Paying For It: A Comic-Strip Memoir About Being a John

The cover of Chester Brown's Paying For It: A Comic-Strip Memoir About Being a JohnI’m not a big reader of graphic novels, although there are a few over the years that I’ve really dug: Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home is a beautiful, moving piece of literature — it’s one of the best memoir/autobiography’s I’ve ever read. I would read anything by Daniel Clowes, too. Of course the one title everyone knows is Ghost World, thanks to the movie (which may be good, but doesn’t do the book justice).

I still pick up and reread Shirow Masamune Ghost in the Shell series from time to time, as well. In fact I’d like to some sort of in-depth critical analysis with those books as the focus.

But I digress.

While perusing the New York Times book section earlier today, I spied a review on this new graphic novel: Paying for It. A Comic-Strip Memoir About Being a John. I have to admit, this sounds interesting for all sorts of reasons. I’ll have to add it to the possibly maybe pile.

Here’s the Publisher’s Weekly blurb:

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.

And here’s the New York Times book review on Chester Brown’s Paying For It: A Comic-Strip Memoir About Being a John.

A sample from Chester Brown's graphic novel: Paying for It.

 

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