Review - The Rent Boys of Prague
My rating: starstarstarstarstar_border
The Rent Boys of Prague is a journal of the author's time in Prague in the early 2000s, where he attempted to become an amateur pornographer while enjoying the pleasures of the city's seemingly plentiful supply of rent boys. It's a curious adventure that proves real life can be more interesting than fiction. Things happen to Rick that wouldn't quite be believable if you made them up.
Although subtitled “An Online Erotic Memoir” the book isn't really erotica. Yes, there is a lot of sex, and some seriously worshipful descriptions of male anatomy, but the sex is often a very minor player in these stories, which are much more about the boys and the underground life of Prague in 2003 and 2004.
The book is very much about the young men, many of whom claim to be straight, who earn a living servicing the mainly western men who come to enjoy the cheap, easy, no-strings-attached sex. Rick seems to go for the rough trade types, who are often drug addicts as well as liars and thieves, and even he would seem to admit that he gets too involved with them. Nether the author Rick nor most of the boys are very likable, and yet.... And yet there's something endearing about them all.
The disasters which befall Rick, which many would say were entirely predictable, don't ever quite succeed in beating him down. The boys, like Daniel, who becomes close to a boyfriend of Rick's, may be dishonest drug users, but there's something about them that makes you want to forgive them, as Rick does more often than he probably should.
The book is a direct extract of Rick's blog (more about the problems inherent in that in a moment), so it's almost like reading someone's diary. For something composed more or less extemporaneously, the writing is rather well done. What's more surprising is that there is a sort of arc to the story that you wouldn't expect, yet it doesn't seem at all artificial. It's just the way life happens, with a beginning, middle and end.
The author doesn't take much time to ponder some of the deeper philosophical issues at work here, but that's not really a problem. Such things are left for the reader to decide, like who is exploiting whom in many of these situations. There is a lot of food for thought here, as long as you're able to get past whatever preconceptions you may have about rent boys and the people who use them.
As alluded to above, there are some issues with the way this book was produced. It was created as a direct extract of the blog and is only available as in PDF form. The extraction included much that is extraneous for a book, such as tags, author and comments - replete with names and email addresses. The comments are rarely if ever interesting and should have been left out completely. What's more, with the two-column layout of the PDF file, if you convert it to ePub or Mobi for a reader it gets rather messy to read in parts.
The book would have more impact with a little light editing, to remove not only the comments, but some of the extraneous things like the occasional appeal for money. However, those issues aside, it's still an interesting read.
You can purchase the book and find out more about the author at the dedicated Rent Boys of Prague web site.
Posted in Book Reviews on July 28, 2012