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3.6 5
by Arthur Nersesian

A Fierce and Hysterical Tale
Of Self-Destruction On
The Road to Being Discovered

Hannah is a struggling actress living in New York's Tribeca, and like any young thesp she is bent on success: finding paying jobs that offer good material, not just mindless roles for eager and nubile bodies. When she comes across a lost play by a dead 1980s icon


A Fierce and Hysterical Tale
Of Self-Destruction On
The Road to Being Discovered

Hannah is a struggling actress living in New York's Tribeca, and like any young thesp she is bent on success: finding paying jobs that offer good material, not just mindless roles for eager and nubile bodies. When she comes across a lost play by a dead 1980s icon — brilliantly written, with the perfect role that will display her acting chops — she thinks she's hit the jackpot.

But when she becomes the play's de facto producer and lands a gig on an indie film, she's forced to deal with the nonstop whirlwind of backstage maneuverings and outrageous personalities ... and with the fact that she witnessed the falling of the Twin Towers from blocks away. When Hannah loses her coveted role to an old rival, she learns a shocking truth that could bring her whole world tumbling down.

Dynamic and moving, with trademark Nersesian moments of cutting humor and truth, Unlubricated is a tale of down-and-dirty off-Broadway New York theatre, sex, love, and life in the wake of September 11.

Editorial Reviews

Steve Kluger
“This book was a real delight—fast and funny and pure New York. Unlubricated has only one flaw: it ends.”
Time Out New York
“[Nersesian] knows his territory intimately and paces the escalating chaos with a precision that would do Wodehouse proud.”
Entertainment Weekly
“A pitch-perfect approximation of the New York artistic life.”
New York Times Book Review
“Nersesian makes us eager to see what happens when the curtain finally rises.”
Publishers Weekly
With a title like Unlubricated and an epigram by radical feminist Valerie Solanas ("Eliminate men and women will shape up"), Nersesian (Chinese Takeout, etc.) foregrounds his countercultural chops in his latest chronicle of lower Manhattan's demimonde. Nersesian's raw, smutty sensibility is perfect for capturing the gritty city artistic life, but this novel has as much substance as style. In the dramatic, agonizing aftermath of 9/11, a scrappy young actress named Hannah struggles to make something of herself. When she overhears a man discussing Unlubricated, a "lost work" by a deceased Solanasesque author named Lilly Bull, she strong-arms him (after all, she saved his life in college) into letting her act in and produce the play. The book quickly develops into a fast-paced, sexy ensemble play-within-a-play, populated by a cast of wonderfully drawn characters, including a pathologically self-important British director and a drug-addled actor on a very slippery slope. Nersesian continuously ratchets up the suspense, always keeping the fate of the production uncertain-and at the last minute he throws a curveball that makes the previous chaos calm by comparison. Nersesian is a first-rate observer of his native New York, and while the book is a little long-winded and slow to start, and the denouement feels a bit hokey, these are minor squeaks in an otherwise slick, well-oiled machine. Agent, David Mandel at Sanford Greenberger. (Oct. 15) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In the latest New York hipster saga from Nersesian (Chinese Takeout, 2003, etc.), a young Yalie tries to make a name for herself on Broadway and resorts to all the usual ploys. The casting couch is a long and dishonorable tradition in the theater, but poor Hannah Cohn goes the extra mile: She becomes a lesbian, not for a part, but an apartment. And even that goes bust when her girlfriend Christy (Hannah's old drama teacher at Yale) catches her making out with film producer Franklin Stein and tosses her out on her ear. Franklin makes vague promises to Hannah about a small role in his upcoming film, but the best he does in the short run is help her find a new place. Down but not out, Hannah slogs away at temp jobs and drags herself to auditions week after week. But when an old Yale classmate tells her he's secured the production rights for a long-lost play by feminist cult icon Lily Bull (read: Valerie Solanas), Hannah takes the bull by the horns and scrapes up the cash to mount the production. Obscure and despised in her own lifetime, Bull (who once tried to kill downtown pop artist Gary Ganghole) is best known now for her man-hating diatribe C.O.C.K., but she also wrote a weird play called Unlubricated about a group of blocked writers who meet to talk out their frustrations but explode with rage when one of their group completes a successful epic. Not exactly Broadway material, but Hannah figures it will be enough of a splash to get her the publicity she needs to move on to bigger things. What she hasn't figured on, though, are landlord disputes, copyright lawsuits, megalomaniacal directors, traitors, and plagiarists. That is, the usual New York nuisances. Lively and quick-witted, butpretty claustrophobic after a while. Though a nice portrait of the downtown scene, it will wear thin on outsiders. Author tour: John Talbot/John Talbot Agency

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
7.98(w) x 10.92(h) x 0.93(d)

Read an Excerpt


A Novel
By Arthur Nersesian


ISBN: 0-06-073411-6

Chapter One

Int. ANTONIO's office - day.

