Paul Moreno's Permission For Strangers
If, like me, you are easily captured by the provocative title of a book and have a licentious mind, then you could be in for a shock now and then.
Several months ago, I was at Skylight Books looking for product to review. The spinner rack at Skylight near the periodicals section has yielded for poeticdiversity reviewers some “eclectic” choice of material (see Fran Dominguez’s review of Pat Patriot’s Me and Pud, Part 1, and Aire Celeste Norell’s review of Daren Klein’s After Life).
The muted tones and coy title of Paul Moreno’s Permission for Strangers (copyright 2005 Paul Moreno, limited edition of 400 copies) caught my eye. After carefully removing the clear Mylar covering it was encased in, I flipped through the pages, and then stopped at page five to ogle at what I must assume is a picture of the author in the male version of a casual, full frontal odalisque, accompanied on page four with a passage titled “Fluffer part 2.” The prurient ex-catholic schoolgirl in me rose up and exclaimed, ”Oh… I MUST purchase this fine piece of erotic titillation!”
A closer inspection of Permission reveals it to be anything but lurid. I am not an experienced/purveyor of homo-erotic literature (with the notable exceptions of D.L. Warner, Laura Baumbach, and Anne Rice as A.N. Roquelaure). Homo-erotic tales, aka “slash” written by women is a fast growing and lucrative trend in non-mainstream literature, but I digress. Permission is a candid fusion of personal ads juxtaposed with various nude portraits that come off more sympathetically than it first appears.
Granted, you may have to be VERY comfortable with your own sexuality before delving into Permission. I would suggest going to a few Monday night sessions at Rage or Mickey’s in West Hollywood, but the after-effects of a Tuesday morning hangover are not the subject of this review. If anyone has spent time wading through personal sex ads, like those in the back of the L.A. Weekly between the “Chance Encounters” and "Rocky Gardner’s Horoscope,” then one can quickly become assimilated to the language. Headline grabbers like “Share?,” “26, 6’,160,” “Are you a nice jewish boy?”, “Mercy fuck,” and “Hole pig will be eating ass” will definitely raise an eyebrow (and maybe some other body parts).
But, remember that such provocative language is designed to draw the attention of those seeking something beyond the norm, whether they realize it or not. Most of these missives are straightforward in tone (no pun intended), but thought provoking at the same time, like in “Two requests,” “Not your boyfriend,” and “Everything is foreplay”:
I could sit here and talk about what gets me off, but wouldn’t it be more fun if you figure it out yourself? I am large in good spots, laid back, would rather be doing this in person. You should have a solid build, be fun and find another way to say it.
Paired with a backlit photograph of the same introspective young man (clothed) seated on a messy bed, hands folded in thought, his expression only viewed from the mouth down, the whole message takes on a new perspective – one to be taken seriously, or at the very least, to be respected for its effort to put a serious spin on such effrontery.
Permission’s case is helped by the fact that Moreno employs the mechanics of writing in earnest. All the personal ads contain none of the usual text message abbreviations for the sake of space, which renders them conversational in tone, and more intriguing to ponder. Anonymous encounters and pejoratives aside, the idea that Permission puts forth - that there is dignity even in the exploration and acting upon of prurience, and that these are people, even though they are cloaked in the dark side of sexuality - works.
Permission cleverly ends with a frustrated query entitled “Am I alone in thinking that the majority of these ads/pics are sad?” and a photo with two differently shod feet facing each other on opposite sides of the frame, poised either to walk away, or toward each other. Thus Moreno leaves these questions in the hands and minds of the reader for further study–or not: How seriously should you/me/we take someone who reaches out under the auspices of anonymity looking for sexual intimacy in an alternative form? How much time should be spent considering the “person” who sent the message, and not the message itself?
(Permission for Strangers, copyright 2005 Paul Moreno, $25.00, 30 pages, limited edition of 400, autographed, printed by A to Z Offset, Skokie, IL, can be purchased at Skylight Books, 1816 Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 323-660-1175)