a novel by JOHN GRABOWSKI

Replay: What porn stars get off doing…

Kayden Kross

Kayden Kross in the bedroom

Porn stars and fashion models just might be a lot more literate than you think.

They say they have to be. They spend a lot of time on the set just sitting around, waiting for the technicians to set things up. And at least one model says when you’re between gigs in a foreign city and you don’t speak the language and everything on TV is in that language and you can’t eat or drink because they weigh you every week…there’s often not much to do if you’re not a reader.

Porn actress Kayden Kross claims to be a bookworm and huge fan of Gary Lutz, who, in her words, “makes me hate mediocrity.” I haven’t read anything by Mr. Lutz myself (he’s on my rather long list) but I am curious. Among her other favs are Barry Hannah, Amy Hempel and David Foster Wallace. She also has literary ambitions herself and has written at least one story, with plans for more. She says she’d like to write an autobiographical novel about the porn industry. Why do I have no problem believing that will land an agent effortlessly?

Then there’s Jenna Sauers.

Jenna Sauers

Jenna Sauers on the catwalk

This ex-fashion model and ex-Jezebel blogger is now starting MFA classes at the University of Iowa with the intention of becoming a full-time writer. She has extensively chronicled her lonely days being a fashion model in “exotic” and “exciting” places—it’s not glamorous as most people think—and how books were often her most important companions. I also detected the unstated assertion that the loneliness and boredom—and inability to so much as eat some Haagen Dazs to chase the blues away—is one reason why a lot of young models start passing powder through their noses in their spare time.

Instead Jenna turned to books. She too wants to dispel the stereotype that “pretty girls,” “girly girls,” aren’t brainy or literate. She says she and her friends spent days in their rooms tearing through Tess of the d’Urbervilles and Jane Austin. They had conversations into the night about what they’d read, and felt it helped them become broader and more mature. David Coleman, you ignorant slut, take note.

The thing about “the arts” is they benefit many different people in ways that can’t be measured, the way learning is measured on an SAT test. Recently a lot of the newly-rich—mostly your dot-com kids—have stated they believe in philanthropy only if it produces “measurable results.” They lead a quantitative life, and assume the behavior of everything is in line with their own experiences.

But how do you measure the impact of Shakespeare or Mozart? And is “measurement,” whatever that is, even the point? I’m very skeptical of “measurement.” Show me how you measure something and I’ll show you a way to game the results. Many school districts spend more time doing this than actually teaching. A series of scandals in educational systems all over the place has illustrated this.

I always hate the way well-meaning programs—many or most of them from the government—depict “The Arts”: people in tuxedos and gowns acting precious, images that are more appropriate for a Mercedes-Benz brochure. A counter-culture has grown up that’s just as misleading: slovenly hipsters throwing shit on a wall and saying it’s Rembrandt, and if you don’t get it that’s your problem.

Both do real art a disservice, just as the Zuckerbergs and others who want “measurable results” do real art a disservice. Neither gets the point. The arts aren’t vitamins you take or prescription meds whose effectiveness can be measured by a test. They’re a way of seeing life. They’re philosophies, outlooks, ways of thinking and processing information—not turn-key solutions. But turn-key solutions are what most people seem to want as a way of meeting “crisis” after “crisis” in our society today.

So I suggest if you want to know the real value of art, you might perhaps ask a fashion model. Or even a porn star.

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One response

  1. Somehow, a bit reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe’s success? :-)

    Yes, indeed, measurability — which should be a dirty word in art but that has become a watch word for the producers. How much money will this make, they ask. How many warm bodies will fill the seats? Ah well, porn stars know better than anyone, sex sells :)

    Like

    September 13, 2013 at 11:02 pm

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