Asthmatica: by Jon Paul Fiorentino By Sean Carswell

Apr 02, 2007

I did a reading in Montreal with Jon Paul Fiorentino. He started the reading by claiming to have written the best book ever. Then he read a bizarre, drunken email exchange that was alternately hilarious and sad. I didn’t know whether to laugh or feel sorry for the guy. I laughed. His reading lasted three minutes. His drinking lasted well into the early morning hours. So I knew what to expect when reading Asthmatica: comedy wrapped up pitiable situations, a young Canadian seeking a salve for his wounds. What I didn’t expect was how funny and raw he could be. The book mostly focuses on a fictional character named Jon Paul Fiorentino who’s vaguely bisexual, likes to cross dress, makes love to his mom’s vacuum cleaner, gets beat up by the fat, geeky kid, and basically stumbles from one humiliating situation to the next with the comic timing of Charlie Chaplin. The stories don’t really add up to any deep truth or climax, but they do trump themselves in absurdity. It makes for a fun read, and it’s hard to put down. I read the whole book during a cross-town bus ride and a train ride home. At times, I’m sure I blushed, embarrassed for Jon. At times, I looked behind me to make sure no one was reading over my shoulder. Most of the time, though, I just laughed. It’s more fun than feeling sorry for anyone, and I think that was Fiorentino’s intention, anyway. –Sean Carswell (Insomniac Press, 192 Spadina Ave., Suite 403, Toronto, ON M5T 2C2, Canada)

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