Sunday, September 11, 2011

Hi-lights from David Foster Wallace's essay "Big Red Son"

So, I have assigned my classes to read the essay "Big Red Son" by David Foster Wallace, which is basically a journalistic expose of the Adult Video Network Awards show in Las Vegas. It describes a porn convention in typical DFW style, which is incredibly detailed, incredibly hilarious, and incredibly sad all at the same time. As I'm re-reading this essay, preparing for class discussion, I find myself laughing out loud in places, and feel compelled to share with you some gems from this classic essay:

Male fans move through the fractal maze of booths in groups of three or more. Their expressions tend to be those of junior-high boys at a peephole, an expression that looks pretty surreal on a face with jowls and no hairline.

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Thirty-four-year-old porn actor Cal Jammer killed himself in 1995.

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Mr. Max Hardcore—a.k.a. Max Steiner, a.k.a. Paul Steiner, nĂ© Paul Little—is 5'6" and a very fit 135... He is wearing a black cowboy hat and what has to be one of the very few long-sleeved Hawaiian shirts in existence anywhere...Max reveals himself to be a genial and garrulous host and offers everybody disposable plastic cups of vodka before settling in with to discuss what for Max are the most pressing and relevant issues at this year’s AVN Awards, which issues are the career, reputation, personal history, and overall life philosophy of Mr. Max Hardcore.

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Pioneered (depending whom you talk to) by either Max Hardcore or John (“Buttman”) Stagliano, “Gonzo” has become one of this decade’s most popular and profitable genres of adult video. It’s more or less a cross between an MTV documentary and the Hell panel from Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights.

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We noticed that Max never laughs at a joke he hasn’t told.

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It is difficult to describe how it feels to gaze at living human beings whom you’ve seen perform in hard-core porn. To shake the hand of a man whose precise erectile size, angle, and vasculature are known to you. That strange I-think-we’ve-met-before sensation one feels upon seeing any celebrity in the flesh is here both intensified and twisted. It feels intensely twisted to see reigning industry queen Jenna Jameson chilling out at the Vivid booth in Jordaches and a latex bustier and to know already that she has...a tiny hairless mole just left of her anus. To watch Peter North try to get a cigar lit and to have that sight backlit by memories of his artilleryesque ejaculations. To have seen these strangers’ faces in orgasm—that most unguarded and purely neural of expressions, the one so vulnerable that for centuries you basically had to marry a person to get to see it.

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Silvera now directs Evil Angel’s popular “Butt Row” video series.

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Here is the ageless Randy West, who looks just the way a surfer would look if that surfer were also a Mob enforcer, with his perennial tan and hair like frozen surf.

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Mr. Jon Dough—winner of AVN’s coveted Best Actor/Video statuette in both ’96 and ’97—alternates between various booths, wearing his customary expression of having psychologically evolved to the point where he’s so incredibly cool and detached that life is one long yawn.

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It takes an average of two hours and twelve minutes to traverse the Adult CES expo, counting an average of four delays for getting lost after a chicane turn or some baroque ceiling-high cheval glass designed to double the visual exposure of Heatwave Video’s display for Texas Dildo Masquerade gets you all turned around.

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FYI, Ms. Jasmin St. Claire’s cult-celebrity status at the ’98 CES stems from her having broken the “World Gang Bang Record” by taking on 300 men in a row in Amazing Pictures’ 1996 World’s Biggest Gang Bang 2. Since most of these 300 men were amateur porn-fans who’d had only to fill out an application and produce an HIV all-clear from the DPH, she now enjoys an almost legendary populist appeal—“the People’s Porn Star”

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Not unlike urban gangs, police, carnival workers, and certain other culturally marginalized guilds, the US porn industry is occluded and insular in a way that makes it seem like high school.

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Alex Dane is now telling Harold Hecuba about a stray dog she found and has decided to keep. She is excited as she describes the dog and for a moment seems about fourteen; the impression lasts only a second or two and is heartbreaking. One of the B-girls, meanwhile, is explaining that she has just gotten a pair of cutting-edge breast implants that she can actually adjust the size of by adding or draining fluid via small valves under her armpits, and then—perhaps mistaking your correspondents’ expressions for ones of disbelief—she raises her arms to display the valves. There really are what appear to be valves.

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The adult industry takes many of the psychological deformities that Hollywood is famous for—the vanity, the vulgarity, the rank commercialism—and not only makes them overt and grotesque but seems then to revel in that grotesquerie.

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It’s the new Barnum. Nobody ever goes broke overestimating the rage and misogyny of the average American male.

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Midori has stated publicly that she views upscale contemporary porn as a stepping-stone to a mainstream career, not unlike becoming Miss America or doing a couple seasons on SNL. Harold Hecuba characterizes Midori’s career strategy as “grievously ill-advised.”

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Several of the outfits defy very basic precepts of modern physics.

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He’s clearly an avatar of contemporary porn’s unabashedness, its modern Yeah-OK-I’m-Scum-but-Underneath-All-Your-Hypocrisy-So- Are-You-and-at-Least-I-Have-the-Guts-to-Admit-It-and-Have-a-Good-Time persona.

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The Best Foreign Release statuette goes to something European called President By Day, Hooker By Night.

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Ms. Stephanie Swift wins Best Actress/Video and tells the crowd: “Thanks, everybody. My gang bang was a blast.”

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We'll see how this discussion goes : /

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