June 19th, 2009 | by Alex Peterson News | Posted In: CLEAN UP

Zak Smith - Writer, Painter, Porn Star - Performs at Disjecta

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Zak Smith lives in Los Angeles and is most famous for a book-length collection of drawings which illustrate each and every page of Thomas Pynchon's mammoth Gravity's Rainbow., Smith also is an accomplished painter, mainly of nude women, and he acts in a lot of porn. There's really not much else you need to know to decide you should go and hear him read from a book of his memoirs: Even in brief synopsis, he's an exceedingly interesting guy.
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On stage Thursday night at Disjecta, while reading excerpts from his book of alt-porn reminiscences (which are combined, it turns out, with pointed and barbed social commentary), titled We Did Porn, Smith affected a strident, fast-paced, sarcastic demeanor. That didn't seem out of place from a guy with half his head shaved (the tattooed half) and who wore a shirt that read, “I Have No Idea What You Are Talking About” (which, in all fairness to the punks Smith identifies with, is a Radiohead lyric.)
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Smith read three excerpts from We Did Porn and was on stage for less than half an hour. His prose, somewhat like his stage presence, is dense, allusive, funny, long-winded and highly personal. His insider's look at the lively world of alt-porn (described by Smith as alt “whenever somebody in porn decides to call it ‘alt'”) went by nearly too fast to absorb. But the subject matter — combined with his clever imagery — couldn't help but keep it fascinating.

The bulk of the main excerpt consisted of his personally receiving fellatio from two women at once while trying (successfully) to tune out political programming on TV: It reminded me of David Foster Wallace's hilarious, equally dense essay "Big Red Son", in which Wallace covered the Adult Video News awards for Premier magazine. Smith and Wallace have similarly breathless, heady writing styles and We Did Porn could easily serve as a porn insider's compliment to Wallace's journalistic-outsider pespective.

Smith was preceded on stage by local-celebrity author Jon Raymond, who read an excerpt from his short-story collection Livability, the book from which the stories for the movies Old Joy and Wendy and Lucy were taken. Raymond was the more reserved, less-animated reader, though his excerpt was an appropriate accompaniment to Smith's sexually charged prose: It too featured a young girl giving a blowjob prominently in its narrative. The big difference is, when Smith read you knew you were looking at the person who got the blowjob, not just the writer who dreamed it up.

Both authors stayed around post-readings to listen to Quasi and talk about their work.
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