Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Of transfixing call girl diaries

I know I'm extremely late to the party and my UK acquaintances will point and hoot at this, but I've only just discovered Belle de Jour, Diary of a London Call Girl. How did I happen on it? By the circuitous route of: reading a Times Online article about Zadie Smith, her father, and British comedy, and following a side link to an article and video clip with the innocuous caption: I Miss the Game - Belle De Jour author misses pride of "doing a job well". It was one of those times when you click a random link out of idle curiosity, or because your attention span is short and getting through the Zadie Smith (or whichever) article is taking more perseverance than you thought it would.

Anyway, I clicked the link, read the article, and discovered that Belle de Jour is the pseudonym which Dr. Brooke Magnanti used to write the online journal about her adventures as a highly paid London call girl. I did a Google search for the blog, naturally, and have been reading through the archives to find out what exactly started the Belle de Jour phenomenon. Because that's what it's become, what with the blog winning a Guardian prize for best-written British blog back in the early days, followed by the book offers, a TV drama, and Dr. Magnanti's coming out from behind the veil of anonymity. There've been follow-up books, of course, and some degree of celebrity for the writer.

So, yes, I've been reading Belle's journal. I've already learned a couple things - no, not those things, you! Things like the name of a shade of nail polish that I suspect is the one I saw on a woman's exquisitely manicured digits a few years ago in Miami and have been searching for - and attempting to replicate myself - since. (Chanel Le Vernis beige, which has been discontinued, but which can still be had via eBay.) I've also discovered additional sources of one of my guilty, secret indulgences: fabulous underwear. The sources tend to be UK-centric, though, which would make shipping charges a bit beyond what I'm willing to, ah, put out.

I've read through about seven months worth of Belle's blog entries and I'm not bored yet. The writing isn't bad - no, that's not true. It's pretty good. Then there's the voyeuristic thrill of the whole thing. But would I buy the books? That's an easy no. Would I read one if it came my way by some other means? I doubt it. There are limits to my appetite for voyeurism. I also have to admit that there are some aspects of the work, and the lady's lifestyle, that make me cringe. I'm not a prude, and I try not to be judgmental, but I'm squeamish about some things. Um, fisting? Threesomes? Oral sex with strangers with no latex in between? That's stretching my comfort zone a bit too far.

When I'm tired of the blog, which should be sometime over the next couple of days, that would be it for me. No further Belle de Jour titillation necessary.


Flowerpot said...

I haven't read it but will take a look. 7 months of diaries is a lot to read!

ChrisH said...

Oo-er... I was going to say that my knowledge on the subject probably wouldn't amount to 7 hours worth of diaries! I don't consider myself a prude, but there are some thing's I'd prefer not to know!

JJ Beattie said...

Hmmm, I've never read the blog or the books but I do know about it. I'm not a prude but I get very embarrassed about these things. I can't imagine the trauma of writing down stuff like that with the prospect of someone else reading it! OMG.

Liane Spicer said...

Flowerpot, I don't know why I found it so absorbing. Maybe it's because I've always wanted to interview a prostitute, and here was one just telling it all on the Internet.

ChrisH, there are things I too prefer not to know, and many that I wish I didn't! Example: I've stumbled across images on the net that I would love to erase from my memory permanently.

Liane Spicer said...

JJ, I don't think it was traumatic for her because a) she wrote the blog and the books anonymously, and b) she seemed to enjoy the work.

The part about coming out from behind the pseudonym because a former boyfriend was threatening to expose her can't have been fun, though.

Debs said...

I haven't actually read any of her books/blog, or even seen the tv series, but I did see her interviewed on The Book Show recently when she first 'came out' and she seemed very relaxed about the whole thing.

Phyllis Bourne said...

I haven't read it, but will probably peek.

It's late and my eyes are crossed from doing revisions. I initially thought I read she had a "cookbook" offer. LOLOL! I was thinking, "I wouldn't eat anything she cooked. Who knows where those hands have been."

Anonymous said...

Porn is something people don't like to read about so I also doubt I would buy the books.

But still, more people would be interested in the life of a high-paid call girl than a low-paid one because it is always interesting to know how much kinkiness money can buy. After reading such adventures many would feel like sexual underachievers - that is the down side to these stories.

Liane Spicer said...

Debs, I doubt I would be relaxed other the circumstances. She's an extraordinary person.

Phyllis, LOL! Love your new photo, btw!

akalol, who says? Don't you guys claim you read Playboy for the articles? :P As for the question of how much kinkiness money can buy, the answer here is: A LOT. I'm definitely an underachiever by comparison. :)

PJ said...

I have a strange fascination with call-girl memoirs, so I've read all 3 of Belle's books, as well as some by other authors.

The weird thing about Belle's books is that while the first 2 were based on real events and were great reads, the third was all made up and I found it really boring.

I didn't realise that it was fictitious until after I'd finished it, but it explained why I found it so inferior to the previous two.

Liane Spicer said...

PJ, I've always thought the truth generally trounced fiction any day, and your comment underscores that. How could anything she made up be as interesting as her actual experiences?

That third book sounds to me like the publisher (typically) was hoping to cash in on the popularity of the first two books by any means necessary.

KeVin K. said...

"Oral sex with strangers with no latex in between? That's stretching my comfort zone a bit too far."
With latex is okay, then? Liane, my impression of you has just taken a serious, er, blow...

As a broad generalization, prostitutes fall into two groups. Those taking calculated advantage of men's willingness to pay absurd amounts of money for pleasure and those doing what they need to do to survive. Working in community and family services I've dealt with a lot of the latter trying to overcome what their experiences have done to them and get their lives together. I don't think I could set my professional perspective aside long enough to enjoy the adventures of a sexual entrepreneur.
As for Playboy and the like: The girls in their pictures are younger than my daughters. So: no.

Liane Spicer said...

@Kevin: Liane, my impression of you has just taken a serious, er, blow...


Er, should have made myself clearer. I'd expect a prostitute to do all sorts of things with strangers, but to take precautions to safeguard her health. 'Bare' oral sex doesn't sound like that's happening, and therein lies my discomfort. Apart from the whole 'ewww' factor, of course. That, er, sucks, really.

Your job no doubt exposes you to gritty realities outside of most people's experience, and that's a good thing. Of course, there may very well be others whose professional insight makes no difference.

I hear ya on the Playboy comment. I cannot ogle guys anywhere withing 10 years of my son's age. That would just be too uncomfortable and feel wrong.