CC2K

The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

The Pornographer’s Poem: An Ode to Horny Teenagers Everywhere

Written by: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief


Image Some books that you read later in life you wish were on the required reading list in high school.  If you look at the "Young Adult" section in your local Barnes and Noble and actually take the time to read the back of a standard teen novel, it usually revolves around making out, summer love and/or bitchy girls who stab each other in the backs.  Not a whole lot of books aimed at 14-18-year-olds really resonate anymore, and let’s face it, most of the books one reads in high school don’t relate to students at all. I read The Pornographer’s Poem by Michael Turner when I turned 18 after I graduated high school, and I was sad that books like this one aren’t required reading.  On first glance one might think this is a trashy romance novel, but upon delving into its pages it’s so much more.

The Pornographer’s Poem follows two grade-school friends growing up in Canada.  Our unnamed narrator is recounting the story of his life to an unknown collective of people, starting with the first time he ever watched porn.  The book follows his life and his relationship with his best friend Nettie.  The two start out as simple friends in elementary school who are inspired to make movies by their teacher, who subsequently gets fired for being too liberal.  The kids see everything with their camera and find the seedy underbelly of their idyllic neighborhood, like the local conservative who happens to be gay.  As the two grow up their relationship starts to change with the onset of puberty, as you might expect.

The two drift apart when Nettie gets sent off to boarding school in England, while our narrator remains in town.  One night, after spying on his two weird neighbors doing something unseemly with their dog, he decides to become a porn director.  So with some help from various shady characters and the local drug connection, Flynn, he gets into the porn business as his way to cope with his changing life.  Nettie returns, and while the two friends discover all the things that good pals of different genders experience together, the narrator digs a hole deeper and deeper into crime and drugs.  As you might expect from what's happened so far, everything eventually takes a nosedive, changing the two friends lives forever, and culminating in the big reveal of exactly to whom our storyteller is speaking.

Let me say this straight away: this novel is not for everybody.  Those who can’t stand to read explicit sexual situations – both gay and straight – might be put off by this book, along with those who oppose pornography as a concept but give this novel a try anyway despite its title. However, while pornography does feature prominently, The Pornographer’s Poem is about so much more than just porn films. It’s actually about growing up and the role sex plays in your teenage years.  In reading it, I could just imagine kids I knew in my youth who were probably in situations like this.  I mean, almost everyone knows a boy who wanted to be a porn director at some point in life (whether they admit it or not), or they at least knew a boy and girl who were friends in their youth but fell apart because of the politics of high school.  What’s amazing is that The Pornographer’s Poem does not shy away from telling it like it is.  The book details all the friends sexual exploits, and takes pains to show what a teenager thinks during an encounter like that.  There are moments in the novel that will make you bust up laughing, and others that will make you sob like a baby.

The book does take a turn towards melodrama with the introduction of Flynn, but it's appropriate given his context, and his role in the story.  There has to be a wedge that drives the two "leads" apart, and Flynn is your classic villain, probably the best book antagonist to come along in awhile.  The two characters eventually see through Flynn, but sadly it’s too late; what’s done is done.

This novel also has an ending that made me scream “Holy shit!”  This is the first time a book had ever almost literally knocked me on my ass with its ending, and I promise you will never see it coming.  It only makes sense to end the book the way it does, and it proves the point that while teenagers will always make mistakes, sadly there are also always consequences.  

Sadly, this novel is incredibly hard to find.  A lot of bookstores don’t carry it simply because of its title, and that’s a shame.  Every person goes through the feelings and situations that are in this book, and everyone should read and relate to the characters.  While the content is incredibly adult that is very much the point. All teens want to become adults rapidly and this book treats the teen characters as such.  If you can, head over to Amazon.com and buy a copy of The Pornographer’s Poem by Michael Turner and relive your teenage years. Just be sure not to leave the book open on your kitchen table.

 

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Author: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief

Kristen Lopez is the editor-in-chief of CC2K and a freelance pop culture essayist. Her work has appeared on Roger Ebert, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Daily Beast. When she’s not burning down Film Twitter she runs two podcasts, the female-centric film show Citizen Dame, and the classic film-themed Ticklish Business.

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