~by Richard Perez
I first learned about Permanent Obscurity: Or, A Cautionary Tale of Two Girls and Their Misadventures with Drugs, Pornography and Death by Richard Perez through LibraryThing's Member Giveaways program. Even though the book caught my attention and interest, I didn't end up requesting it because I was busy at the time. But then I was contacted directly and asked if I wouldn't be interested in reviewing the book, and so I agreed. Permanent Obscurity is Richard Perez's second novel to be published, the first being The Losers' Club. Permanent Obscurity was released in 2010 by Ludlow Press. It seems to be a book that people either absolutely love or absolutely hate. Inspired and influenced by exploitation and sexplotation films, Permanent Obscurity is most definitely not politically correct and can easily be found to be offensive. But with the words "misadventures with drugs, pornography, and death" right there in the title, readers should at least have an inkling of what they're getting into.
Sex, drugs, and performance art--Two friends, Dolores Santana and Serena Moon, are more than a little down and out on their luck. Dolores can't seem to sell her photography and her relationship with her boyfriend is becoming more and more strained. Serena's band is going nowhere and so in order to pay for her sizable drug habit she's begun working as a dominatrix and fetish model, but even that is not enough. Eventually, the two women decide their best option to make some quick cash and end up back on top of things is to film their own porno on their own terms. But Serena hasn't been completely honest with Dolores about just how much trouble she is in, and she's bringing her friend down with her. What at first seemed like a brilliant plan quickly turns into a catastrophe.
Dolores is refreshingly frank, and while I didn't necessarily like her as a person, I did like her as a narrator. She doesn't hesitate to come right out and say what she thinks and feels, and even though she is marvelously vulgar she's very honest about it. In addition to the nearly constant use of profanity, drug and street slang inundates the language and speech in Permanent Obscurity. Unfortunately for me, I'm not particularly familiar with most of those terms used. Although I may have been somewhat in the dark about specific details in the story because of this, I was still able to follow the major points and general gist of things. The characters never really learn from their mistakes, making the same ones and worse over and over again. But considering their dependency on drugs and drug culture, this really isn't too surprising and is even understandable to some extent.
Dolores and Serena's relationship is what drives the narrative in Permanent Obscurity along with their mistakes and how they choose to deal with them, or not. One thing that did bug me though was Dolores' pregnancy; not once did abortion even cross her mind which I found unbelievable, but perhaps even more importantly this rather significant plot point was almost entirely forgotten for the last third or more of the book. This wasn't the only plot element that something like this happened to. As Perez rushes from scene to scene, some things get left behind. First and foremost, Permanent Obscurity is a satire and a very dark comedy. It can be utterly unrealistic and tasteless, but because of this it can also be perversely amusing. Readers who take the book too seriously at face-value are probably going to be offended. Hell, I suspect that a large number of readers who don't take it too seriously will still be offended. I will admit though, even with some of its problems, I was entertained.