Fanboy's Closet is a fan of PAYING FOR IT

“Paying For It Review” / Fanboy's Closet / Fanboy's Closet / June 6, 2011

Ok, so the cover of the book should tell readers everything they need to know about it. But let me go into a little more detail...

Chester Brown is an experienced (formerly underground) Canadian cartoonist who grow up around Montreal. Along with Seth and Joe Matt (two of his friends), Brownis part of the sort of holy trinity of important adult comic writers in Canada.

Often autobiographical, and always entertaining, much of Browns work follows his life and interactions within his group of close friends (including Joe Matt and Seth -- the three usually feature each other in their stories). Other than great autobiographical stuff like The Playboy (an early story by Brown which paints a picture of his young teenage life growing up in Quebec and his first experiences with pornography), Browns most famous and acclaimed work has been his hefty comic book biography of Louis Riel, an excellent (and well-researched) read.

But in his latest book, Paying For It, Brown opens up about an age-old taboo that has been a part of his life for the last 15 years: prostitution.

As the books subtitle suggests, this autobiographical work (just released today) is a first-hand account of Browns long-time involvement in prostitution as a john (customer). In the book he relates his last breakup (with well-known former VJ and CBC radio hostess, Sook-yin Lee), followed by his decision to start paying for sex. Throughout the book Brown puts forth simple but strong arguments in support of his pro-prostitution position, often in the form of arguments and conversations he had with his friends (and former girlfriend) over his choice to start seeing prostitutes.

And although the author seems like an almost emotionless weirdo at times, through his careful explanation and (sort of) gentle-seeming demeanor, readers may come to at least understand (if not accept) why the author has sworn off romantic love forever in favour of prostitution.

So, one of the main things I like to get right to on this site is: is this book entertaining. Yes, it definitely is. It is hard to stop reading even if you recognize yourself being pulled in by the seediness and taboo interest generated by an insiders view of the sex trade. This extremely human and simple voyeuristic look into the the most private parts of the authors life and into a very private industry are difficult to turn away from. So, I would highly recommend it on those grounds alone. Few comics manage to be as simultaneously interesting, entertaining, shocking, enlightening, and controversial as this one.

Whether or not Brown's obviously pro-prostitution stance ends up changing your own opinion of either johns or working girls by the end of the book (or whether or not you start out agreeing or disagreeing his lifestyle from the get-go), one thing is for sure: this book is likely to get you thinking, talking, and maybe even arguing with your own friends about morality, law, and the sex trade.

Personally, I had some pretty serious and fun discussions with FBCs own movie reviewer and my wife about some of the issues addressed by Brown in Paying For It long before I was even able to read the book. For instance, Greg (the movie man) and I had an extended discussion about the morality of even buying Browns book in the first place. I was of the opinion that if you are entirely morally opposed to the whole idea of any type of prostitution, that it wouldn't be justifiable to buy Paying For It at all as some of the money you used WILL almost certainly be used to further the sex trade (i.e. because Brown gets your money and then he will give it to prostitutes almost inevitably). However, this is a hard-liner decision for sure.

Personally, I think even folks who are entirely opposed to prostitution on either moral, legal, or religious grounds owe it to themselves to check out Browns book (take it out from a library if you like!) to see what this first-hand account of a secretive and taboo industry is like so that they might make a better-informed decision about how they feel about it.

Personally, I found that no matter where you sit on the pro- or anti-prostitution spectrum, you can find evidence in Paying For It to support either position. The bottom line is that Browns book provides insight and info and sheds light on an otherwise obscured business.

Anyway, I hope this sparked your interest enough to check out this book. If I didn't convince you, maybe CBC can -- Jian Ghomeshi did an interesting interview with Chester Brown on April 29th on his show Q -- check it out!

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