Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Stupid Baby

New Juche Stupid Baby (2018)
I was initially terrified of this, believing it to be written by a person who had infantilised themselves to such an extent as to have chosen Stupid Baby as a name; and the back cover blurb seemed vaguely suggestive of grown men happily shitting their adult nappies in anticipation of a sexy spanking; and it's published by Amphetamine Sulphate who don't look as though they're going to be reigning it in any time soon. Research revealed that I was thankfully mistaken on a few counts, and that New Juche is a photographer of Scottish heritage and also author of this, a novel called Mountainhead, and a CD called Bangkok Fanny-Rat, amongst other things. He lives in one of the more poverty stricken ghettos of Thailand and very much enjoys having sex with prostitutes.

There will inevitably be certain associations which have attached themselves to that last sentence even before we're done with the paragraph. To tackle the likely questions one at a time, Juche is a Korean word amounting to self-reliance or independence. It also refers to a political ideology described by Wikipedia as follows:

The Juche idea means, in a nutshell, that the masters of the revolution and construction are the masses of the people and that they are also the motive force of the revolution and construction.

The name - which the author admits is slightly facetious - seems fitting given that his writing is essentially anthropological but for the inclusion of the observer as very much part of the texture, in other words his testimony is divorced of the clinicality and detachment of anthropology, and facilitates a more thorough understanding of the subject because he's living it. It's a little like a more sympathetic Céline.

As to what he's actually living, the term sex tourist probably comes to mind; but surprisingly that's exactly what New Juche isn't, at least not by any usual understanding of the word. His position is succinctly summarised in the question by which his PDF book The Mollusc is promoted on his website:

What do you feel and do and why, when you experience the expression of distress by the poor, especially when you're paying them for sex?

New Juche expands on this in an interview on Hoover Hog:

I'm heavily put off by writers who contrive to smear themselves into broader conversations, whether it's intended to demonstrate piety or cynicism. But – and this is what I'm talking about with this heavy vendetta I have against conversation – I perceive some piety in precisely what I've just said. There's a BBC documentary in which a collection of lazy English middle-class twenty-somethings are chaperoned around Patpong, and have delivered to them a stage-managed encounter with a young 'prostitute' in a pole-dancing outfit who relates the usual sob story through an interpreter and then weeps as she takes questions from the group. This all occurs in the heart of it, with tourists and bar girls all around and loud music. Worked up into a pious rage, one of the English females gets into a wild verbal fight with a passing American tourist, who tells her she is a 'phony' who doesn't understand that 'prostitution' empowers these girls, and that they all want to be there, etc. Not unlike a Houllebecq character. They both present as obnoxiously ignorant to me, but their platitudes are clearly born out of the respectively limited vantage and degree of their insight. This is demonstrative of how the flimsy insipid social politics of dim-bulbs can rarely come down to rest on the actual ground, especially in places like this. And again why conversation is undesirable. I've heard endless nights of rationalisations, justifications, and disgusted condemnations. In the end, prostitution is a country in which I've lived for most of my life, and it is as irreducible as any other country.

So there you have it. If you're after an insight into life at the foot of the trash heap in the far east - and you should be simply because it's interesting and enlightening - then Stupid Baby paints a particularly vivid picture, not only finding the humanity in such places, but revealing that it's mostly humanity, even if lacking romance in the traditional sense, or even the sense of an Escort letters pages.

I was expecting something harrowing and absolutely alien, but I had it all wrong, and if Stupid Baby isn't exactly pretty, there's a kind of beauty here and certainly a tenderness regarding its subject. I haven't bothered to address any potential moral issues concerning prostitution in this review, because the book does it far better than I could and from a position of greater authority, which is possibly part of the reason for it having been written.

I'll definitely be reading more by this guy.

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