Short story: “Porn: A Memoir”

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“Porn: A Memoir” or “Two Lives,” by Paul Graham

Appeared here in issue 46 of The Pedestal; collected as “Two Lives” in Crazy Season

3,324 words

Though the original title calls it a memoir, this story is in second person, not first, staying an extra step away from its main character.

As a look at the effects of addiction, it’s very effective. But it doesn’t add up to anything more than that—no change, no surprises, no deeper insights—and as a result it doesn’t read as a literary story, but as a cautionary tale of how pornography can ruin your life. The firing, especially, is a bit of an eye roller. Not that it’s implausible; it just seems a little too convenient.

Or maybe this piece is actually about how shame can ruin your life. If only he had married differently, if only he would seek help…. Either way, it doesn’t hold together for me. I’ve mentioned at least two stories recently that hinge on the tension between our desire for characters to change and their refusal to change, but I don’t think this story manages that trick. My exasperation with the character just isn’t enough.

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