Absolution Test: Roberto Acestes Laing



by Nicholas Rombes

1. How do you feel about being a character in a novel

I’d rather it was an adventure novel, or a sex-romp novel. As it is, you’ve got me holed up in a rather ratty motel (not even hotel!) for three days, drinking bourbon every time a reader picks up the book and reads about me drinking bourbon. You truncated my best jokes, and suggested (oh you were very careful not to come right out and say it) that I had something to do with the disappearance of those children. So all in all? It’s been a rough experience.

2. How are you going to handle the bad reviews?

Good or bad, it doesn’t matter. Either way people are judging me not for who I really am, but for how you depicted me. Granted, you created me. But still, I ought to have some say, oughtn’t I? One reviewer wrote that I didn’t “seem real.” Well of course not! I’m a character! Roberto Acestes Laing! And you never clarified how my middle name is pronounced. I bet even you don’t know. And why should I care even about good reviews? If I’m praised it’s only in terms of how you “created” me.

3. What do you do when no one’s reading you?

How would I know? I don’t rightly exist then. I suppose I just hang around the margins. The world goes dark. I forget I even exist. The worst part is when different people in different time zones are reading me at the same time. My self is divided up, existing — impossibly — at the same time in different places. I wish the book had a mechanism by which it would shut off if more than one person at a time tried to read it.

4. Books don’t shut off.

(No response)

5. Did you feel yourself coming alive as you were being written?

Of course I did. That was the worst part, going down those narrative pathways that you later discarded. There was one with a very elegant, charming woman, with an eye patch and beautiful ears and I think she really cared for me and I for her. And then you cut off that plot thread. Not a trace of her is left.

6. If you could exchange roles and be a different character in the novel, who would it be?

That’s an absurd and cruel question. Haven’t you taunted me enough? Exposed me to enough ridicule? Made me complicit in crimes I did not commit? I can tell you this, from the safety of these pages: you’re lucky the membrane between life and art is not as porous as you suggest in this novel.

7. Thoughts about a sequel?

Are you kidding me? As if I have a choice anyway. I can’t imagine any possible reason for a sequel other than to tarnish my name and reputation even further. I can’t imagine what you’d do to me in old age. Probably make me blind, impotent, demanding. Can you imagine: a blind lover of films! What a cruel fate you’d cook up for me. No, Rombes, you’ve already had your way once. Bring me back again and you’ll be sorry.

About the Author:


Nicholas Rombes is author of the novel The Absolution of Roberto Acestes Laing, published in November 2014 byTwo Dollar Radio Press and Ramones, from the 33 1/3 series. His work has appeared in The Believer, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Filmmaker Magazine. He is a professor in Detroit, Michigan.