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Russell Smith, the not-so-reluctant pornographer

Just in time for Valentine’s Day comes a new book from author, Globe and Mail columnist, and self-appointed fashion pundit Russell Smith. Diana, published by Biblioasis Press, is an erotic novella in diary form.

Actually, this new book is an old one “ it was originally published by the now-defunct Gutter Press five years ago. In an interview with Eye Weekly, Smith lays out the twin urges “ sex and money “ that lay behind his initial interest in writing porn.

I started it as an exercise, Smith recalls. I found that in all my fiction I was not writing the sex scenes. I was doing the stereotypical pan to a window when a couple fell onto a bed. Why was I avoiding it? Part of it was that sex is difficult to write. There’s such a lack of a vocabulary and in the vocabulary that exists, you have a choice between the clinical and the euphemistic. So I felt I had to practice to get better. With a full manuscript (made wholly from solicited scenarios contributed by his female friends) Smith also became enamoured of pulling off a literary hoax by hiding behind a distaff pseudonym ” a time-honoured tradition in the world of blue books.

Beyond the fun of a hoax, Smith also points out that the pseudonym, Diana Savage, was to be his way of skirting the realities of demographics. Women are the market you want for any work of fiction. They are pretty much the only readers of fiction left, and particularly of erotic fiction, of which they, statistically, are the only readers. Diana was initially accepted by Black Lace, the UK publisher of erotica quickies, but Black Lace confronted Smith’s agent at the last minute and demanded proof that Diana Savage was a woman. Not wanting to turn his hoax hobby into professional fraud, Smith put aside his dreams of a second, lucrative career as Diana Savage, chronicler of infernal passions.

The article also mentions the critical pasting that the original edition of the book “ and its author “ got from Noah Richler, who was then the book columnist for the National Post. Smith lays this all out in detail in the book’s introduction:

I remember seeing Noah Richler … [at the 2003 launch party], and warmly shaking his hand and asking him if he would like a beer. He seemed friendly enough. I left him to go and chat up a tall and very pretty woman who turned out to have a Polish accent. She later said that I seemed obnoxious and full of myself. I must have been in a good mood.

Fast-forward to the next day, when the book receives its drubbing in the Post.

Richler was disgusted by this book. I think he was disgusted by pornography generally, by the idea of pornography. Basically, he was embarrassed.

I was, let’s say, surprised. Had I not seen Noah at the launch party? Had he not enjoyed the free beer and the attendant tall Polish girls? I seemed to recall him listening to the reading at least. And, wait a minute “ when did he have time to write the article?

None of which is particularly erotic “ unless the petty politics of Toronto launch parties are your thing.

Lest he kill the mood entirely, Smith does end the intro on a note more befitting the overall aim of the book:

It’s that simple, dear reader: this book is pornography. Its purpose is to titillate. It exists solely to arouse you. It is telling you to position yourself at a window where you can be seen, unbutton your jeans and slip a hand inside the waistband. Now await further instructions.

Unless you happen to be reading the book on the subway or on a plane, of course.

Lest anyone think Smith has given himself completely over to the realm of stroke-lit, we should point out that the book’s full title is Diana: A Diary in the Second Person.

Everyone knows that narrative POV is just so hot.

(But really: jeans? How déclassé.)

[Russell Smith launches Diana tonight at Toronto’s Gladstone Hotel as part of This Is Not A Reading Series.]