25 May 2011

REVIEW: 'Paying for it'

By: Chester Brown
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
Pages: 272

I've been waiting for this book to come out for a while. And geez... the wait was definitely worth it.

Along with fellow Canadian cartoonists, Seth, Joe Matt and Dave Sim... Chester Brown has been at the top of my tree when I think of great comic book authors. His latest book PAYING FOR IT (With an introduction by the legendary, R.Crumb no less) is Chester Brown's manifesto on the subject of 'paying prostitutes for sex' by conveying his experiences of being a 'John' (a paying client).

The book's first chapter is called 'My last girlfriend' (a great setup), and shows us how Brown begins a journey that will finally culminate in the book you're holding. It's quite (as R.Crumb puts it) a cogent argument that he presents in these pages.

: If you're a hopeless romantic, then this book probably won't move you at all.

Chester's first experience with a prostitiute.

There are one or two points in the book that drag just a little (where he's chatting to his friends about a socio-political topic that is close to his heart), and the drawings within these panels look identical to the one that preceded it. The whole page is made up of the same image repeated 8 times (sometimes more). Don't get me wrong, I don't think he needed to edit himself from the points he wanted to convey, but perhaps changing camera-angles (visually) throughout these panels would have made the reading experience easier. It was kind of like reading a paragraph-long sentence in prose that didn't contain any punctuation. A little exhausting, and makes you want to put a bookmark between the pages and come back to it a little later.

Personally, I don't see the point of paying prostitutes for sex in todays online age where you can simply bang chicks from the internet for free (oh I love the fruits of Feminism :)... but I suppose prostitution gives one the pick of the most beautiful girls. Money is really the only factor. As long as you pay, you can ball a Victoria Secret model.

If the voyeur in you gets tickled by subjects that are behind closed doors, and lets face it, who doesn't...? then read PAYING FOR IT. Not because it's simply risque, but because at the heart of this story are powerful questions. Is prostitution really that aweful? What is wrong with an honest and up-front exchange between two consenting adults? What of Brown's very astute observation that, apart from the positive things we all associate romantic love with, it also has (at it's centre) an inherent code of ownership and jealousy?

Chester Brown also doesn't come at you in a didactic manner from the begining, but rather, lets you observe the very human circumstances in a person's life that may lead them to consider paying for sex. Initially, Brown thinks of prostitution as a curious option, but once he tentatively explores it, he finds there is more to it than just the sex act itself. It's the way it all makes sense to Brown's libertarian views. There seem to be no more games. No jealousy. Freud has left the building. A very edifying book.

I don't know what it is about Canadian cartoonists, but they sure know how to hit the nail on the head when it comes to stories about reality. Maybe it's the French/European comics influence? Not quite sure... Anyway, if you like comics about reality, then this is definitely one to grab. It's a gem of a big 272 page book...! beautifully illustrated, funny in moments, and a solidly put together hard cover.

One of the best graphic novels I've read this year.


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