NF-Working_Stiff_LG.jpg

By Date

By Book Author / Editor

Book Reviews

Working Stiff: The Misadventures of an Accidental Sexpert by Grant Stoddard

NF-Working_Stiff_LG.jpg

It is the classic story. A young man with no hopes in his own land comes to America’s friendly shores, unknown but with an intent to make something of himself. Partially by pluck and partially by luck, he finds just the niche that no one else has filled, or could have filled, and by working hard, he gains all the fame and fortune he never could have anticipated. There is a variation, however, in Grant Stoddard’s case. His memoir Working Stiff: The Misadventures of an Accidental Sexpert(Harper Perennial) tells how the immigrant, a wallflower in his own land, came to be a renowned writer about sexual topics and an appointed sexual experimenter in his adopted country. It is a hopeful, funny story, not the least of whose attractions is Stoddard’s love for America, and for New York City in particular. We have the land of opportunity, but Stoddard has had opportunities of which the rest of the world’s wallflowers would be glad for just a fraction.

Stoddard grew up in the working-class Essex village of Corringham. “A precocious five-year-old, I had peaked early intellectually.” He was not college material, but his dad was eager for the first Stoddard to go to college. It was not Oxford or Cambridge, but that he enrolled in even a second rate university made his father a happy man. “All I really wanted to do was play in what I now realize was a dreadful rock band.” His college apartment, unlike anyone else’s, was the first in a series of peculiar living places. He rented from Mrs. Montague, a lady of “abnormal jowly and wrinkly face; in the telling daylight it appeared positively scrotal.” She was addicted to the soap opera EastEnders, and she made plenty of good tea, and she hated the Pakistanis and Bangladeshis that had come to live in her neighborhood. Living in such a place, Stoddard was insulated from many interactions with students, but he did eventually meet at a party Becky, one of the many Americans at the college, and she was one of the very few women he dated. She went back to America, he visited, and they made long term plans, which included his taking a job in a British metal fabrication plant, just to get an income he could save for getting back to New Jersey. He eventually got to New York with a dicey job at a record company, enough to allow him to stay in the country. “After a surprisingly short period of time, I found myself falling in love with the life I’d fallen into by accident, feeling more at home in a foreign country, in an alien situation, than I had ever done in my hometown.” But things with Becky did not last: “Other girls were taking an interest in me and part of me began to resent that I had gone from virgin to cohabitating malcontent with none of the fun, casual, reckless part in between.”

He didn’t have many employment opportunities, and became adept at living with little money, living off bagels that a shop threw out at the end of the day, for instance. “I felt that being poor in New York City was preferable to being rich anywhere else.” A friend suggested one day that he enter a general knowledge quiz held by the site Nerve.com, with the prize being sex with one of Nerve’s writers, Lisa Carver. Carver wrote funny columns about her bizarre sex life even though she lived in Dover, New Hampshire, with her husband and six-year-old son. Stoddard won. A woman won the corresponding prize of sex with Lisa’s husband. Stoddard’s encounter with Carver is sweet. Warming him up in bed, she said, “Are you OK?” and he replied, “Yeah. It’s just, this is really nuts!” Comes the reply, “I know.” It is far more nuts than this snippet of conversation indicates, but the details included in Stoddard’s recollection make clear that it was also fun and that Lisa was actually very nice; she became a good friend, and she arranged for him to take a job in customer service at Nerve.

Being at Nerve launched Stoddard’s literary career, which was part of the boost of confidence the ambiance provided. Working there sounds just like it ought to: “With the new job and the exponentially accelerating rate at which I was sleeping with pretty girls, my confidence was hitting hitherto uncharted territory.” The editor in Chief, Susan Dominus, amused by his story of his hookup with Carver, asked if he could write, and he had to admit that he had never done it before. Dominus and her fellow editors proposed that there be a new column of reports on sexual experiments, with headings like “Hypothesis – state your hypothesis in the form of a prediction that can be verified by the results of the experiment.” Stoddard would be assigned the experiment and would write up his lab report, and Nerve would feature his column “I Did It for Science.” It was a brilliant idea. For three years, Stoddard did odd sexual things, sometimes things the readers suggested. He made out with a guy. He went to clothing-optional bridge lessons. He sploshed (that’s throwing food at a naked person). He dressed as a woman. He went to an orgy. He tried Aneros, the ergonomically-designed prostate massager. He went to Leather Camp. He was an extra in a porn film. He was the recipient of penetrative, restrictive, dominating, or otherwise freaky sex. His lab reports were hilarious, the reflections of a shy fellow confronting some of the strangest things that people do for fun.

The column was popular, and he was popular. “PR reps for hundreds of pleasure-enhancing creams, pills, hardware, software, and products began calling my work phone at an astonishing rate.” (When he eventually cleans out his desk at Nerve, the inventory is hilarious.) He was quickly asked to be a guest on a late-night chat show and billed as a sexpert only one year after thinking himself “a sexual nonstarter”. “The idea of Grant Stoddard the sexpert seemed absolutely surreal to me, and positively ludicrous to anyone I’d slept with.” Nonetheless, for the duration of the column “girls who were fans of the column were making it extremely easy for me to have sex with them.” Working Stiff is not a collection of Stoddard’s columns; it contains only one, as an example, but many of the pages are devoted to descriptions of what he had to go through to make his experiments happen. Other pages have to do with his non-experimental love affairs. It was a sexual initiation like no one else has ever had, and his recollections are sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, but also tender at times. He is a nice guy and genuinely amused by his good fortune and strange adventures. He is also genuinely grateful. “If an anglophile,” he writes near the beginning of the book, “is a lover of all things English and a Francophile is an admirer of the French, I think it’s odd that there’s no snappy equivalent for people like me: people who are enamored with the people and culture of these United States.” One expects enthusiasm in a book by a sexpert, but not necessarily for our country. America has gotten bigger tributes than this book, but none so heartfelt. It is an appealing part of a fine comic memoir of one of the strangest coming-of-age stories ever.

Working Stiff: The Misadventures of an Accidental Sexpert
(Harper Perennial; January 9, 2007; ISBN-10: 0060876123)
Available at: Amazon.com / Amazon UK


© 2007 Rob Hardy. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

Books in the Spotlight

Single Syllable Steve Single Syllable Steve
Seducing the hunky bouncer

Twisted Sheets Twisted Sheets

Unearthly Delights Unearthly Delights
Hot paranormal erotica

By Date

By Book Author / Editor

Book Reviews

Pin It on Pinterest