umor, insight, and rough edges-a fascinating read.
--Barbara Dimmick, author of In The Presence of Horses
Following the publication of his critically acclaimed first novel, Koolaids, Rabih Alameddine offers a collection of stories that explores the experience of a number of Lebanese characters - men and women, gay and straight--whose lives have been blown apart by a disastrous civil war and the resulting international diaspora. Daring in style as well as content, these tales explore the relationships that anchor our hearts to the world -- father and son, grandson and grandmother, pedophile and 12-year-old boy, young man and woman of the streets, sister and sister, daughter and father, gay man and heterosexual, the quick and their dead.
Suffused by a yearning for what has been lost, these narratives are both experimental and traditional, humorous and disturbing, and confirm without doubt that Alemeddine is one of the most original and accomplished young writers to emerge in some time. "is unflinching: lonely, angry, sad and mournful, yet often luminescent with love. This is a book filled with humor, insight, and rough edges-a fascinating read."
‘The Perv’ offers challenging reading, difficult lesson
By Greg Burkman
If your idea of fiction requires that it simply entertain and lull you, or provide a passing distraction between appointments, you’d be advised to steer clear of Rabih Alameddine’s new collection of short stories, “The Perv.”
If, on the other hand, you favor literature that challenges you down to your conscience, then you really must read this book.
The stories in “The Perv” are characterized by the various forms alienation can take within societies riven by oppression and chaos. For example, the deeply disturbing title story centers on an anonymous narrator who corresponds by mail to a pedophile named Bill. The narrator, a shut-in who is dying of AIDS, poses as a 13-year-old boy from Lebanon who has moved to San Francisco, and he purposely frames his letters to play on Bill’s sexual obsessions. The hard lesson of the story for the reader is put best by the narrator himself, when he addresses us all: “Do you ever think what made me the way I am? You did.”
The other seven stories are just as troubling and unsparing. “The Changing Room,” for instance, provides a savage look at racism and homophobia through the eyes of a well-to-do, gay Lebanese boy shipped off to an English boarding school in the 1970s. Even though his parents send away to avoid the war that is tearing Lebanon apart, it’s difficult for him – and for us – to tell which country is worse: the boy’s life in England is “. . . hell. Nothing prepared me for the cruelty of the English” against him and the other dark-skinned students to whom the English boys refer hatefully as “wogs,” and “chimney sweepers.”
More rigorous that Alameddine’s debut novel, last year’s critically acclaimed “Koolaids,” “The Perv” provides a painful, bitingly electric experience for the reader, as well as a credible and necessary look into the thoughts and feelings of people rendered outcasts by forms of social cruelty.
For those not familiar with this experience, the book is a must. Though at times brutally frank and lacerating in its depictions of cultural and social oppressions, the collection is gracefully written: sharp, direct and elegant without ranting, arch condemnation.
“The Perv,” despite its title, with its lamely subversive feel, faces four of the big truths – sickness, desire, alienation and death – with a caustic honesty as sincere as Jonathan Swift’s or Lenny Bruce’s. And, like Swift and Bruce, the cumulative effect of these stories transcends gay/straight, foreign/domestic and all of these structural limitations of the ways we think.
The book is ultimately an affirmation of the tough resilience of alienated people, as well as the hard wake-up call to the people who have no clue about them: Watch your back; you may have created a beautifully coherent nightmare.
The Psychology of Predation
The Perv Artfully Blends Genres
by Matthew Stadler in The Stranger
Rabih Alameddine's THE PERV is an excellent book of stories which has received no notice in any newspaper or magazine (perhaps because Hollywood junkie Jerry Stahl has just published a novel also called Perv). Alameddine is a painter as well as the author of a novel, KOOLAIDS: The Art of War. His new collection of stories, THE PERV, displays a pattern of formal experimentation more typical of painters than of authors -- while extremely various in form and structure, the eight stories in this collection share a sensibility and a palette. They return again and again to the same subjects (Lebanon, displacement, bigotry, AIDS, the burden of memory) and the same emotions (primarily peevishness and longing) even as the author's narrative strategies shift. Several stories employ the conventions of memoir -- chronological recollections told with the irony and omniscience gained with time -- while others are simply collaged fragments of first-person observations, memories, and documents blending disparate times and incidents.
What People Are Saying
"By turns raunchy and heartbreaking, The Perv is a bold and startlingly original collection that defies categorization. Filled with loss and hope, humor and redemption, these stories make you laugh despite yourself. Alameddine is a writer of astonishing gifts; his prose is at once lyrical and heartbreaking in its directness. An audacious debut collection that should establish him as one of the finest--and most wicked--writers of our time." --Laurie Foos, author of Ex Utero and Portrait of the Walrus by a Young Artist