Born in New York, NY. Ethnicity: "Armenian-American."
Educator and writer. Hostos Community College, City University of New York, teacher of English.
Tompkins Square & Other Ill-Fated Riots, Portable Press (Brooklyn, NY), 1990.
New York Complaints, Portable Press (Brooklyn, NY), 1993.
Tremors & Faultlines: Photopoems of San Francisco, Portable Press (Brooklyn, NY), 1995.
The Fuck-up, Akashic Books (Arlington, VA), 1997.
Dogrun, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 2000.
Manhattan Loverboy, Akashic Books (New York, NY), 2000
Suicide Casanova: A Psychosexual Thriller, Akashic Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Chinese Takeout (novel), Perennial (New York, NY), 2003.
Unlubricated, Perennial (New York, NY), 2004.
The Swing Voter of Staten Island, Akashic Books (New York, NY), 2007.
The Sacrificial Circumcision of the Bronx, Akashic Books (Brooklyn, NY), 2008.
East Village Tetralogy (four plays), 2nd revised edition, Akashic Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Managing editor, Lower East Side.
Arthur Nersesian is a writer whose novels, plays, and poetry are centered on his native New York City, particularly the residents of the East Village. Nersesian's first novel is The Fuck-up. The title refers to the narrator, a young man who loses his menial job, his girlfriend, and the new romantic interest he was pursuing. As the novel unfolds, he pretends to be gay and gets involved in a robbery as he tries to keep himself afloat. According to Library Journal contributor Barbara Hoffert, Nersesian "writes briskly and acutely" in this book, which became a cult favorite.
The author introduces another artist with low ambitions in his next book, Dogrun. This time, the protagonist is a female in her late twenties, Mary Bellanova. Mary narrates the story in a cool, detached tone, even when describing the discovery of her boyfriend's corpse. As she relays the news of her boyfriend's death to his family, however, she is propelled into a series of adventures and a quest for truth. Gillian Engberg, a contributor to Booklist, called the writing in Dogrun "uneven" but added that those readers familiar with "the physical and emotional territory will relish Mary's gritty New York." A Publishers Weekly writer also noted that Nersesian knew his setting well, and stated that "his characters are instantly recognizable, if somewhat cartoonish."
Another strange tale of New York life is told in Manhattan Loverboy, the story of Joey Ngm, whose adoptive parents have never let him forget that he was a poor replacement for the natural child they were unable to have. Joey has a breakdown and then, like Nersesian's other protagonists, is thrown into a series of startling events. According to Joshua Cohen in Library Journal, the author relates his tale "with wit and compassion," pulling the reader into Joey's world while examining "questions of free will and destiny."
Reviewing Nersesian's novel Suicide Casanova: A Psychosexual Thriller in Library Journal, Misha Stone described the author as a "literary shock-jock." This novel follows Leslie Cauldwell, a wealthy New York attorney who has a shadowy second life as a pornography-obsessed sadist. Married to a woman with similar tastes, he accidentally kills her during a violent sex act. He soon goes in search of a woman who has already been the subject of one of his obsessions, an adult-film star named Sky Pacifica. Leslie's desperate need to possess Sky is enough to lead him to destroy the rest of his life. Library Journal writer Misha Stone found that the book does not hold together, but credited its author with having a "keen psychologist's eye for deviance," as well as a "grasp of the gritty city."
Chinese Takeout is yet another exploration of the struggling artist's life, this time focusing on a man named Orloff Trenchant. After an initial round of success, Trenchant has been blocked artistically, and ultimately strikes out violently against his girlfriend's paintings in his frustration. Orloff then becomes obsessed with a poet, Rita, who is addicted to drugs. He gives all his money to fund her habit so that she will not turn to prostitution. At the same time, Orloff struggles to deal with the painters, critics, and gallery owners that make up his world. Nersesian "has created a masterly image" of urban life, according to Josh Cohen in Library Journal. A Kirkus Reviews writer called the book "a witty tour through the lowest depths of high art." Chinese Takeout was also highly recommended by Whitney Scott in Booklist, who described it as an "edgy exploration of the love of art and of life."
