Unsurprisingly, that soon leads to his paying for their more conventional services, too. Despite the cutesy title, the lives of sex workers here are examined with empathy and a lack of sensation or condescension. Some tell Gil lies; some challenge his assumptions; some reveal heartbreaking lives. Elsewhere, Beck pens sharp comic scenes of floundering grad students, a shady dentist who purports to offer psychological evaluations, and Gil’s conflicts with an ex and the authorities at his job. Dialogue is sharp and slicing throughout, the students’ chatter as preening as the sex workers’ is reluctant.
Eventually Gil endeavors to enlist his subjects in a big-idea (but somewhat vague) scheme—getting them to approve his posting of their photos and contact info on a newfangled “website” that he conceives of as vital to completing his research while also helping them drum up business.Gil’s website plan is, like all of Gil’s plans, half-baked. Since the protagonist is forever uncertain, the novel, despite polished prose and strong scenecraft, often lacks narrative momentum, with scant rising or falling action. Gil calls himself a “slug” early on, and he mostly stays just that as his life lurches toward minor, inevitable comic scandal.
Takeaway: Humane academic satire finds an anthropology student investigating sex work.
Comparable Titles: Julie Schumacher’s Dear Committee Members, John Williams’s Stoner.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-
"An insightful yet hilarious read."