Sex sells. And when it comes to memoirs, so do drugs, prostitution and pornography.
When those words – along with a large, naked photo of the author – are plastered across the cover of a book, sleazy and titillating stories are bound to await the reader. Aiden Shaw, star of more than 50 adult films, delivers on that promise with his biography, My Undoing: Love in the Thick of Sex, Drugs, Pornography and Prostitution, and does so with all the introspection and insight that one would expect from an adult film.
To his credit, Shaw states in the introduction that while he hoped to be philosophical in the recounting of his story, he fails because the intensity of his life permits him only to ''testify'' to his experiences. Though well-written, that lack of insight is so glaringly obvious and frustrating that you almost hope he is exaggerating in pursuit of a better tale.
Either way, it brings to mind two adages: Those who do not learn from mistakes are condemned to repeat them. And those who aren't so bright have other endowments to make up for it.
For readers drawn in by the cover, chapter one begins with a bang. Literally. Shaw is filming one of his many scenes and describes the experience in vivid detail, right down to the moment where the condom starts to slip and a break is called. After that hook, an amazingly monotonous routine sets in. He takes some drugs, turns some tricks to earn money, makes some bad decisions, takes some more drugs to get to sleep. Repeat for 300 more pages.
The book is loosely built on the concept that porn star Aiden Shaw is on a quest to find love. Jumping from one dysfunctional relationship to the next, Shaw possesses enough insight to make perfectly clear the problem, but never breaks the pattern. Whatever depth and humanity these relationships bring to him is quickly lost in the litany of drugs and sex that receive the lion's share of space and time in the book.
Perhaps Shaw knows his audience and writes to appeal to his fan base. But he does little to dispel the myth that the porn star image is reality, which makes his frustration with the ideal vision men have of ''Aiden Shaw'' a tough one to swallow. Shaw claims there is so much more to him, but the reader is left wondering what exactly that might be.
The one break in this hedonistic saga is an accident that leaves Shaw temporarily paralyzed. Since he has no memory of the accident, several chapters are told from the point of view of his closest friends, with styles varying so greatly it's a comfort to return to Shaw's own tight, well-paced prose.
Eventually this chorus of voices does reveal the truth behind the accident: Shaw was hit by a car while lying in the middle of the road during a drug binge. While one might turn the page expecting a new man to emerge from the accident, the biggest change appears to be a new sensation he experiences during orgasm.
Aptly named, My Undoing chronicles the general chaos that envelops Aiden Shaw. As should be clear from the beginning, there is no moment of clarity, no epiphany, no declaration of life-change by the end of the book. We leave him filming a movie, excited by a new injection he can give himself (directly into his penis) to aid in his performance, which is made more thrilling by the dangerous side-effects. To the end, Shaw's story is as formulaic as one of his films.
For those in search of thinly-veiled porn, this is the summer reading for you. For everyone else, this is one of those times when it's best to skip the book and just rent the DVD.