Saturday, June 18, 2011

Oriana Small's "Girlvert: A Porno Memoir"

Photo by Dennis McGrath

Oriana Small is a big talent as a writer. And one of great charm as well. And it is unusual (for me) to find great charm in the world of Porn. Nevertheless "Girlvert" is a journey into the heart of the valley (San Fernando Valley to be exact), the headquarters that is everything Porn. 
I used to work on Sherman Way in Reseda in the 80's and I would see many of the sex club workers, porn actors and actresses as well as all the other by-products of that field and era. "Boogie Nights" captures that time, place and period quite well, and "Girlvert" also gives me a birds-eye view of porn filming and living. Although the world in the book takes place in the 21st Century, it still seems very 80's like. Some things never change.
Oriana Small is a porn actress who goes by the name of Ashley Blue, and appeared in hundreds of films. One becomes numb reading one sex act after another, but the tedious aspect of such a life is so well developed by Small's talent as a memoir writer. She is only 29 (at the time of writing this book) and yet wise way beyond her years. In her glory period as a porn actress, she was very much focused on the moment, and the book comments on the need to stay stoned or in some sort of high. What struck me interesting is that it can be any type of job where you have to perform - and the strain of keeping that lifestyle or drug use up just to make it to the next day or even moment is a fascinating process. Her lifestyle becomes bizarre in the sense that she couldn't fully see the big picture, but the details were being focused - but only for that moment or two. Therefore, due to the drinking/drug input and just having a great deal of cash around - the focus is only for the next 12 hours or so.
Small specialize in doing all the hard-core porn performances and her approach to doing these scenes are interesting in that she is always rebelling against something out of her past. Her family life was messed up and that is totally not out of the norm, but she had to do something to make a mark on this world. And at that time it was her talent to do porn. And porn is an interesting medium because there is something else being played out besides the erotica or the erotic impulse. The power shift between the partners being filmed or directed. A lot of it is just to produce a product to sell, but there is also an art to it as well. But one can watch these films as a weird fantasy land, where one acts out their sexual/violent impulses – or is it a world that is designed by the producers/actors/director – or how much imput does it come from its viewers/audience? There is a mechanical aspect of porn that leaves me numb, but then again, may be the numb part is an aesthetic of some sort.
For her "Girvert" film series, she sees herself as more as a performance artist. Small has no regrets for the life she had lived (and still does in a sense by working with her talented porn director/photographer & husband Dave Naz) because she sees it as an unique life experience. This is not a book of woe, but more of a personal journey into an unique and very specialized world. Porn, in general is boring, but when you have a character you care about or find interesting, or at times the way it's shot, it is something else above the average viewing of bodies mixing together.
Also the design work on this book is top-notch. Its a beauty of a production, and Oriana Small fits in pefectly with the elegence of the design. As a writer, I think we will read her works for many years to come.

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