[Book Review] Debbie Doesn't Do It Anymore

Debbie Doesn't Do It Anymore / Walter Mosley (Powell's Books)

I'm left feeling conflicted about this book, and I can't say whether I liked it or not.  There is nothing wrong with Mosley's prose or his pacing.  The exact passage of time is a little difficult to follow, but since we're following the story of someone in a state of emotional shock and turmoil, this lack of temporal grounding fits.

Debbie Doesn't Do It Anymore evokes memories of the "golden age of porn" - thoughts of Debbie Does Dallas rise to the surface just from the title, and a director named Linda Love makes one think of Linda Lovelace in a moment of painful irony.  The problem is that these names come with expectations and that have little to do with the story beyond a connection to pornography.  As a reader I found this dissonance jarring and distracting from the story itself.

Then comes the concept of Debbie Dare herself, a veteran of adult films at 31, and with over a decade in the industry.  I believe her concept as a person, but not as the porn icon.  Making it as a household name in porn, particularly for such a long period of time and past the age most glorified in pornography and images of beauty, is hard.  Some women have done it, Jenna Jameson for example has built herself a media empire, and they have done so through hard work and brilliant marketing and diversification.  Think and try to name 5 to 10 women who have made a real name for themselves and occupation in pornography outside of a short window, Annie Sprinkle, Tristan Taromino, Nina Hartley come to mind, all of whom have built a career expanded beyond fornication in front of a camera.

Debbie's life in the sex industry is to perform her scenes on set, appear at the occasional expo, and collect her pay.   She "stands out" as a dark skinned woman who wears blue contacts, keeps her hair platinum blond, and sports a small "tattoo" on her cheek.  While the combination is striking, contacts and wigs (or dye) are easy to come by, particularly in an industry where performers spend hours being remade before a shoot.  I haven't done any searches on porn sites, but I'm pretty sure I could easily find a handful of women with dark skin and blond wigs/hair in without trying very hard.  I could also be wrong on this, but I'm not sure quite how much her eye color is really noticed by people watching her films.

The story of Debbie Doesn't Do It Anymore is that of a woman dealing with grief and emotions, some of which have been held in check for 15 years, as she attempts to change her life from porn star to "normal" in the wake of her husband's death.  Not because she feels what she has done is wrong, but because a catalyst of events have changed how she views herself and her life.  Debbie suffers from depression without knowing or understanding the emotional fugue she wades through, re-establishing and re-defining relationships in the aftermath of her upheaval.  In many ways, at 31, Debbie is finally growing up.

The supporting cast vary in depth with no relation on their place in the story.  We meet alienated family, caring friends, petty thugs, and dangerous men and women.  The conflicts vary in depth of connection as well, including one premeditated crime of passion (I can't think of any other way to describe it) that seems a bit extreme and that exists as a literal and figurative severing mechanism between Debbie's old and new lives.

The book is reflective and introspective, a good read for those who like stories of personal resolution and change.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of Doubleday, a division of Random House, LLC; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

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