Do you get the quickie?

CarnalNation

twitter
facebook
title

We Did Porn

We Did Porn
By Zak Smith
Tin House Press
$24.95, 488 pp.

Too much honesty surrounds We Did Porn, but Zak Smith's take on the world of Alt-Porn is a refreshing kind of excess. "Alt" porn, or whatever they're calling Being Naked On The Internet, has taken off in the last decade, which means that it's about time for a gossipy tell-all memoir. Zak Smith is a contemporary artist who performed in a few alt-porn titles—titles that, if you're alive and reading this website, you've probobly heard of. The names and places are so thinly disguised that when I told one Thinly Disguised character that I was reviewing it, she burst out "Did he mention the time I punched Thinly Disguised Man in the mouth? Cause I did!"A passing knowledge of the the Naked Girl Industry's weirder corners is enough to figure out just who and what he's gabbing on about.

Despite this, the backbiting gossip-mongering is kept to a simmer. Zak is a more reflective chap. The style is written someplace between an old bar story and a series of blog posts. Smith's digressions into everything from Boba Fett to The Nature of California to Republican Mentality to Super Mario take casual dangerously close to sloppy. A harsher edit would've been welcome, but then we would have missed a lot of Smith's unique voice, which is the real draw. Unless you're intimately familar with the characters and players in the book, the world of professional pornography is pretty boring. Lots of waiting, lots of being cold and naked and bored. The bump and grind allows Zak's mind to wander to whatever he feels like talking about until the scene is up and he has to pretend orgasm for the fourth time today. No wonder he loves Groundhog Day.

The other part of the book are Zak Smith's portraits and sketches and reportage illustrations. I like them, they have a great student-not-paying-attenion-in-class vibe, all the dirty energy and charm of notebook noodles, complete with ruled lines and ad hoc shading. You just wanna plaster them all over your dorm room and have a teenage dance party.

It's a pity they're all printed on that god-awful cheapo glossy laser jet paper. Bleech. Still, they really fit the book and jibe with Smith's relaxed, rambling accounts. He's clearly a smart dude; some of the best parts in the book dwell on the absurdity of the Manhattan Art World and the whole Vampire Guy/Werewolf Guy discussion. (For the uninformed, it's a bit like the Virgin/Whore stupidity; Google it if you don't believe me.) He's one of the few guys who write about sex and sexuality who doesn't have Big Issues With Women. It's sad that I have to point it out, but all the vagina-carrying characters come off as actual people with little or no Weird Problems With Girls humming in the background. It's refreshing. When he takes down Tyra Banks for her hypocrisy about sex work, you wanna punch your fist to the sky. It peters out at the end, but most memoirs do. If your book exisits to answer the question: What Did He Do When When He Did Porn and then he stops doing porn, you don't have much of a book left.

Even if you're not following the careers of "Tina DiVine", "Tasha Rey", or "Chuck Devil", We Did Porn is an entertaining trip around the industry. Think of it like an airplane book for the fucked up.

Clip this story

Comments


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Looks like a winner!

I will certainly check this one out! :)

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

John Leavitt
September 12th, 2009
John Leavitt's picture
John Leavitt is a cartoonist, writer, illustrator, and a libra. His cartoons and illustrations have appeared in: The New Yorker, The Chronicle Review, The New York Press, The Common Review, The...