Civil Liberties lawyers find themselves defending racist white supremacists, because they believe that the right to free speech is more important than moral judgment of what their clients say. Reviewers are sometimes forced to give good reviews to books that they do not enjoy, because they feel that their function is to report on the quality of the writing, in despite reservations on the subject matter.
I have suggested in the introduction to the “Reviews” section of my website that sometimes the critic’s function is to read books so that you won’t have to. This point applies in the case of “Guystuff,” but in a strange way, because these stories are very well written and a joy to read. Linton Robinson is an author who knows the way into the depths of man’s soul. It’s just that a goodly number of readers (a certain 50% I can think of) might not really want to look there. Especially the kind of man Robinson finds fascinating.
This book is a collection of short stories (and some not-really-stories), most of which have already been published in such magazines as Playboy, Hustler, and Biker. Which gives you some kind of idea of the intended audience. If you are not that kind of person, perhaps a light dip into this book will suffice.
A further caveat; as with many collections of shorter fiction, please do yourself a favour and don’t try to absorb large amounts of this book at one sitting. They are meant to be taken in small doses, like extra-chocolate cheesecake. A great experience at first, but after prolonged exposure you begin to feel sick.
This is a type of pornography that is far worse for society than pictures of naked bodies. When you consider how virulent misogynist ideology might affect the kind of impressionable, testosterone-riddled juvenile minds that read Hustler, it is scary as hell. Not that certain people don’t feel that way about the opposite sex. No one can challenge the truth of this writing. It’s just possible that publishing those ideas might validate them in certain minds. OMG.
One creative feature of some of these stories is that they give us a different point of view. Especially “Interview With the Gigolo,” which completely upends the traditional attitude of the prostitute towards the customer . This opposite angle gives us a new perspective: a twisted world where men are beautiful and desirable and women fight and claw each other for a piece of them. Quite understandably, the men have no respect for their clients at all. If any writing could make a male reader reconsider the dangers of prostitution, this story should.
Do I Believe That?
The stream-of-consciousness technique Robinson uses to great effect brings us inside the heads of some people we are very uncomfortable meeting. We are invited to understand the reasons and emotions behind promiscuous sex, brutality, rape, and even murder. It is very uncomfortable for us when we find that, to some extent, we do understand.
One “story” (which isn’t) that stands out is “Your Mama, a Brief Oral History,” which is an impossible-to-categorize paean to the total degradation of that most nurturing of human relationships, motherhood. Meant to be the class act of the volume, it is full of classical references, witty in-jokes, and psychological truths and myths.
To a more twisted example; in “Playing Hurt” we are invited to understand the background that would develop a rapist who would offer his victim a baseball bat with which to protect herself before he proceeded with the assault. It seems he has “fair play” and “foreplay” rather mixed up. The problem is that before we find out why he’s in jail, we actually feel sorry for this guy and admire how he has risen above his beginnings.
If there is any story I would recommend that Linton pull from the book, it’s “In the Bag.” An unmitigated juvenile wet dream with no artistic or social redeeming value.
Recommended for enquiring adult minds with strong stomachs. Can’t punish quality writing because of the subject matter. A lot of people probably felt this way about Lady Chatterly, although I give Lawrence a slight edge on writing style. 4 stars out of 5.