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Paying for It Hardcover – May 10, 2011
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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
Top customer reviews
Brown is dispassionate but clearly happy with his decision to outsource his sexual needs, feeling that sex and girlfriends do not go together well for him. The text alternates visits to various escorts with discussions with his male friends and ex-girlfriends about the advantages of his chosen sexual lifestyle. He is well-read on the politics of sex workers and takes a Libertarian position condemning the present laws restricting or outlawing sex work.
The body of the book is preceded by an Introduction by Robert Crumb who calls it Mr. Brown's best work. At the end of the book there are 50 pages of Appendices and Notes that go into much deeper detail than the narrative of the book permitted. I would say that he makes as good an argument for unregulated prostitution as you will find in the popular literature.
His philosophical arguments supporting prostitution are well-considered and very persuasive. However, the majority of the book is NOT boring philosophy but rather little vignettes of his visits to whores. I like the intimacy and strangeness of each of these meetings.
The illustrations are unique in that Brown attempts to draw the women as they were in actuality (breast size, body type, etc.) and I found it amusing that he changed the prostitutes names even though they were fake names to begin with. Although I see why he did it - to protect their identities from anyone who may be reading the book. A lot of common scams with prostitution are depicted in the cartoons, such as the "bait and switch", which is when a girl uses a fake/outdated picture or inaccurately describes herself over the phone and then shows up at your door.
Overall, it was a quick read. I found myself agreeing with most of his philosophies during the actual illustrated portion of the book, but in the appendix of the book he uses a lot of far-fetched examples (homosexual relationships, the possibility of a "gay gene", futuristic sex in 2080, etc) to get his point across. If you're interested in the sex for money business I'd give this book a look.
It is strangely melancholy; it seems searingly honest; it is unsparing in its presentation of the "john", the author himself; it offers many insights into the mundane realities of the trade. I found it illuminating and provocative.
The extensive appendices and notes which go into the arguments for/against in rigorous detail are a greatly appreciated and unexpected bonus, and save the first half from being overburdened with walls of text. Like a hug at the end of a session, it's a thoughtful and sincere demonstration that he cares about our experience.