Michael Turner's The Pornographer's Poem (Soft Skull Press) is a novel that the Guardian called "Salinger with a strap-on." That's the kind of endorsement that gets attention ... well, it gets mine, anyway. According to our fellow LBC member The Literary Saloon, it's a book that got precious little review attention, which is a shame because it happens to be our personal favorite of the books we read for round one.
As the Soft Skull website informs us, "it is 1974 and radical teacher Penny Singleton is turning a class of 7th graders into a filmmaking collective. Her conviction and technical expertise ignite a passion between the unnamed young male narrator and his best friend, the budding art scholar and poet Nettie, who begin making pornographic movies together in an attempt to understand the hedonism and shame circulating behind the town’s white picket fences. From the naiveté of their first grope to the shooting of their feature “Rich Kid Gang Bang,” the two teenagers attempt to re-make the world in an image acceptable to them, while the adult world—with its brutal and disposable people, its money and sickness—attempts to seduce and destroy them. As Nettie pushes the narrator to make even more subversive and liberating films, he finds himself tumbling deeper into a world of greed, hypocrisy and unexpectedly, a redemptive and transcendent love."
The novel, which is winner of Ethel Wilson Book Award for Fiction in Canada and celebrated as the Best Book of the Year in France by Technihaut magazine, is written in clean, straightforward prose and the narrative moves swiftly through the sequences that give birth to the nascent pornographer of the title. Despite its rough subject matter, it's a humane and moving book - not to mention blackly funny at turns.
You can check out this interview with Soft Skull publisher Richard Nash, in which he discusses acquiring The Pornographer's Poem. And there's also a January magazine interview with the author himself.
Next week, the Minority Opinion will discuss their dissent from the READ THIS selection. And we hope to have Kate Atkinson joining us here soon.