Zeischegg, Christopher (Danny Wylde). “Body to Job”, Rare Bird Books, 2018.
An Adult Film Career
Former porn star, Christopher Zeischegg (aka Danny Wylde) has written a wonderful memoir of his adult film career and the life that came after he exited the movies. While this is not the first memoir by an ex-porn star I have read, it is by far the best and I suspect that this is because Zeischegg took the time to hone his writing in two other novels (reviewed here). Zeischegg writes about youthful naiveté, sex worker love, pro-porn activism, disenchantment, and violence and he does so as a man who knows how to write. I first must tell you that the book is quite explicit in the way it looks at vulnerability, longing, terror, and life. It is also unforgettable.
I have always thought that those who become porn stars are condemned to be jaded for the rest of their lives and I am glad that this is not true, especially for Chris Zeischegg who shows us how we remain human in spite of, and because of, our experiences. The read here is a journey that takes us through periods of “lust, numbness, love, and the feeling that comes from ‘somewhere just as deep as love”. Zeischegg emphasizes that a porn star begins as a person and ends as a person.
Knowing the quality of the author’s writing, I decided that I would read the entire book in one sitting and if you can do the same, I recommend doing so. For one thing, we get an excellent deconstruction of the sex trade and of the stigma of the sex worker the and bisexual male stigma. We immediately sense the author’s vulnerability and confidence.
I have always believed that to work in the sex trade is to live a life that is very dark and it is so here but with the author lighting up that world so that we can what the darkness hides.
Zeischegg came to the world of porn where (and I quote this because it is beautifully written) “the dark, rapey landscape of homophobic, sexist porn culture where intimacy is ill-advised and the human heart aches eternal.” We meet a man whose desires are pushed aside in a world where sex is work and not an expression of love. Sex was a mean to survive financially; it was a paycheck that changed it from an emotion to a routine. Christopher was a crossover performer (bisexual porn performer) who found no place in either gay and straight groups and we are with him as he moves from paying john to girlfriend to boyfriend and to performer on screen. I immediately saw that there was nonsense of direction but there was almost non-stop movement. He experienced a life of fluid sexuality that was as naked as he was.
I think what surprised me most about Christopher Zeischegg is that he is not only a fine writer but he has a sense of awareness about who he is and the world in which he leaves, In a way this invalidates how we usually think of porn stars (although I have to hand to Stormy Daniels especially if she is able to bring down the President). As I mentioned earlier, this is not the first book that I have read by
Zeischegg so I already knew that I liked his writing. What really drew me to this book is his honesty about his life and about who he is. He has the ability to bring together fact, fiction, poetry, art, violence, love, humor and magical realism and he does so with style and grace (not a word commonly used on porn stars). Zeischegg sees the sex industry as just another option for the smart, educated, and aimless until he realizes differently.
When I first read Chris Zeischegg I knew that he is special. His voice is fresh and original and I knew that there were stories that would come out that would surprise us by their quality. I love that he can make the personal become universal and global.
We see the raw humanity behind porn where I doubt we consider that reality even exists. Porn is a fantasy world that thrives almost entirely on what is not real. Zeischegg shares that dark word with fearlessness. I do not usually read porn (although there are a couple of writers that write what I call literary porn that I am always ready to read). This too is porn or at the very least very bold. But what we have here is so beautifully written and so sincere that I am okay saying that it is XXX but I am willing to call it porn.
There are shocks and revelations aplenty here and there is sorrow, boredom, desperation, happiness and craziness. Here is one little story that I love. “Of course, there were all the practical reasons for doing porn: money, validation, trying to get through school, etc. But in regards to my desire to write, porn gave me material to explore. I didn’t need to go out and research something. I was living it. The research was my life.”
The book blurs the line between memoir and fiction making the reader guess what is real and what isn’t and this was fun for me. Even though I do not give stars or ratings to the books that I review, I am making an exception by giving this book five big fat shiny stars and totally recommend it.