East Village Tetralogy is a collection of four linked plays that deal with the concept of New York City and its removal from the rest of the world, a state of profound disconnect that has to do with the cultural differences between New York City and everywhere else far more than with anything geographic. The plays are extremely New York-centric, many of them including references that might not even make sense to anyone outside of the five boroughs of the city. In "Rent Control," Nersesian gives readers a humorous look at a group of five con men at work; "East Village Writer's Bloc" features a group of writers sitting around procrastinating, wasting their time by criticizing the work of their peers and claiming they are lacking talent; "Plea Bargains" and "Spare Change" round out the collection. Larry Schwartz, writing for Library Journal, remarked that Nersesian's work "reanimates the cliché of the self-absorbed Manhattanite."
In The Swing Voter of Staten Island, Nersesian offers readers an alternate universe version of New York City, one in which no one has cleaned up the homeless or the drug dealers or lowered the crime rate. Instead, the city has gone in the exact opposite direction. In this world, it was actually constructed in the middle of the Nevada desert as a place for the military to use in training exercises during the 1940s. Now in the 1980s, abandoned for its original purpose, the city is overrun with any type of individual that the current government has cause to get rid of, whether simply as a means of removing them from the public eye, or because they have the potential to cause trouble, fight back, or lead to embarrassment. These include refugees from a hurricane, conscientious objectors from the Vietnam War, the poor, and political figures such as Abbie Hoffman. Over time, the inhabitants have divided themselves into two groups, disturbingly named the Piggers and the Crappers. Uli, the hero of the novel, has a very bad case of amnesia—so bad that Uli might not even be his name. His only remaining memory is an order to assassinate someone called Dropt, and as that message plays repeatedly through his head, he finds himself lost in the bowels of the city, unable to determine what is real and what is delusion. As he wanders through New York, he meets various individuals and stumbles through experiences, but achieves very little. A contributor for Kirkus Reviews dubbed the book "a sharp, strange read: Imagine William Burroughs and Philip K. Dick sharing a needle." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly wrote: "Nersesian's novel is exceptionally bleak and bewildering, and his fans would expect nothing less." Library Journal reviewer Joshua Cohen remarked that "this cleverly written alternatives future tale comes into focus but lacks the strong characterization that made Nersesian's previous works so powerful."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October 15, 2000, Gillian Engberg, review of Dogrun, p. 419; August, 2003, Whitney Scott, review of Chinese Takeout, p. 1957.
Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2003, review of Chinese Takeout, p. 879; August 15, 2004, review of Unlubricated, p. 769; October 1, 2007, review of The Swing Voter of Staten Island.
Library Journal, May 15, 1999, Barbara Hoffert, review of The Fuck-up, p. 127; June 1, 2000, Joshua Cohen, review of Manhattan Loverboy, p. 200; July, 2003, review of Chinese Takeout, p. 124; February 1, 2005, Misha Stone, review of Suicide Casanova: A Psychosexual Thriller, p. 70; January 1, 2006, Larry Schwartz, review of East Village Tetralogy, p. 118; October 15, 2007, Joshua Cohen, review of The Swing Voter of Staten Island, p. 55.
New York Times Book Review, October 24, 2004, Lizzie Skurnick, review of Unlubricated, p. 12.
Publishers Weekly, September 4, 2000, review of Dogrun, p. 82; June 24, 2002, review of Suicide Casanova, p. 36; August 25, 2003, review of Chinese Takeout, p. 40; July 19, 2004, review of Unlubricated, p. 141; August 20, 2007, review of The Swing Voter of Staten Island, p. 44.
Bookslut,http://www.bookslut.com/ (January 11, 2006), review of Unlubricated.
Crescent Blues,http://www.crescentblues.com/ (January 11, 2006), review of Unlubricated.
Curled Up with a Good Book,http://www.curledup.com/ (October 20, 2005), review of Unlubricated.
Village Voice Online,http://www.villagevoice.com/ (January 11, 2006), review of Unlubricated.