Gram’s Summer Reading List for Porno-Americans

There are several reasons I am posting this book list in advance of my upcoming working vacation to points north and east:

1. I just finished Terry Southern’s excellent “Blue Movie” on the plane
2. Many of these books are newly available in iPad/Kindle/tablet format
3. With Amazon’s cancellation of its program for California-based affiliates, all of the previous book links on my website are broken (so, unless you are buying my perfect plane/beach/holding cell/outpatient/toilet read “A Porn Valley Odyssey: Making “The Facts of Life XXX,” no one’s getting paid for this but Amazon and the other authors, so this post is a megalith of Altruism)

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Blue Movie, Terry Southern, 1970 (available digitally)

You know Southern’s work if you have watched claasics like “Dr. Strangelove,” “The Loved One,” and “Easy Rider,” as well as dozens of other Hollywood and literary classics of the 1960s and 1970s. His style is so chaotic, smart, and thoughtful that he makes you smarter just by sticking with him.

“Blue Movie,” now more than 40 years old, tells the timeless story of a “real filmmaker” who wants to make “a porn movie, but good.” His slick and crass producing partner enlists the government of Liechtenstein to front the money to encourage tourism. We meet several Los Angeles archetypes in the book, all shrieking, sobbing, sad, desperate, and deadly serious.

Beyond the wild and woolly plot, so reminiscent of 60’s humor, the dialogue in “Blue Movie” hooked me, especially as I can still hear people using it on porn sets today.

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The Barbary Coast: An Informal History of the San Francisco Underworld, Herbert Asbury, 1933

Asbury, a godfather of the True Crime genre, was often accused of taking liberties with his facts, but I’d assumed he sinned in letter rather than spirit. This history of San Francisco’s criminal past is just as violent as that of its larger neighbor to the south, yet Asbury makes it seem so much more colorful.

No, Asbury didn’t touch on San Francisco’s early dominance of the west coast porn industry, but The Barbary Coast gives readers a good idea of why porn so easily took root here.

See also: What we can learn from “The Barbary Coast”

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 John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches, Jennifer Sugar & Jill Nelson, 2008

Sugar and Nelson collect every possible oral history of John Holmes’ life for a fascinating, complicated, and often contradictory read, with Holmes himself supplying most of the contradictions.

I got to know Holmes by reading this book, and from that was compelled to do my own research. As much as we can look at Holmes as a historical figure (it doesn’t take much in porn), we can also say his mistakes can be avoided to keep from reliving history. And his career parallels the rise of “Porno Chic,” porn’s lamented “Golden Age,” and the transition from film to video, recreational drug use to addiction, and treatable STDs to the 1980s version of AIDS.

People who knew Holmes say “you had to know him.” Even if, by the end of “Inches,” people of later generations might not think highly of Holmes, he is a case study for more than just porn.

See also: John Holmes book also measured in inches

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 We Did Porn: Memoir And Drawings, Zak Smith, 2009 (available digitally)

I met Smith, a Yale graduate and professional artist, in February of 2006, on his first gig as a porn performer in Los Angeles, Benny Profane’s “Barbed Wire Kiss.” I was present for several of the events in the book, which Smith describes in a detail that, if you like this site and its imitators, you’ll apprehend and enjoy. He fills the book with science fiction, pop, and art references (those things are mutually exclusive) and depicts the plight of the modern pornographer against the backdrop of America in the Bush II years.

Smith and his partner in crime, Mandy Morbid, still produce exciting work that may or may not be exclusively pornographic.

See also: Being There—”We Dd Porn”

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A Porn Valley Odyssey: Making “Facts of Life XXX,” Gram Ponante, 2011

Sorry, but I’m not going to not recommend this book just because I wrote it, am I?

I have been writing about 10,000 words a day for various media for the past ten years, and I forget most of what I write almost immediately. This is at least partly due to the fact that neither I nor most people I know earns his/her income from just one source anymore, and I have to move on to the next project immediately upon finishing the previous one.

I also have a brain injury, so there’s that.

The upside to this is that I can re-read something I wrote months or years later and be surprised by it. I re-read this, my 60-page ebook experiment, recently and liked it as if it were written by someone else. It’s full of humorous anecdotes, historical tidbits, low-level drama, and practical advce about surviving and thriving whilst writing and directing a porn movie.

See also: Making the Making of “A Porn Valley Odyssey: Making The Facts of Life XXX”

2 thoughts on “Gram’s Summer Reading List for Porno-Americans

  1. Great reading list, I hadn’t heard of half of these! Going to be a great finish to the summer pounding through your book list.

    jugsman

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