Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Working Stiff: the misadventures of an accidental sexpert

by Grant Stoddard

This book is one of those pulp-y sort of memoirs, often humorous, written by people far to young to be writing memoirs. There's probably a word for it in the publishing industry, those books by young-ish people about interesting episodes in their lives — strange and/or terrible job and/or boss; a year of doing or not doing something most people take for granted; something extreme or weird has made me wise beyond my years; etc. etc. etc. It's also an example of another odd species of the publishing world: the magazine/newspaper/online column or blog re-packaged as a book with little or no new material. Light, amusing reading, nothing wrong with that.

All that sounds pretty negative, doesn't it? The book is quite funny and engagingly written, in fact, despite being what it is. I never read this guy's column, so I can't actually say how much new material is in the book, but it seems to talk a lot about his research and writing process in a way that seemed as if it wouldn't have been part of his articles as originally published. The stuff about his immigration issues and other background is also fresh material, I'd imagine. I also instantly liked him because he's British, and kinda short for a guy.

After following a girlfriend to the U.S., the author falls into a job as a sort of sexual guinea pig for an erotic website. (Actually erotic, with literary pretensions and all, rather than pornographic, but also intentionally edgy and risque.) He gets sent to fetish balls and group sex parties, missions to test pick-up lines, nudist camp, asked to try sex toys and female condoms with his girlfriend — that kind of stuff — culminating in his final assignment: to mold a dildo from his own penis (there's a kit for that) and have a lady friend strap it on and screw him with it.

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