Shagging for America, by Sam Priest, Illustrated by James Angus, 112 pages, Hangover Media, Inc. $10.95
I met a real-live author the other day in Moscow. His name is Sam Priest. The meeting almost didn't happen. That's because Sam's e-mail, introducing himself, noted a mutual acquaintance of ours -- one George Gurley, the free-lance pseudo-celebrity profiler who assassinated Ames and myself in The New York Observer last year. Gurley's profile was quite possibly the most effective hatchet job I've ever seen: even I hated myself after I got through reading Gurley's two-page interview with a pair of hideously insecure, drug-addled, talentless egomaniacs.
To this day, the very sound of George Gurley's name is enough to make my fists involuntarily clench in psychic agony. When I was home a little while ago, I saw his name under an article headline on the cover of some glossy mag, and I actually physically backed up away from the magazine stand.
The point is that when I heard from Sam Priest, my first instinct was to delete his message and never look back. Not only that, he was introducing himself as the author of some book called Shagging for America, which to me sounded like one of those pseudo-hipster British books written by some staff writer in leather pants from The Face or FHM -- not my favorite kind of person. But for some reason I scheduled a meeting with Priest at the Night Flight party last Saturday, sure I would regret the experience.
Priest turned up at the Flight, looking nothing like what I'd expected. He was a a jovial-looking guy in his mid-to-late thirties wearing a navy blue Shetland sweater and nothing like leather pants observable anywhere on his person. He handed me his book right away -- a little thing, about the size of a paper napkin, with an illustrated cover in the impulse-humor genre, vaguely recalling books like The Xenophobe's Guide to America. He flipped to a cartoon somewhere in the back -- a picture of a guy getting dressed in a post-coital scene, with a half-naked woman next to him, over the caption: 'Definition of eternity; the time between your coming and her going.' Har, har. We went inside and talked just long enough for me to find out that Priest had not allowed Gurley to write a story about him. "He somehow makes you come out looking your worst," he said. "He lets you hang yourself." I nodded, and then a few minutes later, I lost him in the crowd, as he was surrounded by a flock of brunettes.
That night I went home, alone (I didn't have two bills to put down for a Flight attendant), and popped two Imovanes, desperate to go to sleep quickly. For those of you not familiar with the drug, two Imovane pills is usually enough to leave you completely unconscious within about 18 minutes. I mention this because I managed to start and finish Priest's book well within that amount of time. But it was worth it: Shagging for America is a genuinely funny book.
This is not the kind of book that requires a serious literary analysis, so I'll just get straight to some of the excepts. Priest's book basically gives men instructions on how to sleep with as many women under 35 as possible, without having to talk to them. It is packed with genuinely misogynist advice that is somehow more offensive because there is a sort of desperate, nerdly quality to the author's narration -- the writer genuinely hates and fears women, and his view of their use on the planet is really and truly very narrow. Here is Priest giving some concrete advice in his chapter, "Shagging on the Cheap":
"There is a simple test for determining whether you are spending too much money on dates. It works almost anywhere in the world. A date should never cost more than an hour with a good-looking hooker."
This is from his section called "Dealing with Rules Girls":