A while back we predicted Chester Brown’s I-was-a-john memoir, PAYING FOR IT, would be one of the most talked about graphic novels of the years. Surprise! We called it!
The Star looks at the book in light of Brown’s run for Parliament on the Libertarian ticket:
Initially, I was a bit annoyed by the timing of the election but it might turn out to be a good thing that I’m getting publicity at this time. I’m pretty sure I’m the only ‘out’ John who’s running as a candidate,” says Brown, who also represented the party in the riding in the previous federal election, finishing with 490 votes (23,932 shy of winner Olivia Chow).
The local party leader was a bit surprised by Brown’s news of the book:
“I phoned him up and asked, ‘Have you heard what my new book is about?’ He had no idea, so I had to explain it to him. I said, ‘I’ll understand if you guys don’t want me to run as a candidate.’ He said, ‘No, no. Libertarians believe in decriminalizing prostitution, so we have no problem with you running.’
“That’s the kind of party it is, I guess,” he concludes. “Or maybe that’s how desperate they are for candidates.”
The Globe and Mail notes that the book’s initial print run was 20,000 copies and talks about a shelved concept:
Brown initially conceived Paying for It – a title he’s not entirely keen on since it implies moral and physical “burdens” he claims not to have suffered – as a much larger opus “about my whole sexual history, starting with my childhood. … But when I ran the idea by the ex-girlfriends I’m still friends with, neither was very keen on it, so that kind of put the kibosh on it. I had to narrow down.”
Also at the Globe and Mail James Brown analyzes the storytelling:
Brown adopts a slightly bird’s-eye perspective here, almost as if he is being watched from a two-way mirror positioned across the room. It’s a perspective – combining discretion and distance with notions of surveillance and voyeurism – Brown adopts throughout the entirety of Paying for It.
I read an interview with Spalding Gray several years ago where he was questioning—why do people even have secrets? Most of us just take it for granted—we all have secrets. And he was questioning the whole idea of secrecy. And I was like, “Yeah, why do we even have secrets? Why do I care if people know this or that about me?” It is easier to live openly when you’re not married. Not to get too much into the whole “romantic love” thing, but if you’re going to live successfully with another person, there are things you have to keep to yourself. So the guy who lives on his own, I think, is more used to just expressing things openly.
Lots of interesting discussion in the comments on Brown’s central goal of getting prostitution decrimnalized.
And a review.
The interview at the National Post: A typical john: Cartoonist Chester Brown’s new book details his life with prostitutes
Sean Rogers’ smart review at The Walrus:
Despite the documentary impulse that transcribes such knowing details, however, Brown’s real concerns lie beyond mere observation. Throughout, he uses his own experiences to make the case for decriminalizing prostitution. In boldly direct style, his character expounds on his reading material, inquires after his friends’ stance on the morality of sex work, and, in one sequence, simply sits around in his underwear thinking.
Aaaaaaand, a report from the book launch on Sunday.
The reading was great. Chester spoke well, the audience laughed at the appropriate times and the projector presented the panels properly. Afterwords they had a Q&A lead by Sasha who was formerly a sex worker so they had some interesting back and forth about sex worker rights and about the refreshing perspective that Chester brings to the subject being a client. Chester stayed and signed everyone`s books, he was still signing when I left at 11:30. He didn’t cheap out on the signing either he did a doodle of himself in every book and asked everyone, clothed or naked. I picked clothed, there are enough naked cartoon Chester’s in the book.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.