Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Taylor Marsh book Review... My Year in Smut... Pro-Clinton blogger's career in softcore porn...

(For an explanation of this illustration, read this)

A reader forwarded me a link to a PDF version of Taylor Marsh's book, My Year in Smut: The Internet Escapades Inside Danni's Hard Drive.

I don't know if Ms. Marsh intends this material to be freely available or if the accessible link to the book is an inadvertent error. As such, I won't be sharing the link. If you want to read it, I'm sure she'll be happy to sell you a copy.

My recent biography of Taylor Marsh post has received some attention and I felt like reading My Year in Smut was the least I could do, under the circumstances. I've made my way through roughly 180 pages tracing her year-long stint as an employee of a big-time softcore porn site. Here's what I read and learned:

Synopsis. Taylor Marsh is a singer/dancer/drama mama who ended up working for a softcore porn website as its editor. My Year in Smut details her year on the job, why it didn't work out, and what she thinks of the smut racket.

Grudge Factor. My Year in Smut is, in large measure, a disgruntled employee's pissy and over-detailed resignation letter. Marsh spends a lot of time detailing why she feels her former employer, Danni Ashe, was a major league pain in the ass. She tempers it with a few niceties here and there, but continually digs at her old boss and others who made her gig in the online porn biz tough. This is the book someone writes when they leave a job under bad circumstances.

Understanding Self-Publishing. As noted in an earlier post, My Year in Smut only reached bound paper status after Taylor Marsh ponied up enough cash to pay a vanity press to print it. I don't know if she shopped the book to any legit publishers or if she decided to pay to play from the beginning. I do know, however, that a serious joint would probably take a raincheck on My Year in Smut.

I'm not going to attack Taylor Marsh's writing. Well, maybe I will later, but not now. I will, however, attack the book's content and organization. There are pages of mini-bios about co-workers. There is no cohesive narrative. There are strange meanderings and the book is an exercise in tangentialism. Note that I read an ebook and the finished text of My Year in Smut may have been edited.

The LA Weekly. Marsh has mentioned her past employment with the LA Weekly, but the details are murky. My Year in Smut sheds a little more light on her work there. It appears as though her work as a "relationship consultant" was basically helping people to write better personal ads. She apparently wrote columns of some sort for that part of the paper, too, but it's unclear what they really were and/or why the editorial staff there decided to flag them as advertisements.

Marsh on Porn. Here's part of the review where I give Marsh a thumbs-up. She has a very healthy, realistic and smart (yes, I said smart), perspective on pornography and smut. She's not prudish, but she believes that producers and distributors of adult materials should act responsibly. I also found her argument that current porn peddlers are acting without an understanding or appreciation for the politics of sexual liberation interesting. I'd actually take it an extra step, arguing that apolitical porn can contribute to the reification of certain dehumanizing and patriarchal notions. Anyway, Marsh doesn't always get from A to B as clearly and quickly as she should, but her perpsective on porn is okey dokey with John Brown.

Her story about the Tawny Peaks photo spread that finally led her to quit the porn site showed me that somewhere within her Hillary-loving ice-heart, Taylor Marsh can and has differentiated between right and wrong. She was right about the pictures that ended her editorial stint and she deserves congratulations for standing on her principles.

Marsh the Human. I know the TM haters out there will find it hard to believe, but Taylor Marsh is a human being. One of the most interesting parts of the book was its fourth chapter (if I remember right), which is basically an exercise in autobiography. Here, Marsh gives the reader a very honest and brave accounting of her life with respect to relationships and sexuality. I have given Taylor Marsh hell and will continue to do so. However, I feel its only honest to give her some positive recognition where its due. It's due with respect to this part of her book. This was the one part of the book that felt unforced and emotionally true. If all of My Year in Smut was this honest, it'd be a much better book.

Fun Stuff. My Year in Smut includes a story about Marsh's short stint as a phone sex operator. If you were dialing a $3.95/minute 900# back in the late 80s and masturbated while talking to "Lisa", you may have been chatting with Taylor Marsh!

My Year in Smut also includes some handy hints for the ladies about how to give a blowjob. No, really. The instruction on slob-knobbing just sort of magically appears out of nowhere and then disappears. Right now, there might be a woman giving a dude head who learned some tricks from Taylor Marsh!

My Year in Smut has a prolonged sample of Marsh-written erotica. This is another "what the hell moment", as the prose is offered as proof that she knows "how to get to it". It comes out of the blue and disappears. It did not give me an erection, if you're wondering.

I don't think Marsh is great with words. She communicates ideas but I don't find any magic in her prose. Some might. No reasonable reader, however, would enjoy her clunky and senseless organization of ideas. Structurally, My Year in Smut is a train wreck. If you're willing to plod through it, you'll end up getting one person's perspective on porn and a completely unnecessary detailing of specific job-related incidents that aren't particularly interesting or illuminating. You'll also learn a little bit more about an up-and-coming blogger whose primary talent really does seem to be self-promotion.

When I review westerns, I usually give a final rating of 1 to 5 "singing cowboys". Considering that My Year in Smut involves the author's work for a website best known for its busty models, I'm gonna go do things a little differently.

I'd love to give it a higher ranking, just to have an excuse to use this graphic more than once, but My Year in Smut earns only one "nice pair". I'm giving it one because I'm knee-deep in a Taylor Marsh controversy. If I wasn't, I'd give it 1/2.

Final Rating:

(1 nice pair out of a possible 5)

Maybe I will now stop writing about Taylor Marsh. Except for answering comments. I find that irresistible.


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  1. Man, I'm glad you had the intestinal fortitude to "review" that book.

  2. John Cole over at Balloon Juice has a tag that goes something like:
    Things I Read So You Don't Have To.

    thank you for saving me that chore.

  3. You guys are very welcome.

    I sort of enjoyed the project. It was funny. What more can you ask for, right?

    John Brown
    Editor of The Chelsea Literary Journal

  4. It may have been a vanity press but her book is selling reasonably well.

    signed - not a David Gergen fan.

  5. If by "reasonable well" you mean, Its ranked in the top 500,000 then yeah I guess so " Sales Rank: #455,272 in Books"

  6. Anons-

    I just checked Amazon and it was listed at #814,002.

    Apparently, Taylor's masterpiece must have suffered at the hands of approximately 300,000 newly released hot sellers in the last week or so.

    Yours forever,

    John Brown
    Diamond Merchant