Author: Joey Comeau

Loose Teeth Press, 2005

Best ebook deal: Free from Loose Teeth website

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Lockpick Pornography; I came across it somewhere and downloaded it because it was free and I liked the title.

It’s not a novel, despite what it says on the cover art. It would be more aptly called a novella, at about 120 pages, but that’s not quite right either.

Lockpick Pornography follows a gay man who hates straight people (and is discomfited by lesbians) on his quest to forcibly change people’s attitudes toward sexuality. Often, this includes breaking into buildings, and often he has casual, graphically described sexual encounters along the way. Thus the title.

There’s not really an overarching narrative arc in this book; more of a series of episodes following the same characters in the same general time frame. They enact a caper-like plan to break down conservative ideas of sexuality, and then they enact a different one.

Neither is there an abundance of subtlety. All of the gay and transgendered characters are incredibly promiscuous, and into drugs. This is a gay cliche, one particularly perpetrated by pro-gay writers who focus on gay characters and gay subculture. Also cliches are the straight people in the book, who all hate homosexuals and curse and beat them on sight.

The political message of the book, that traditional indoctrinated ideas of sexuality are harmful, is thus difficult to miss.

However, this is entirely intentional. As the main character says, when writing his own book-within-a-book:

“We don’t need this to be a work of art, or subtle. We want something that kids will really enjoy, and something politically effective.”

By those criteria (if you adjust the definition of “kids” slightly), this book is a success. It’s quite enjoyable, and frequently funny. By itself, the idea of a gay man who discriminates against straight people is a simple, effective satire.

The didacticism doesn’t really work for me on a literary level, however. The Israeli author Amos Oz once said:

“Whenever I find that I agree with myself 100 percent, I don’t write a story; I write an angry article…  But if I find more than just one argument in me, more than just one voice, it sometimes happens that the different voices develop into characters and then I know that I am pregnant with a story.”

Lockpick Pornography is a book that agrees with itself too much. I’m not saying that Comeau is wrong in his worldview—in fact, I agree with him completely—but shoving it down readers’ throats does not lead to a particularly layered or deeply dramatic story.

Ultimately, I found this book funny, extremely political, and, as a straight guy who doesn’t read a lot of graphic descriptions of gay sex, a little uncomfortable. I think this is exactly what the author was going for.

If you’re looking for a quick, amusing read and you’re not put off by homosexual overtones, give this book a shot; you can’t beat the price. If you are put off by homosexual overtones, you should definitely read it. Just don’t think the characters are real people.

Similar books: Choke, by Chuck Palahniuk; Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides