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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 9, 2003
A Swagbelly is a large overhanging belly. It's also the name of the adult magazine that the character Elliot Grubman owns in DJ Levien's book. "Swagbelly" has brought Elliot a bevy of beautiful women, the best clothes that money can buy, a private table at a chic restaurant and, of course, has made him very rich -- but it didn't buy him happiness, for at the same time, he's lost his wife and is losing touch with his son.
Much of the book takes you through his life after his divorce, as he tries to flaunt his money ($100 million!) and buy some class. He is a firm believer in the Golden Rule: "the one who has the gold, makes the rules." He demands respect from others, and wields his money as power like a sword, waving it around for all to fear. He takes pleasure in seeing others weaken before him, just to feed his hungry ego. He has a new girlfriend (is she 20 or 13?) and new enemies, and a new problem. He is finding that nothing arouses him any longer (no pun intended). As we learn more about what got him to this point, we start also to see where this is going: he needs to, as he always needed to, spend more time developing meaningful relationships.
The book, 231 pages, is organized by locale or situation, such as "New York", and briskly moves between now and connected memories. It is extremely explicit, in a distracting and unnecessary way; he could have easily had many other professions and the story would have been the same. Elliot suffers from anti-Semetic paranoia, which is heightened by his son's desire to convert to Catholicism. But, ultimately, the story focuses on his growth as a man (simultaneously as his son grows up), although, we are unsure that he really ever "gets it".
"Swagbelly" gets deep and profound, where you can both feel his angst and be repulsed by the fact that he truly believes that he can buy his way into and out of any situation. As he starts to realize that he craves a real connection and to expose his innermost feeling, he understands that he doesn't know how to build relationships. The reader is way ahead of Elliot in recalling the real Golden Rule: treat others how you'd like to be treated.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Ok, let me get this off my chest right away. This guy is sleazy! He dates a new model every night, treats women as though they are disposable, and tries to buy and intimidate everyone within reach. Even the waiters at his favorite restaurant dislike him, despite the hundred dollar tips.
However, for all of that, Levien manages to make him likeable. This poor guy is totally smitten with his ex-wife (now dating someone else), loves his son dearly but is driving him away, and can't even keep one of his model girlfriends happy enough to want to be with him. To top it off, this alpha male pornographer has become impotent.
While I wanted to hate him, I kept rooting for him throughout the book. I wanted this sleazeball pornographer to reach his son, get back with his ex-wife, and finally find a way of making his life meaningful again. Does he succeed? You'll have to read the book.
But Levien certainly succeeds in making a human and surprisingly likeable character. The book moves fast, and some of the scenes had me howling with laughter.
I would have given it five stars, but I was left wanting more at the end! Levien, if you are reading this, I want a sequel!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 3, 2003
Okay, the main character of this book is a total pig but with some true endearing qualities. In fact you almost want to feel bad for him. Strong emphasis on the want here. This book is extremly racy but in a woody allen sort of way. For someone like me, a native new yorker, this book gives me a slice of home that I can't get anywhere else. You see, Swagbelly, is really the story of a middle-aged man going through a mid-life crisis; the porn angle is only used as a vehicle to establish his life. If you can get past all the porn, there actually is a really good book here so let go of your consertative self and give it a chance.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 7, 2003
author d.j. levien has struck a raw but accurate nerve in his description of elliot grubman, striving middle aged man from the near-poor upbringing of brooklyn, where he became, and remains fixated on the need to garner self respect. He throws cash around like autumn leaves in New England in order to buy into the high life. And he's got a lot of it from a successful pornography business he built from nothing. Elliot knows what people want and is under no illusions as to what they will do to get it. He just can't connect--his past is catching him and his fears abound.
A good job by a very incisive author.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 7, 2003
I wasn't expecting much of this book, certainly not that it would be this smart, funny and literate. Levien's characters feel real as life, and his prose simultaneously elegant and prosaic. Eliot Grubman is as repellent a capitalist pig as ever had his soul laid bare in print, but you'll enjoy every page you spend with the schmuck.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 2003
This is a funny and sometimes raunchy look at modern times. Our hero is a pretty decent guy under all the oprn. Levien shows a deft comic touch. The story is funny and the end is a bit pat. However, I enjoyed the story and laughed a great deal. Fun book!
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VINE VOICEon September 30, 2003
Enter the world of Elliot Grubman the king of porn, in SWAGBELLY, the latest novel by DJ Levien. Elliot thought he had it all, everything that his millions of dollars could buy. He has beautiful sexy women at his beck and call, who give him all the sex he wants any time of day or night. He has so much money that he's giving it away. He tips waiters 50% at the finest dining establishments just because.
