Pacific Rimming – Tom Cardamone (Chelsea Station Editions)

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Buy it now through Amazon.com

Tom Cardamone is a master at creating worlds, but not all of
his spheres are the fantastical confections of Green Thumb or Werewolves
of Central Park
, concerned less with alternate realities than the very
gritty realities available here and now. Pacific Rimming, his latest
release, plumbs those depths to fascinating effect.

Against the backdrop of a late 1990s New York City, a
nameless narrator details his obsession with and fetishization of Asians,
focusing on drug use and sexual conquest to obliterate any possibility of
emotional commitment.

Though Cardamone is widely known for his surreal landscapes,
his hyper-real ones are even more affecting. He uses the Manhattan club scene
along with its shallowness, its various addictions, its grittiness, and its
excesses to paint a bleak portrait of obsession and its aftermath.
Interestingly, Cardamone does not judge here. It would be easy enough and
certainly expected with some authors. But he presents the narrator’s life with
an objective eye, the horror all the more real for its normalcy.

But such a presentation doesn’t mean the prose is flat.
Indeed, it’s quite the opposite. In one of the blurbs, Kevin Killian calls
Cardamone a ‘stylist,’ and I suppose that’s true. However, that particular word
evokes—for me, at least—a false affect that couldn’t be less like what I read
on these pages.

Instead, this language vibrates. It resonates, moving and
wriggling like a live, sparking wire. And it has no intention of assimilating
gay culture into what surrounds it. Instead, it seeks to create vast gulfs
between us and them. It burns bridges instead of creating them, and I love
that. I tried in vain to find a representative paragraph I could reproduce here
to prove that last point, but the writing is so all-of-a-piece that I couldn’t
find one.

There is no past or future in this world. It’s rooted and
fruited in the present—today’s trick, tonight’s bump, the endless after-hours
restlessness that marks Manhattan as the epicenter of the universe. Similarly,
there is no plot per se because that would force an inherent timeline.
And Cardamone wisely chose not to try this for a full-length novel, which might
prove unworkable even for his considerable talents. As a novella of less than a
hundred pages, however, it works like a charm.

Pacific Rimming, then, is one more little gem in
Cardamone’s tiara. But as marvelous as both this and last year’s Green Thumb
are, I’m looking forward to something longer from Cardamone—if for no other
reason than to spend some substantial time in the worlds he crafts. 

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©, 2013, Jerry Wheeler

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