Get local news delivered straight to your phone

The only thing more difficult than the physical logistics of the double-vaginal/double-anal position is determining the target demographic for Seth Grahame-Smith’s The Big Book of Porn. Considering that it features only a handful of boob shots and not a single unobscured crotch, it fails utterly as an actual object of pornography. Its cheeky tone and its color scheme, which employs wavelengths visible only to butterflies, ensure that it won’t ever be taken seriously as a reference. The sniggering subtitle—“A Penetrating Look at the World of Dirty Movies”—doesn’t help it rise above Spencer’s Gifts status, either.

We can't make City Paper without you

$
$
$

Your contribution is appreciated.

But it is, at the very least, what it claims to be—an overview and history of adult cinema—although the relatively short length (title notwithstanding) prevents it from being an exhaustive study, and much of the filler trends toward the glaringly obvious. It could perhaps be used as a textbook for a poorly conceived community-college course composed of aphasics recently awaked after 40-year comas. I mean, is there really someone out there who needs to have the difference between free and pay porn Web sites outlined? Or be informed that adult bookstores are filled with overpriced prurient publications and creepy old men in raincoats?

In one particularly useless chapter, “Make Your Own Porno,” Grahame-Smith alternates tired jokes with lighting advice. On one page, the reader must weather such lines as, “You can’t argue with the sheer comic brilliance of titles like Shaving Ryan’s Privates and Jurassic Pork. (Seriously, don’t argue. You’ll lose.)” On the following leaves, Grahame-Smith compares the merits of wide-angle adapters, scoops, and C-lights. Hey, Seth—if Paris Hilton and Pamela Anderson figured out DIY porn, I think the rest of us are in pretty good shape.

But things improve from there. In the section titled “It’s a Smut World, After All,” Grahame-Smith takes us on a tour of titillation ’round this big blue marble, with an emphasis on the blue. There’s a shot of Afghan “porn,” featuring a woman with her face exposed and the predictable caption, “By Taliban standards, this is pornography.” Of all the countries in his account, Germany and Japan get the worst of it, perhaps explaining how they both put the “X” in the Axis. Krautporn, Grahame-Smith quips, has “more poop flying around than the primate house at the Berlin Zoo.” The Japanese don’t fare any better, getting called out for their preoccupation with bloomer-sailor outfits, foot-crush fetishes, and scat films even more disgusting than the Teutons’.

The most valuable chapters in the book chronicle the pre-video studs and starlets of the industry. There’s also an informative Top 20 list of older flicks that tells the story behind such much-discussed, seldom-seen classics as Debbie Does Dallas, Taboo, and Behind the Green Door. And any book that offers definitions for “Garfunkling” and “Tush Pizza” can’t be all bad. (“Going down on a white woman whose pubic hair is especially bushy” and “[t]he unsightly pimples that often cover a porn starlet’s rear end,” respectively.)

Grahame-Smith may go for laughs more than he goes for titillation or information, but his impertinent style makes The Big Book of Porn a quick, breezy read. It’s an appropriate tactic when trying to appeal to people who want to read about dirty things without getting their own hands dirty. If I ever decide to give my mom a porno book, this will be the one. —David Dunlap Jr.