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Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man For Rent Paperback – October 8, 2013


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Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for 2014's Best Books of the Year in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Soft Skull Press; Tenth Anniversary Edition edition (October 8, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1593765274
  • ISBN-13: 978-1593765279
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #643,485 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Ten years ago, this debut memoir from Sterry burst upon the literary scene with an energy and inventiveness that captured his teenage life in Los Angeles as a rent boy. Sterry's memoir still crackles with its unsparingly honest approach. He never sees himself as better than his clients, such as Dot, the wealthy 82-year-old, whose only desire is to experience cunnilingus for the first time--a desire that Sterry fulfills. "Even though I have no home and no family except for a bunch of prostitutes and a pimp... at least I'm good at this."(Oct.) - Publisher's Weekly.

"Sterry writes with comic brio ... [he] honed a vibrant outrageous writing style and turned out this studiously wild souvenir of a checkered past." - Janet Maslin, The New York Times"This is a stunning book. Sterry's prose fizzes like a firework. Every page crackles... A very easy, exciting book to read - as laconic as Dashiell Hammett, as viscerally hallucinogenic as Hunter S Thompson. Sex, violence, drugs, love, hate, and great writing all within a single wrapper. What more could you possibly ask for? -Maurince Newman, Irish Times

"A beautiful book... a real work of literature." - Vanessa Feltz, BBC

"Insightful and funny... captures Hollywood beautifully" - Larry Mantle, Air Talk, NPR

"Jawdropping... A carefully crafted piece of work..." -Benedicte Page, Book News, UK

"A 1-night read. Should be mandatory reading for parents and kids." -Bert Lee, Talk of the Town

"Alternately sexy and terrifying, hysterical and weird, David Henry Sterry's Chicken is a hot walk on the wild side of Hollywood's fleshy underbelly. With lush prose and a flawless ear for the rhythms of the street, Sterry lays out a life lived on the edge in a coming-of-age classic that's colorful, riveting, and strangely beautiful. David Henry Sterry is the real thing." -Jerry Stahl, author of Permanent Midnight

"Compulsively readable, visceral, and very funny. The author, a winningly honest companion, has taken us right into his head, moment-by-moment: rarely has the mentality of sex been so scrupulously observed and reproduced on paper. Granted, he had some amazingly bizarre experiences to draw upon; but as V. S. Pritchett observed, in memoirs you get no pints for living, the art is all that counts-and David Henry Sterry clearly possesses the storyteller's art." - Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait of My Body - Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait of My Body

From the Inside Flap

"Visceral, frank and compulsive reading.' -City Life, Manchester

"Sparkling prose... a triumph of the will." -Buzz Magazine

"Pick of the Week." -Independent

"Impossible to put down, even, no, especially when, the sky is falling...Vulnerable, tough, innocent and wise... A fast-paced jazzy writing style... a great read." -Hallmemoirs

"Full of truth, horror, and riotous humor." -The Latest Books

"His memoir is a super-readable roller coaster -- the story of a young man who sees more of the sexual world in one year than most people ever do." - Dr. Carol Queen, Spectator Magazine

"Terrifically readable... Sterry's an adventurer who happens to feel and think deeply. He's written a thoroughly absorbing story sensitively and with great compassion... A page-turner... This is a strange story told easily and well." - Eileen Berdon, Erotica.com

"Love to see this book turned into a movie, Julianne Moore might like to play Sterry's mum..." - by Iain Sharp The Sunday Star-Times, Auckland, New Zealand).

More About the Author

David Henry Sterry is an author, performer, educator, activist, and muckraker. David is the author of 16 books. Prior to becoming an author, David was a professional actor and screenwriter. He has appeared on National Public Radio, in the New York Times, and the London Times, The LA Times, The Washington Post, New York Magazine, Details Magazine, and the BBC. He is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post. He is a Henry Miller Award finalist.

Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent-Boys: Professionals writing on Life, Love, Money & Sex (Soft Skull, 2009). Now in its fifth printing.
"Eye-opening, astonishing, brutally honest and frequently funny... unpretentious and riveting -- but also graphic, politically incorrect and mostly unquotable in this newspaper."--The New York Times Sunday Book Review (front page review)

Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent (ReganBooks, 2002). A San Francisco Chronicle bestseller. Sold into nine countries. Under option by Showtime for a TV series.
"Sterry writes with comic brio... [he] honed a vibrant outrageous writing style and turned out this studiously wild souvenir of a checkered past."--Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"Stunning... Sterry's prose fizzes like fireworks. Every page crackles... Very easy and exciting to read--as laconic as Dashiell Hammett, as viscerally hallucinogenic as Hunter S Thompson. Sex, violence, drugs, love, hate, and great writing all within a single wrapper. What more could you possibly ask for?" -The Irish Times

Master of Ceremonies: A True Story of Love, Murder, Rollerskates and Chippendales (Canongate/Grove-Atlantic).
"Master of Ceremonies is dizzying, tender, and... resplendent with seedy glamour, hilarious backstage madness, and unflinching honesty."--Library Journal

The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published (Workman, 2010) is a soup-to-nuts guide will educate and entertain as it tells you everything you need to know about how to get successfully published in this crazy new cyber-intensive world of publishing.
"Before you write your own book, read this one first. Arielle Eckstut and David Sterry understand the process of publishing. Their advice will help you envision and frame your work so that publishers will be more likely to perceive its value." -Jonathan Karp, Publisher, 12 Books
"This book demystifies the process of getting published and is a must-have for every aspiring writer with a dream to see his or her passion in print. With input from agents, editors, and writers, this book is thorough, forthright, and importantly, also quite entertaining."--Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

Satchel Sez; The Wit, Wisdom & World of Leroy Satchel Paige (Crown, 2001). Picked by the ALA as one of the best books of the year for teens.

Travis & Freddy's Adventures in Vegas (Dutton, 2006). Written under the pseudonym Henry Johnson.
"This is a winner."-- Library Journal

LittleMissMatched's Pajama Party in a Box (Workman, 2007)
LittleMissMatched's Fabulous Marvelous Me (Workman, 2007)
LittleMissMatched's The Writer in Me (Workman, 2008)
LittleMissMatched's The Artist in Me (Workman, 2008)
LittleMissMatched is a company dedicated to inspiring creativity and self-expression in girls of all ages. These books, created with David's wife, Arielle Eckstut, have been sold everywhere from FAO Schwarz to Toys R Us to Disneyland.

The Glorious World Cup: A Balls-Out Guide (Dutton, to be published in April, 2010).

Confessions of a Sex Maniac (Kismet, 2011)

David is unique as an author in that he brings together his love for the written word with his love for performance. In his life as an actor, he performed with everyone from Milton Berle to Will Smith to Michael Caine to Zippy the Chimp. He performed in over 750 commercials, including 4 Clio winners, starred in HBO's Emmy Award-winning Encyclopedia, and emceed at Chippendale's in New York City. As a screenwriter, he wrote for Disney, Fox and Nickelodeon. After his memoir, Chicken, was published, David put his performance and playwriting skills to work and wrote and performed a one-man show based on the book. After a highly praised debut in San Francisco (the chief theater critic for the San Francisco Chronicle said, "Richly entertaining and thought-provoking... Speaks cleverly and provocatively to anyone who's ever been or had a child."), David took his one-man show to Edinburgh's Fringe Festival where it was named the #1 play in the UK by The Independent week after week.

For each and every book David publishes, he puts together a unique and robust publicity and marketing plan which utilizes his performance skills. Examples include:
A 6-hour workshop on how to get published at Stanford University
A high concept event like "The Art of the Memoir" which he's done everywhere from City Lights to the Strand to the 92nd St Y
A cutting-edge reading series like "Sex Worker Literati", which has become a sold-out monthly event at Happy Ending Lounge in NYC

David has taught at Stanford University, University of New Orleans, Reed College, UCLA, SF State, and the US Department of Justice. He's assisted lawyers, models, architects, and writers to present themselves and their ideas with clarity and passion. He's also helped many amateur writers become professional authors. He's worked as a chicken, a chicken fryer, a master of ceremonies, a soda jerk, a cherry picker, a poet, a building inspector, a telephone solicitationist, a limo driver, a barker, an industrial sex technician, and a marriage counselor. He graduated from Reed College, and loves his cat, his girls, and any sport involving a ball.

