Page 45 Review by Jonathan
"So, I had sex the other day."
"What? You're joking."
"No... I don't believe it."
"Like a street walker?"
"No, she was in a brothel."
"I don't believe it."
"How did you find a brothel?"
"An ad in the back of Now."
"This is a joke."
"I'm not joking."
"I was supposed to be next."
"I've gone for sex for longer than you have. I'm the one who should've been next.
"You cheated. It's not fair."
"It's not like I butted in line ahead of you."
"It is like that."
"I didn't butt in front of you. I left the line you're in... the free sex line... and I walked over to the paying for sex line. You could walk over to the paying for sex line too. It moves a lot faster."
"There is no way I'm paying for sex. The disease factor alone is too scary."
"Plus he's too cheap."
Ah, the wait was so, so worth it. I'm not talking about time spent in the free-sex or indeed paying-for-sex lines either, but for new autobiographical material from Chester Brown! It really has been a while as well, a lot longer than Chester's free-sex drought that finally persuades him to take a more... shall we say... fiscally led approach to satisfying his desires.
The title of book pretty much gives the game away as to precisely what Chester's been up to in the meantime to generate his new material for us, and indeed said carnal details form the majority of the work, meticulously ordered into chapters by individual prostitute as opposed to chronological order. But just as with Seth's (IT'S A GOOD LIFE IF YOU DON'T WEAKEN) and Joe Matt's (SPENT) autobiographical material, it's when two or three of the friends get together and start chewing the fat as in the excerpt above that the wit and humour of their writing really shines through.
I didn't think it was actually possible for someone to illustratively humiliate themselves more than Joe Matt does in highlighting his own near-OCD obsession with pornography (a fact Chester and Seth have frequently teased him about) but I think Chester, in laying his paid-for sex life so brutally bare here, probably surpasses that. Whether you fundamental agree or disagree with prostitution in any or all of its various forms, and its attendant potential consequences for all involved - and I'm certainly not going to get into discussing that here - I strongly suspect you won't find a more honest account of the ins and outs of frequenting brothels and engaging the services of escorts and prostitutes than this.
Not that there isn't considerable emotion present in this work too and not just humorous banter either, for despite Chester's protestations that romantic love is only for the foolish, and that paying for sex is a pragmatic, indeed completely sensible and practical way of obviating the possibilities of any unfortunate romantic entanglements, by the time you reach the end of PAYING FOR IT, you'll realise that Chester isn't anywhere near as shallow as people who haven't read his previous autobiographical works I'VE NEVER LIKED YOU and THE PLAYBOY might suppose on approaching this book.
In fact rather the opposite, it's his very mild-mannered, shy, retiring and pretty well hidden yet substantial emotional depths that, in his mind at least, have resulted in and justify him, paying for sex. Reading this work, it will be immediately apparent it is intended to be thought provoking in a cerebral manner, and not remotely titillating at all, but it is only in that respect that this book could said to be dispassionate. It's pretty rare in my opinion for someone to present such a balanced account of something so controversial from the inside, and whilst Chester does perhaps take the opportunity to indulge in a little proselytising / justification of his position in the 50 or so pages of afterword and appendices featuring considerable quotes from academia, even there he provides a relatively balanced presentation of the arguments for and against prostitution. Above everything else PAYING FOR IT is an absolutely engrossing read illustrated exquisitely in a strict 2 x 4 panel per page grid by one of the finest illustrators alive today. Hopefully he won't keep us waiting so long next time.