1. The 120 Days of Sodom (1785), by the Marquis de Sade: A great book to read aloud (although be careful about reading the prostitutes’ monologues in a high-pitched, hoity-toity voice, of the kind used by the actress in Pasolini’s film adaptation, Salo. You’ll get a sore throat)
2. I, Goldstein: My Screwed Life (2006) by Al Goldstein and Josh Alan Friedman: For decades, the grossly overweight, proudly misogynistic Al Goldstein ran a smut empire (including Screw Magazine and the cable access show Midnight Blue) that combined hardcore sex and angry political ranting for those who found Larry Flynt’s Hustler to be just a little too upscale. At the turn of the millennium, the rise of the internet, a harassment lawsuit, and Goldstein’s own hubris led to his downfall, and the man who once claimed an $11 million fortune spent a year homeless on the streets of Manhattan. Friedman, a former editor at Screw, turned Goldstein’s ramblings into this compulsively readable, intensely depressing book, and certainly a more knowing one than if Goldstein had written it himself.
3. Tales of Times Square (1986), by Josh Alan Friedman: Speaking of Screw Magazine, one of the peculiarities of New York pornography of the 1970s is how it captured the city’s pre-Giuliani sleaziness like a time capsule. This collection of Josh Alan Friedman’s writing for Screw makes vivid the sights and smells of long-gone Gommorahs as Show World and Plato’s Retreat, and humanizes the dancers, preachers, pornographers, and gangsters of the old Times Square. The best parts of this book deserve comparison with Tom Wolfe and Gay Talese.
4. Kinski Uncut (1988/1996), by Klaus Kinski: Quite possibly the most sexually explicit, confrontational, hateful, and generally deranged of celebrity autobiographies, Kinski’s incoherent, perpetually-present-tense screed is about 25% self-pitying bathos, 25% bile (mostly directed towards Werner Herzog), and 50% punishingly graphic descriptions of his conquests. I’d like to see Lars Von Trier turn this into a movie.
5. Portnoy’s Complaint (1969), by Philip Roth: Obviously.
6. The Other Hollywood (2005), by Legs McNeil and Jennifer Osborne: An exhausting oral history of the porn industry, from Russ Meyer to Deep Throat to Traci Lords to gonzo to the internet, featuring interviews with most of the key players. Exhausting.
7. Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of His Childhood (1910), by Sigmund Freud. The great psychoanalyst uses an innocuous memory/dream that da Vinci had about a bird flying into his room as a toddler to prove that da Vinci was a repressed homosexual. I’m can’t say I buy all of Freud’s reasoning, but if you go along with his logic, it’s a pretty remarkable performance. The psychoanalytic equivalent of a virtuoso performance of “Flight of the Bumblebee.”
8. Ordeal (1980), by Linda Lovelace and Mike McGrady: The star of Deep Throat briefly became a Meese Commission-era feminist icon with this grueling autobiography. Lovelace claims her former husband/manager Chuck Traynor enslaved her into a life of pornography and prostitution, forcing her into particularly dehumanizing experiences by gunpoint. Rarely has a book been more accurately titled.
9. Consider the Lobster (2005), by David Foster Wallace: For the essay “Big Red Son,” Wallace’s novella-length account of the 1998 Adult Video News Awards - surely the definitive article on the topic.
10. Dracula (1879), by Bram Stoker: “The fair girl went on her knees, and bent over me, fairly gloating. There was a deliberate voluptuousness which was both thrilling and repulsive, and as she arched her neck she actually licked her lips like an animal, till I could see in the moonlight the moisture shining on the scarlet lips and on the red tongue as it lapped the white sharp teeth.”