In recent years, Grindhouse cinema has made a major revival, so it only makes sense that the same sensitivity that infects such works would carry over to fiction. PERMANENT OBSCURITY by Richard Perez is one such book clearly influenced by these lurid films. The book's dedication mentions Russ Meyer, the self-proclaimed "king of the nudies" and affectionately regarded sexploitation filmmaker, probably best known for films like FASTER PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! … and BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS; it also mentions a lesser known but no less influential fetish artist, Eric Stanton, who illustrated a long-running series of kink inclined booklets called STANTOONS. PERMANENT OBSCURITY borrows from the work of Eric Stanton as much it does from Russ Meyer. What does it borrow exactly? From Russ Meyer, a flash-cut style: the chapters of PERMANENT OBSCURITY are not separated into chapters but simple, vivid scene breaks. And the scenes jump – one to the next – in a vivid, cinematic way.
PERMANENT OBSCURITY plays out like a movie, especially the last 100 pages. It also borrows from Russ Meyer in its luridness and over-the-top presentation, and at times there's even a bit of sensory overload. Neither Meyer nor Perez seem inclined toward understatement; and PO is not the type of book to be absorbed in a single sitting. From Eric Stanton, PERMANENT OBSCURITY seems to borrow themes of dominant women being reckless; more specifically it borrows certain fetishes and scenarios that Stanton was well known for: from female domination to femme-on-femme mashing to face-sitting. Like the work of Eric Stanton, PERMANENT OBSCURITY is not shy when it comes to vulgarity.
So is this an erotic book? The sexual elements are strong in the novel, but appear as primal components, much as they do in Grindhouse films. Sexuality, like violence, can not be entirely controlled. And, like violence, sexuality can be used as a weapon, even unintentionally. Sexuality is Serena's weapon in PERMANENT OBSCURITY. When Dolores, the narrator (and her best friend), says: "'What I would not give for a punishment ass like Serena's.'" (P. 9) – the irony is prophetic.
PERMANENT OBSCURITY in many way lampoons the creative process and in particular filmmaking. Dolores and Serena start out as photographer and fetish model, then progress to cinematographer and porn actress. The arc of the central plot propels the two friends further and further down the slippery slope into a dark place – by way of escaping drug dealer antagonists. Much of PERMANENT OBSCURITY takes place in a kind of exploitation universe, where characters react with a certain level of awareness. But metafiction characteristics extend throughout the history of exploitation cinema (and Grindhouse films), and it is because, in a strange way, exploitation and Grindhouse is a large self-conscious genre: aware of it own low-brow conventions and always eager to push the envelope.
In conclusion: If you're a Grindhouse fan, a fan of exploitation and sexploitation – and unafraid of lurid elements, high levels of vulgarity, and kink – then PERMANENT OBSCURITY just might be the perfect novel.
PERMANENT OBSCURITY: Or a Cautionary Tale of Two Girls and Their Misadventures with Drugs, Pornography and Death
Author: Richard Perez
Published by Ludlow Press
Authors's website: PermanentObscurity.com