Witty memoir chronicles Brit’s unlikely rise as a chronicler of NYC’s sexual excesses
“Working Stiff: The Misadventures of an Accidental Sexpert,” by Grant Stoddard. (HarperPerennial, January 2007) 304 pp., $13.95, paper.
Nobody would’ve ever predicted that Grant Stoddard, a scrawny young man from an unfashionable part of England, would become an authority on the sexual excesses available in New York City least of all Stoddard himself.
However, as he bemusedly relates in his memoir, “Working Stiff,” that’s exactly what transpired.
On the verge of starvation and homelessness, Stoddard happened to win an online contest where the grand prize was sex with a notorious (and married) sex columnist. After traveling to New Hampshire to claim his prize, Stoddard and the woman hit it off. And a good word from her led to employment at nerve.com, a hip Web magazine devoted to all things sexual.
“I was always aware that recounting a sexual encounter without lashings of self-deprecation, humility and compassion can result in something that reads like a Penthouse “‘Forum’ letter,” Stoddard writes.
With this in mind, Stoddard resolutely strode forth, proceeded to engage in all sorts of X-rated antics like having sex on the subway, going to an “all the way” massage parlor. And he got paid to write about it.
Soon, his name “was synonymous with being a willing participant in perverse sex acts throughout the tristate area. Unbeknownst to me, it became my calling.”
Much of “Working Stiff” reads like journal entries from someone convinced that he’s dreaming, yet doesn’t want to risk ending the experience by waking up, no matter how bad that nightmarish parts get at times. In the hands of a less talented, more egotistical writer, Stoddard could’ve easily seemed like a chortling sleazeball. Instead, he comes across as a charming bumbler who stumbles into the right place at the right time. His success is tempered by his “dependable reluctance to engage in any given activity.”
At times, his defining characteristic seems to be “the sense of shame, self-doubt and embarrassment I carried with me” to each and every assignment.
“Young Bottoms in Love.” (Poison Press, May 2007) 368 pp., $22.
A colorful and large collection of gay comics, “Young Bottoms in Love” is culled from six volumes of strips posted on PopImage.com between 2002-2006. Edited by Tim Fish (“Cavalcade of Boys”) and written and illustrated by dozens of creators, the strips are romance-themed although quite diverse in style: outrageously satirical, poignant, sad and even fantastical.
A handful of Fish’s send-ups of 1960s romance comics and their melodramatic conventions (crying about foolhardy decisions!) kick off the collection, including “My Gay Romance,” about a guy who can’t choose between loving his wonderful best friend and the asshole-idiot who looks exactly like the best friend.
Queer Eye’s Fab Five make an appearance perpetrating homo-superficiality in Michael DiMotta and Greg Lockard’s skewed fairy tale, “Beauty and the Beast,” while Bill Roundy, Nate and Mike K. serve up a ghost story with a “Tales from the Crypt” twist in “He’s All Mine.”
Closing this collection is “My Hypnotist,” a funny and sexy tale from queer comics legend Howard Cruse (“Wendel,” “Stuck Rubber Baby”) about a college boy’s ill-advised crush on a hot, aspiring hypnotist. The genres, from superhero to storybook, and cute guys just keep coming.
Rarely longer than five pages, each story is best read in small batches. A minus if you’re on a long train ride with only “Young Bottoms” for company but a plus otherwise: You can have your fill, put it down, and find more love waiting when you come back again.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 6, 2007