . . Akashic, $22.95 (271pp) ISBN 978-1-933354-34-7

Nersesian has carved out his niche with novels like The Fuck Up and Unlubricated about New Yorkers trapped in their own ugly lives. His sixth is similarly sordid but uncharacteristically fantastical. Over the course of a week in a counterfactual 1980, amnesiac protagonist Uli must navigate a reproduction of New York City built in Nevada after the original was destroyed. He quickly learns that the city is divided into territories run by Piggers and Crappers (“political parties, or gangs”) and he has been programmed to assassinate the Crapper candidate for mayor. Manhattan and Brooklyn belong to Crappers, the Bronx and Queens are held by Piggers; Staten Island is independent, and thus constitutes the swing vote in the mayoral and—more importantly—presidential elections. “Rescue City” consists of smaller, cheaper versions of the original: bridges are made of rotten boards, famous landmarks are redubbed corrupt versions of their real names (e.g., Rock and Filler Center for Rockefeller Center and Onion Square for Union Square), and the East River suffers from a clogged drain. Uli mingles with a wide array of desperate characters while trying to uncover his identity and determine what, if anything, he should be fighting for. Nersesian's novel is exceptionally bleak and bewildering, and his fans would expect nothing less. (Oct.)