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Paying for It Hardcover – May 10, 2011

4.0 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A compelling look into one man's history of employing prostitutes as a replacement for romantic love, this graphic novel is sure to create controversy. Brown has produced acclaimed but brutally honest autobiographical works before, but here he adds a new didactic element. In June 1996 Brown's then girlfriend broke up with him. After three years of celibacy and his growing conviction that romantic love is destructively possessive, Brown works up the courage to see a legal prostitute and finds the "burden" of anxiety over whether to pursue a relationship with any particular woman forever removed. The next 200 pages are an explicit—but far from erotic—dossier of the various women he did business with, until he meets one that he ends up with in a monogamous—but still financial—relationship. Although Brown intends the work to be a compassionate look at a profession that helps people, he unfortunately goes out of his way to anonymize the sex workers—never showing their faces and telling the story in tiny, cramped panels, giving the whole thing a voyeuristic feel. A lengthy appendix arguing that a system where paying for sex is preferable to romance-based methods is unlikely to persuade many readers. (May)
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“It has the thoroughness of a history book yet reads with the personalized vision of a novel.” ―Time on Louis Riel

“If you love to read a gripping story, if you are awed by the talent of an artist, then look no further:Chester Brown's Louis Riel is comix history in the making, and with it, history never looked so good.” ―The Globe and Mail Book Review on Louis Riel


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 292 pages
  • Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly; First Edition edition (May 10, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1770460489
  • ISBN-13: 978-1770460485
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #857,804 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Paul Hickey on July 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First, the good news: Chester Brown's "Paying for It, A Comic-Strip Memoir about Being a John," is a funny, honest, thought-provoking book. Through his minimalist illustrations (almost sketches, really), Brown tells the entertaining story of how and why he began frequenting prostitutes after his live-in girlfriend, Sook-Yin, decided that she was "falling in love with someone else" and wanted to share her bed with the other guy instead of him.

Most men might find this sort of domestic arrangement unacceptable, but Brown seems to casually accept it with no hard feelings. As underground comics legend Robert Crumb notes in his Introduction, and Brown's friend Seth observes in Appendix 23, the author is a rather cold fish with "a very limited emotional range compared to most people." So, after enduring two years of celibacy following his break-up with Sook-Yin, Brown decides that "paying for it" is the best way to reconcile his desire to have sex with his determination to NOT have a girlfriend. It's an odd choice, but one he believes is the most appropriate for him, given his disillusionment with even the concept of romantic love.

Unfortunately for Brown, prostitution is just as illegal in his native Canada as it is in the United States. This makes him more than a bit paranoid when it comes to trying to arrange his first appointments with the female escorts he sees advertising in some of Toronto's weekly newspapers. Brown's fumbling initial experiences are amusing, and even somewhat touching in an awkward way. But he eventually figures out how it all works.

From there it's onward to a revolving menu of carnal comfort food, at least as he describes it. Brown circulates among roughly two dozen different partners, before finally settling into monogamy with one.
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Format: Hardcover
After eight years of waiting, we are finally graced with a new comic by Chester Brown. Brown's oeuvre is rich and varied, covering such diverse topics as outrageous, scatological farce, introspective childhood memoirs, Bible adaptations, surreal fiction (complete with it's own language) and historical biography. Throughout the course of his career, Brown has challenged Bible scholars and the psychological community, to name a few. In this new book, Brown uses autobiography to challenge prostitution laws and their morality in general. Never one to back down from controversy, Brown takes a hands-on look at the profession by not only reading up on said subject, but perusing several prostitutes over the course of a decade. These encounters are depicted in a rather cold and stoic style, neither romanticizing nor sensationalizing them. Brown uses clear, concise facts to show his experiences and he succeeds rather admirably.

Brown has obviously had it with the notion of "romantic love", yet still wants to have sex. He decides to peruse the services of a prostitute, yet has no idea how to go about this task. After cruising streets he believes prostitutes would hang out, he goes online to find one. He has quite a few encounters with different ladies... some with regularity, some only once. He encounters many problems... fear he might get assaulted, concern for their working conditions, age, etc... wrestling with certain moral dilemma, even feelings of attachment that comes up for one of the ladies. Brown pulls no punches and doesn't hesitate to portray himself badly. He's particularly hung up about age, as a woman in her late 20s is deemed "too old".
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Format: Hardcover
I liked reading this book well enough but something seemed off. I couldn't exactly put my finger on why I wasn't enjoying the book as much as I thought I should be enjoying it. It wasn't the repetitive nature of the stories or the author's obsession with telling every story about every prostitute no matter how uninteresting. Then I read the appendix and Seth's response clarified my distaste.

Seth called Chester a robot with a limited emotional range. However, the part that hit home was when Seth talked about an argument depicted in the book where Chester comes off better in his book than he did in real life and if Seth wasn't as good of a debater as he could have been it's because he isn't thinking about libertarian politics 24/7 and it's exhausting talking the Chester because Chester thoroughly researches libertarian politics.

This is what kills the book for me. It's a modestly interesting story about a man who decides that he is sick of romantic love but still wants sex. Then it dovetails into these encounters but also the reaction of his friends when he tells them about it.

The problem with the book is that Chester won't keep attempting to argue for the completely unfettered free market in terms of prostitution. Even reasonable arguments like legalization with taxation or legalization with regulation are too much for him.

By the appendix, he's arguing against everything that is not the complete free prostitution and his arguments began to start stretching things. He believes that prostitution is not wrong because even if sex is sacred, churches make money from sacred objects.
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