Paying For It is Chester Brown’s comic-strip memoir about being a john. It is a fascinating look at prostitution and the arguments for and against it. Brown documents his decision to start paying for sex and each of the prostitutes he visited (with obscuring details) and the discussions he had with his friends about it.
Basically, Brown decided that romantic love was bullshit and why shouldn’t people have sex with people for whom it is a job? His companions tend to be more romantic (or as the cartoonist Seth says in the afterword, they “experience human emotions”). I should clarify; it’s possessive monogamy that Brown feels is the problem. We can have lots of friends, but why only one sexual partner? The afterword is filled with more information and notes about the book, and even if it doesn’t convince you to go pay for sex, it will make you think about the standard shortcut ways of thinking about prostitution.
Reading this book right after Debt: The First 5,000 Years was interesting, since that one was talking so much about how slaves are people who are removed from their social context, and Brown spends a good amount of time in the afterword debating whether any of his prostitutes were sex slaves (he doesn’t think they were).
In Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler’s novel The Future of Us, it’s 1996 and Emma has just gotten a new computer. Her friend Josh gives her an AOL CD and when she gets it all hooked up she finds a link to something called Facebook. She and Josh investigate it and it appears it’s a webpage where people post all sorts of weird details about their lives. The thing is that they are both on it, fifteen years in the future.
This is great for Josh because Facebook says he’s married to the hottest girl in school who’s never even noticed him before. Emma on Facebook is unhappy though. And then Emma and Josh discover that changes they make affect the future they can see. There’s a good bit of conflict between Josh who wants to maintain that future he sees, and Emma who is scared of what hers holds and wants to make sure it doesn’t come to pass.
It’s a really clever idea for a book of dealing with knowledge of the future. They can’t put together a whole life from what they’re looking at on Facebook, but what they can see is changing things. It’s a good story about relationships and how they work themselves out too. The alternating chapters between Josh and Emma’s perspective worked well, highlighting their different concerns. The rest of their friend group is also well-developed. These kids do a lot of dating and it comes off in a very mature (yet recognizably high-school) way.
What I was less a fan of was the clear signposting of “This is 1996!” I realize that the target audience probably needs the details so they don’t forget why no one is using an iPhone, but especially in the opening chapter it was pretty tedious to read about cool new Windows 95 and cordless phones and “Friends” and listening to Green Day. I mean, I get it, it was just annoying to me. That wears off pretty quick though, and I liked the book as a whole.
Jamie, one of my library school friends, recommended Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba’s graphic novel Daytripper as something I’d probably really like. I really did.
It’s the story of Bras, an obituary writer who’s the son of a famous writer, at a bunch of different stages in his life. They’re told out of sequence though, the first story being when he’s 32 but others in his 20s and 40s and 11, I think. The thing is that each issue (when they were single issues, but this version is a collected trade paperback) ends with him dying. Each one has a short obituary of him, written by him.
There’s friendship, father issues, stuff about being a writer and finding your own voice. It’s a beautiful book, seeing all the different ways a life could end and what happens when it doesn’t.