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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The story Sterry tells is wrenching and nakedly honest.
festive wench
The book is funny, sometimes excruciatingly so, and that style and humor lies like a cloak over a real person that is smart, sensitive and trying figure out life.
John B. Rogers
This book is a quick read and kept me interested until the last page.
imawake

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By imawake on April 17, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an engaging story, but also emotionally wrenching. Sterry is unflinchingly honest and unapologetic, but he has a silly, self-effacing way of writing that keeps him human. It's easy to think we can judge the actions of a 17-year-old prostitute, but his willingness to be vulnerable throughout his story makes him incredibly likeable. There is a consistent thread going back and forth between his life as a chicken at 17, and his childhood. The rejection by his mother is obviously part of the reason he became a paid lover for older women; that along with other factors. Sterry strikes me as intelligent and insightful, which makes it all the more painful to watch as he makes the choices he does during this time. And yet, he takes a sort of pride at his ability to excel at his work, and he clearly loves women and enjoys giving them pleasure. Sonny, his pimp, offers Sterry bigger and better jobs as time goes on, which only makes things more difficult for Sterry. On one hand, he's pleased about the accolades and the chance to make a lot of money for having sex (something he truly enjoys; what 17 year old boy wouldn't)? But on the other hand, the promise of so much easy money keeps him a slave to the sex trade even longer because he has no idea what else to do with himself. One can see the conflict going through his mind as he accepts each job, then imagines himself running away with various women he cares about, and buying a little house and living a peaceful life of obscurity. He wants to find love, and create a safe home to make up for the lack of one growing up. And yet, the money is almost too good to walk away from. Sterry's writing style is inventive and youthful, as if he stepped back into his teenaged self and relived it all over again.Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Cindycap on October 25, 2013
Format: Paperback
If you were a boy that was for rent, while a minor no less, if you were irrevocably stained by the notion that any possible savior did not have your back, if your family somehow didn't notice as you fell into the rabbit hole and shrank, if you ate from a dumpster and encountered impossible odds, if you had to stare corruption through the eyes of an innocent and pretend to understand it, you wouldn't really need to read his book because you would have somehow survived the life story it tells. If you fancy a journey through that unbearable story, and are not faint of heart, I strongly recommend this book (only for adults).

Many phrases forego the need for adjectives and create striking images such as "Georgia looks like she fell into a trash compactor when she was five foot eleven and didn't escape until she was five foot two".

The flashbacks in this book keep you not only in the moment but also within the context of the life/history that lead up to it. You can sense what lack of love breeds in a young boy's soul but I didn't necessarily feel ranchor toward the dysfunctional family that may have contributed to to it -- (maybe just a little). I guess that might be because he didn't really blame anyone, and behind the story, there is love and compassion (particularly looking back at his mom and the metamorphosis she seemed to have undergone).

You see the moment his migraines set in, you never want a piece of fried chicken again, the references to his long hair seem to go back to the day his father "sheared" the kids and the dog...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 8, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm a writer, and I ordered this book because a couple of other writers strongly recommended it, and I was looking for something to read on two eleven-hour plane flights. It turned out to be a great choice. The story line is interesting in itself -- a seventeen-year-old college freshman earns much-needed money by turning to the sex trade. Before that, he fried a lot of chicken, and the story is told so vividly that I could almost smell the grease. What really held my attention, though, was the "feel" or tone of the book. It's written in a humorous way, and it's not a victim story or a condemnation of anyone. Sterry is recalling, as a mature man, an episode that happened a long time ago, and his thoughtful and compassionate perspective turns what could have been just a racy anecdote into a story of unexpected depth. I've taught a lot of college freshmen, and the book captures that world, that perspective, very well, but it doesn't stop there. The man's story of his youth is wise, compassionate, and very enjoyable to read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By andrea freud loewenstein on December 8, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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I loved this book and the minute I finished it (at one gulp) I immediately began recommending it to friends. The young male narrator who supports himself by having sex with older women is totally believable. While he describes the events that led him to his career (uncaring parents, a rape) he never whines or expects pity from his reader, taking full responsibility for his choices. While explicit, the account is never exploitative or pornographic and the women who are his clients are presented sympathetically and with respect. For example, the time when the young man is presented to an 89 year old woman as a birthday gift in other hands would be full of r ageism and disgust at the aging female body -- but here the old woman (and her body) is shown as attractive and she is rendered with sympathy and respect, I had some trouble with the young narrator's homophobia but ended up respecting Sperry for presenting him with his warts and all instead of whitewashing him: the feeling is clearly the narrator's and not that of the author. Although I don't think he intended to do so, Sperry also did a service to sex workers by presenting them as workers with a job like any other instead of the usual romanticizing or denigration.(I think those in the sex trade would especially appreciate the novel.) While the narrator eventually gives up the job and his "chicken" identity, I didn't blame him for staying as long as he did -- it was certainly a better choice than the other, far more unappetizing job he did before in the beginning of the novel, working at KFC. In short, this little book is fascinating, witty, fast-moving and self aware. It deserves a wide readership.

Review by Andrea Freud Loewenstein (Author: This Place, The Worry Girl)
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