Saturday, January 31, 2009

Danny King - The Pornographer Diaries ****

I was lucky enough to stumble upon Danny King's The Pornographer Diaries while I was in New Zealand. In one of my favorite cities in the country, Hamilton, about an hour outside of Auckland, I ducked into a little used bookstore and ended up picking up this book, and British releases of Jonathan Lethem's Amnesia Moon and George Saunders' CivilWarLand in Bad Decline. What was most surprising at the time was how cheap the books were--a typical paperback new release in New Zealand goes for around $26, so finding these three (the Saunders one being a book that I'd been meaning to pick up for some time anyway) for $7 NZ a piece (about five bucks American) was a real treat. When I finally got home and had the time to read again, I found another surprise: Danny King was awesome!

It was a Frenzy Buy, like I'm infamous for making, something that looked interesting but I really didn't have that much hope for. Where exactly could King go, writing about a guy who works for a porn magazine? Well, that turned out to be the entire point of his novel--where do you go when you think you've just landed your dream job, only to find out that it is, in fact, a job. With his droll Brit humor, King brings his characters to life in such a real way, that I'd almost want to hang out with them if they weren't all such royal fuck-ups. I just end up feeling bad for them instead, especially main character Godfrey Bishop.

It's almost as though King has lived the life himself, so well he leads us through it. I'd be more prone to say that he has except for the rest of the books in his series (ones that I desperately would like to read, but haven't had much luck finding here in the states): The Burgular, Bank Robber and Hitman Diaries. Somehow, I just don't think an upstanding English gent like King, no matter how un-politically correct his work may be, has had stints in all such occupations. But you wouldn't know that to read his work, as deeply involved as it is. It is not typical, dialogue and scene-driven fiction. The Pornographer Diaries is most certainly written like a diary, just with live-action bits interspersed. These introspective moments where Godfrey is just talking to us then, are indeed biased to the narrator, but in such a way that you believe and trust him--that despite it all, he might really be an alright guy, just with a series of unfortunate events propelling him into the life he's ended up leading. As fellow Brit novelist and comedian David Baddiel, says, "King is brilliant at making you love characters who essentially are quite bad people." I, for one, can't wait to fall in love with all of King's bad boys, once I can find the books in a store here.

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