Dear Dirty America

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Donald O’Donovan’s Orgasmo To Be Dear Dirty America’s First Blogged Novel

August 19
20:18 2012

ADAM MICHAEL LUEBKE
Los Angeles 

(Open Books has published Orgasmo. Posts from the novel have been removed from this blog. Please find the book here.)

Dear Dirty America has begun blogging its first novel. Los Angeles novelist, Donald O’Donovan, who is a frequent contributor to DDA, contacted me about serializing his latest novel on this blog. It is called Orgasmo. O’Donovan describes his latest work as, “My autobiographical novel [that] chronicles my disastrous attempt to quit writing forever and pursue the American Dream.”

Why is Dear Dirty America going to be blogging a novel? Because Donald’s fiction exemplifies everything about American society and humanity that DDA strives to portray through its political poking and prodding at the nation’s officials and leaders.

Artist, musician, poet, and classic American activist Eric Chaetwrites of O’Donovan’s work:

His characters conclude over and over, “Life has no value,” yet they live it with more exuberance than 99% of the purposeful people I’m aware of, the people who seem to know what they’re doing, and who believe they know what they’re doing, and are liable to imprison you if you don’t agree, and despise you if you don’t get with their program.

That exuberance shimmers through every sentence of O’Donovan’s novels. That exuberance, tempered by the understanding and experience O’Donovan has gained by living so close to the ground, so close to prosperity and tragedy and the harsh realities of life with no real safety nets, creates some of the most mature, insightful, yet wickedly humorous writing done by any author living in this country.

This is why Dear Dirty America is honored and excited to take part in blogging O’Donovan’s latest novel, Orgasmo, as his characters and their philosophies are nothing short of brilliant. And disturbing.

They don’t let us forget that just beyond every gorgeous sunset, there exists unimaginable levels of squalor and despair. That for every soft, clean hand holding a glass of refreshing champagne, there is another hand not too far away, but just as similar, yet unclean, with filthy fingernails, trembling as it lifts to a hungry mouth a discarded piece of half-eaten sandwich found in a stinking public trashcan.

**

O’Donovan has an impressive cast of characters. Jerzy Mulvaney, the homeless protagonist of Night Train, gets forty-five dollars for donating his blood. He tells us he’s got “Type O, the universal blood type, regular unleaded.” To Mulvaney, his blood is a commodity.

Nastasia, the nurse at the blood bank, is so turned on by Jerzy’s knowledge of Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, that she gives him a hand job while he sits on the nurse’s table after he enjoys his complimentary cookies and lemonade.

As a reader, I’m not interested in Mulvaney’s rather organic description of how good his orgasm happened to be, or how he thought, “…everything was coming out, kidneys, liver, spleen, everything”, but how damned high O’Donovan stacks the importance of classic literature in a world where selling your blood is just one of many ways to just barely survive.

If a sexual encounter, stimulated between an intelligent homeless man and a nurse because of their passionate knowledge of Dostoevsky, seems somewhat impossible or fictitious in our “real” world, O’Donovan doesn’t give the reader a chance to hang on it.

“Can I see you again?” Jerzy asks. The nurse reminds him he can only give blood once every fifty-six days. “Come back in eight weeks,” she says. The humor and sorrowful reality of the situation chops up anything sacred or hopeful about the intimate encounter.

The nastier, dirtier ‘truth’ is always hovering close by O’Donovan’s scenes. Jerzy, again in Night Train, gets hooked up by Papageorgopoulou, a gigolo, to an old Brentwood dame, Corliss, who has hands that are “fish-belly white and…speckled with brown spots”, and who “had peach fuzz on her cheeks and an eye that wandered.”

Jerzy soaks in his temporary bliss while simultaneously reminding us of how truly undesirable the homeless street dwellers are in our society:

At night you could see the moon and the stars. I’d sit under the grape arbor with a bottle of Château Haut-Beauséjour white Bordeaux, looking out over Pacific Palisades and Topanga Canyon, and I’d be thinking, here I am in Brentwood, a weevil in the flour, a rat in the cheese, and it’s glorious. Beautiful Shiny People of Brentwood, I’ve managed to tunnel under your wallpaper! Toddle downstairs for a midnight snack, switch on the light, and you’ll see me, fat and sassy, running up your kitchen wall. You’d squash me if you could, wouldn’t you? Of course you would. Come on, admit it! Because I don’t live anywhere in particular, I live everywhere. You’ll find me in your soup, on your toothbrush, under your fingernails. I’m the lint in your navel, the fungus between your toes. I’m Demodex Folliculorum, the mite that eats your eyebrows, I’m that forty-foot tapeworm coiled up in your intestines, laughing like an evil genie.

Mulvaney cooks for her and transcribes her autobiography, but he shudders at the looming insinuation that, in exchange for his living in her pool shed, he must be expected to “shtup her off.” Never in life are the good moments quite perfect.

O’Donovan’s life experience of working “more than 200 occupations”, as well as being homeless in the streets of Los Angeles, obviously inspires his fiction. He’s lived through and learned too much to shirk his duty as a writer to portray the less-desirable truth of reality here in America.

What is a part of that reality? As author Kelly Huddleston writes: “Donald O’Donovan shows us the absurdity of the fact that in the city of Los Angeles alone three quarters of a million people are homeless.” In a metropolitan area as vast as LA, there is, for every Brentwood or Beverly Hills, a Compton and a Skid Row. It’s that striking imbalance that O’Donovan gracefully spans, both with lurid detail of time and place, but also with philosophical meandering.

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