But yet, he has an ex-wife that he thinks about all the time, yearning for that special something they used to have. And, he has an only son who seems to want to become a Catholic, instead of preparing for his upcoming bar mitzvah. What's a father to do? What's a MAN to do?
Elliot has enough on his mind than have to worry about his son. But because of his son, Elliot is now looking for respectability. Being the owner of a successful porn magazine, SWAGBELLY, does not help. It's opened as many doors for him as it has closed. But, if this magazine has brought him everything a man can want, should he throw it all away for a respectable publishing endeavor?
The book opens to a sex scene with Elliot as it's main participant. The scene's hot, HE'S hot, and his girlfriend is pretty hot herself. Welcome to the life of a porno magnate. Life is grand! (Needless to say, this was one of the best sex scenes I've come across in a book in quite a while.) She's been the only love interest in his life since he's first had sex with her, and that's saying a lot, knowing that Elliot has probably slept with every centerfold that's come through SWAGBELLY. For some reason that no one can figure out, Yvonne is special to Elliot.
She also has the bad habit of dressing like a hooker, not that she doesn't have the body for it. It also does not help that she looks old enough to be his daughter. But Elliot is trying to bring some class to his life, and when they go out on the town, especially to his favorite upscale Italian restaurant Tre Fiori, she damn well better look respectable. Unfortunately, as Yvonne and Elliot are dining at Tre Fiori that evening, Lauren the ex-wife and her muscle bound lover also make their way into the restaurant. Words are said, insults are hurled, and Lauren informs Elliot their son is going to be baptized a Catholic. This was not a good night.
Elliot's problems are only just beginning. But, who said life for a multi-millionaire porno king was ever easy?
DJ Levien creates a multi-faceted character in Elliot Grubman. Levien is also one hell of a storyteller. While I started reading this book thinking it would only be filled with gratuitous sex, I was in for a big surprise. There is a lot of depth to this story of the jaded Grubman, and if there is hope for someone like this porno king, there is hope for everyone. I came to like Elliot, and am glad I took the chance to getting to know him. SWAGBELLY gets 5 stars from this reviewer.
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on October 26, 2003
At first you may wonder why someone would read, let alone write, a book about a shallow, self-centered, womanizing porn king. However, as you read this book, you will see that it is more of a story about a man coming to understand his own mortality as well as a realization of those things that are of the greatest importance to him. While most men can not order custom made suits and a new pair of socks every day, most men, I'm sure can relate to some of the feelings and issues that Elliot Grubman is experiencing, especially those who have been divorced. Like any male or even woman who has been rejected in some way, Elliot is dealing with a bruised ego. Elliot deals with it in the only way that he knows how; by having many beautiful women and using them for sex in order to make himself feel better. The perspective in this book is very interesting, as we are made aware of Elliot's innermost thoughts in response to vaious situations and experiences. Many of these thoughts are very humorous, and help the reader to understand his character more. This is a great book for both men and women, and it is nice to see things from a male perspective for a change.
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on October 17, 2003
Could you relate to a guy that heads up a porn establishment, frivolously throws his money about to make up for his lack of good looks and is proud (and won't let you forget) that he can - - and will - - do whatever he damn well pleases? I didn't think I could either and then I met Elliot Grubman. He is the guy, self-admittingly through details, that had it rough growing up and is now trying to make everyone eat their words through his extravagant lifestyle with ladies, money and possessions. But when your looked down upon because of how you got all your riches, and you long for your ex-wife, while getting your mistress (possibly underage) pregnant - what kind of payback is that?
You can't stand Elliot at first, then you feel sorry and then you fight for the poor shlub! What a great character to have a love/hate relationship with. And what a great, guilty book to get lost in for the day.
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on October 13, 2003
Elliott Grubman is the kind of character you love to hate. You'd think a Jewish pornographer with more money than he knows what to do with would instantly land on your "top-ten sleaziest individuals" list, but you manage to forgive him and his little peccadillos and start routing for him almost from page one. Once you start reading you'll find yourself cheering Elliot on and he tried and get a handle on many of his life's little problems such as his ex-wife, his current girlfriend leaving him, the same girlfriend coming back to him (with a little surprise), trying to find a date in the meantime, and his son converting to Catholicism. Throughout all of this, he consoles himself with a little bit of "retail therapy" as he buys and starts a new polo team. Feelings of inadequacy? Perhaps. But that's no problem for Elliott Grubman. Afterall, money can buy happiness, can't it?
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