ANTONIO's office is a large, seductive space, defined by retro furniture, hi-tech equipment, pastel-colored walls, a leather couch.

ANTONIO Look, Virginia, I really have no time for this.

VIRGINIA No time for what?

ANTONIO You've always got something up your sleeve.

VIRGINIA Then I'll remove my sleeve. (VIRGINIA takes off her shirt.)

ANTONIO (Smiling) You've always got something in your bra. (VIRGINIA removes her bra ...)


The screenplay went on like that. They all did.

Lately, the real trick to auditioning was keeping my face from cracking in two and betraying my revulsion for these idiotic little characterizations. I had gone to forty-eight auditions during the first nine months of that year - most of them tiny, forgettable roles. Of those forty-eight awful tryouts, I had gotten nine callbacks, and though I was made several offers, none of them were paying jobs. This script was actually one of the best shots I had - three measly scenes in an indie film. The audition was in one week, and I could only wonder how many other actresses I had to go up against.

Because I didn't want others in Starbucks to hear us, and probably due to the fact that my lecherous rehearsal partner, Noah, was using the script as fodder for some upcoming shower fantasy, we moved closer and closer together. When I finally felt his bad breath on my face, I jerked my chair back.

"You don't seem very in the moment, Hannah," Noah said.

"I'm just a little distracted." Aside from the fact that I didn't like the screenplay, in my handbag were two other scripts that I couldn't wait to get to.

"I'm in the new Coen Brothers film," he mentioned. "You want to catch it with me tonight?"

"I can't."

Over the past year or so, he had been paid to be a body in the background of seven Hollywood films. To sit next to him as he frantically searched the screen for himself and yelled out remarks like, "I was right next to that guy!" was just too sad. In the four movies that had come out since he began extra-ing, he had not survived the final edit.

I thanked him for his time and watched as he straightened his shirt and zipped up his jacket.

"By the way," I said as we headed outside, "I might have something for you soon."

"In Stein's film?" he kidded as we walked north. Stein was the director of the indie film I was auditioning for. Shooting was tentatively scheduled for late fall.

"No, something else, but I don't want to jinx it." I was referring to one of my possible handbag projects, a film that my girlfriend, Christy, was hoping to shoot. Though the latest incarnation of her script was done, I knew it was going to be a mess. I still hadn't yet mustered up the strength to read it.

"Just because you and Christy are lovers ... I don't get those kinds of opportunities ... I might not be sexy but that doesn't mean ..." I only made out occasional phrases that Noah was saying. The Midtown cacophony - horns, bus engines, jackhammers, a bike messenger muttering a profane rap - drowned out all his soft words.

Also my hearing was still impaired from the night before, when Christy and I had attended a noisy industry bash at the Union Square Ballroom. It was a backer's ball for Franklin Stein's upcoming movie, Success! Christy had immediately started ordering Bloody Marys, chatting with her old friends at the bar. Excluded from her conversation and finding it difficult to breathe, I went out for air. That was when a handsome guy asked how I was involved in the project.

"I'm not. I don't know anything about it."

He filled me in, seeming to know everything about it, as well as everyone else there. He finally introduced himself as director Franklin Stein. The bash was being thrown for his upcoming film.

I told him I was there with Christy Saffers, who had been invited by his producer, Manny Greene. Franklin said he had seen her first film and loved it ...


Excerpted from Unlubricated by Arthur Nersesian Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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What People are Saying About This

Steve Kluger
“This book was a real delight—fast and funny and pure New York. Unlubricated has only one flaw: it ends.”

Meet the Author

Arthur Nersesian’s other novels include The Fuck-Up, Manhattan Loverboy, Dogrun, and Suicide Casanova. He has also written three books of poems and one book of plays. Nersesian was the managing editor of the literary magazine "The Portable Lower East Side" and was an English teacher at Hostos Community College (C.U.N.Y.) in the South Bronx. He was born and raised in New York City.

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Unlubricated 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book does not live up to 'Dog Run' or 'The **** Up.' This book was like reading about all the high school rumors, behind the back stabbings, and immature drama from my own high school drama club. The plot unfolds quickly and with no point. The story is supposed to be gritty NYC style but the cliche references to 9/11 (the main character lives through 9/11) are embarassing and disgusting. The story's ending is sappy and neat and does not flow with the author's regular writing style. Pass this book up!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love Nersesian's books and have been hooked since i've read his debut, the F**k-Up. To enjoy this book, I think you should become familiar with him first. His writing on this book has matured but still has the great humor and philosophy that are classic Nersesian. Read the F**k-Up and then you'll want to read everything this guy writes.