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Paying for It Hardcover – May 10, 2011
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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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
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The author has very little emotional affect--one of his closest friends, who is a character in the comic strip, writes in the afterword "The truth is, Chester seems to have a very limited emotional range compared to most people. There does seem to be something wrong with him. He's definitely an oddball. That said, he is also the kindest, gentlest and most deeply thoughtful oddball I know." He writes about these women as if they were merely useful only in terms of satisfying his sexual drive, while at the same time he remains loyal to his prostitutes, for the most part. And he actually falls for one of them toward the end, although "falls for" may be a bit too strong. He speaks about most of these women almost exclusively in terms of their relative attractiveness and he seems to prefer women half his age or less, breast size optional, weight below average. Nonetheless, you get a surprisingly human sense of the women after you get into the book, and you certainly have to admire Brown's honesty and straightforwardness. I'd recommend this for its sheer originality, as well as for Brown's healthy disdain for political correctness.
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.
His story begins with his break-up with his girlfriend, Sook-yin. He continues to live with her and her new boyfriend and though he doesn't seem bothered by jealousy, he does decide he needs sexual companionship so he begins looking into finding a prostitute. We follow him as he has his first encounter. We learn with him about the business--incalls vs. outcalls, pimps, tipping, rating websites. We hear his discussions with his friends as he becomes more vocal about his understanding of prostitution and the reasons it should be legalized. It is an interesting journey.
Of course, I expected to find this interesting because I agree with the concept that prostitution should be legalized, though I discovered that we differ on certain aspects; for example, I feel it should be regulated and taxed. And I was left wondering if Mr. Brown is the best spokesman for the issue since he does come across as a bit odd, particularly in his relationships. I've already mentioned his contentment at living with his old girlfriend and her new boyfriend. There's also the fact that he ends his story in a long-term relationship with a prostitute who he continues to pay even though they're in an exclusive partnership. It's not that I feel these things are wrong. They are just atypical.
And I'm not the only one who thinks so. Make sure to read the appendices and notes at the end of the book. In particular, read appendix 23, "Seth's Notes". Seth is a friend of Mr. Brown's who comments on the scenes in which he appears. It spoke very closely to the feeling I had about the author as I read this book. As Seth writes: "The truth is, Chester seems to have a very limited emotional range compared to most people...That said, he is also the kindest, gentlest and most deeply thoughtful oddball I know." It's well said, as are many of the things it this book.
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.