Book Review: Desperately Seeking Sex and Sobriety by Paul Pisces

This review may also be found on the Reedsy site: https://reedsy.com/discovery/book/desperately-seeking-sex-sobriety-paul-pisces#review

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I greatly enjoyed this book. It is a quick, easy read in a light and humorous tone (despite the dark subject matter), organized into short, bite-sized chapters. I found the writing to be very relatable and down-to-earth. However, this book is not for everyone.

It is an autobiographical account of a tech-industry professional’s gradual descent into severe alcoholism. Along the way, there are a great many rather graphic descriptions of his various sexual encounters, often with prostitutes. 

The book is written in the present tense and primarily in chronological order, so in the earlier chapters the drinking is depicted in a fairly light-hearted style, sharing with us anecdotes of the laughable antics of youth, only hinting at the dark path he is on. It takes place over several decades but he rarely mentions years, preferring instead to use cultural and technological references to give us a sense of where we are in time. Sometimes I found myself wondering what time period we were in, and then he would speak of dancing to “Backstreet’s Back” and suddenly I knew exactly. The result of this clever avoidance of dwelling on the passage of time, is that the events pass quickly, rather than dragging out as many stories do that attempt to span so many years.

Without being preachy, this is meant as a cautionary tale against the perils of alcoholism and addiction. It is also intended to be entertaining enough to hold the reader’s attention. I think it does both of those things splendidly. If you only read the first part of the book, it might seem that he is glorifying excessive drinking. But, as in life, the shadows lengthen over time. Pisces is merely relating the events as he experienced them. I think that former, current and potential alcoholics will likely see a relatable and kindred spirit in the author, and perhaps find hope and acceptance in his story.

My caveat for readers is this: Although he is not unaware of or insensitive to the social issues involved in prostitution, that is not the main concern of the book. Throughout much of the story, he is patronizing prostitutes. They are not mistreated or dehumanized. But some readers might wish that he had spent more time expressing remorse or attempting to expose the evil underbelly of the sex-work industry. I did not have any objections, personally, to how he dealt with sex and sex-workers, but some readers may.

Overall, I thought this was a great book, with many laugh-out-loud moments and even some tears. It deals with some dark and difficult subjects in a funny, gritty and genuine way. Some may prefer to steer clear of it, but for others, I would say it is well worth the read.

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