All I Could Bare – Craig Seymour (Atria/Simon & Schuster)

Buy it Now at Giovanni’s Room or at Amazon through The Dreamwalker Group.

I have to confess that the title alone drove this memoir of a male stripper to the bottom of my reading pile again and again. Such an awful pun was going to herald either a work of audacious genius or drooling stupidity. As it turns out, the book was neither.

Seymour, an entertainment writer and English professor at the University of Massachusetts, got into stripping as a grad student, and this book (I can’t bring myself to type the title again) is supposed to be “a frank, funny, explicit and inspiring memoir about how dancing naked in gay clubs in the nation’s capital helped a college professor discover his true self.” At least that’s what the back cover blurb suggests.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite rise to that promise. It may be frank, but it’s not very funny nor is it terribly explicit. Inspiring? Sorry. You’re gonna have to explain that one to me. And the college professor doesn’t discover his true self as much as he floats through a series of rather tame sexual episodes with no real insight before moving on to interviewing Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey and Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopes.

And speaking of those interviews, how do they relate to what Seymour learns about himself in strip clubs? He attempts to make some connection that his time shaking his dick on stage led him to take risks during interviews. Okaaaaay. But is it worth taking time away from the promise the book makes to detail what it was like talking about masturbation with Janet Jackson? Or is it name-dropping filler?

Discerning Seymour’s purpose is difficult, largely because his prose is flat and oddly distanced from his subject, as if he’s writing about himself by remote control. This makes the strip club episodes as well as his forays into the sex-for-pay arena less effective than they should be. He tells us how he feels, but he doesn’t show us or make us feel it with him. His premise has great dramatic potential that is never explored or taken advantage of. Ultimately, the book’s greatest sin is its blandness.

Maybe this really is all he could bare. And that’s a shame.

Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler

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