Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Book Review: "True Porn Clerk Stories" by Ali Davis

At some point in our lives we have all had to do a job that we may have thought was beneath us or somewhat distasteful. A job we took out of necessity rather than desire because, unfortunately, the bills don’t pay themselves. Ali Davis was trying to make a living as a freelance writer and a performer in Chicago. Anyone who has tried to work freelance knows how difficult that can be. Davis took a job as a video store clerk originally as a temporary gig during a period where she was not getting enough freelance work to pay the bills. In addition to regular videos, this particular store rented adult videos in a restricted section in the basement. Davis didn’t expect to stay as long as she did. Nor did she expect to have her own conceptions of the porn world altered.

Davis began to write of her experiences online in a journal which eventually evolved into this book. It was an environment rich in characters some of whom were rather unsavory. From those Davis describes as dirtbags...

"There is, as you might expect, a healthy intersection between dirtbags and heavy porn renters.

I think it is partly due to the expense involved in porn addiction – scamming is a way to cut corners – and partly that anyone renting six hardcore videos every single day of his life has already said his goodbyes to the laws of society. But you’d be surprised: not all porn addicts are dirtbags and not all dirtbags rent porn."


...to the individual who would go into the straight porn section, take out a hand mirror and would apply makeup for an hour. No one knew why.
"Nobody’s thought of an answer yet, and we’re not really sure we want to toss him for loitering. He is, after all, just putting on makeup. But why in our porn section? It has such harsh fluorescent lighting. I’m sure we’ll find out eventually. I can’t wait."

What impressed me most about the book was that Davis could have easily taken an entirely negative approach and written exclusively on the seamy side of the porn culture. But Davis doesn’t do this. In a way it is almost thoughtful and insightful. And most importantly to me, she doesn’t judge anyone. Instead at times Davis almost seems as if she is trying to understand them.
"What the porn section has taught me that I think many women don’t understand is that porn is a physical thing for guys, not an emotional one. It seems to be a quick, physical release. It is a way of feeling good and making sure the plumbing is still in working order and that is about it. With the exception of the addicts, I don’t think it has any more significance than grabbing a burger when you’re hungry or standing up and stretching when you’ve been trapped in a car all day."
Ali Davis has long since left her job as a clerk in a video store and is now living in Los Angeles. She now has a 9 to 5 job, but still freelances. Monday through Friday she also writes a column for 365Gay.com called “RachelWatch” in which she analyzes "The Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC from the previous night. She is a working writer, but still a struggling one. You will not find this book in a brick and mortar bookstore. Davis chose to self-publish and the book can be found on Amazon.com

In the interest of full exposure, I feel it necessary to tell you that I know Ali Davis through the online site Twitter. I had been following her for awhile and bought the book in August. We occasionally share bits of conversation through “tweets.” Just last week she remarked that the book was being offered used on Amazon.com for $28.77, which is kind of strange as the book only costs $10.00 new, also on Amazon. Through the course of the conversation, I asked her if anyone had ever reviewed the book. It was something I had considered back when I first read it, but I got too busy with school. She said no. Someone had offered to, but like me, was too busy. At that point, I offered to write a review.

Anyone who writes online, or in any venue, knows the terror of putting your words out there for all to see. Many of us do it for free on our blogs and dream of that someday when maybe we will write that book that is inside us. Ali Davis did it, on her own, the hard way, without the big publishing companies. But, in doing it this way, she not only self-publishes, she also has to self-promote the product. This is why I am doing this review. I have a great deal of respect for someone like Ali Davis who takes a chance and does it on her own. But, I also do it because it is a damn good book and well worth reading.

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