November 20, 2009

Good Morning Class, Today We’ll Read About Savage Masturbation

Books, Culture 1 Comment
Top: illustration for Chuck Palahniuk's Guts. Bottom: teacher Greg Van Voorhis.

Top: illustration for Chuck Palahniuk's Guts. Bottom: teacher Greg Van Voorhis.

A young teacher in New York is in trouble for assigning an incredibly graphic short story by Chuck Palahniuk about masturbation and consequences.

True to form, the media is thrilled with the prospect of putting the word MASTURBATION and its variations in huge font across its pages, and hasn’t taken a lot of time to ask 30-year-old Greg Van Voorhis why he selected this story for his class.

We’ll have to tweet him about it.

I read “Guts” when it ran in Playboy a handful of years ago. I will be completely honest with you: it fucked me up. I will never forget that story–because of the use of language, the social comment it makes, and how well it functions as a sort of cautionary tale.

I read much weirder in high school, but I went to those progressive sorts of schools that let you make your own curricula and develop at your own weird little speed, so I don’t know that my experience is good comparison, but I do not think it is any heavier than 1984, A Clockwork Orange, The Catcher in the Rye or even Sons and Lovers.

Now, would I assign this to juniors if I was a high school teacher? Probably not without discussing with parents. Although at the same time, regardless of whether this is a desperate attempt to fameball on Voorhis’ part, the entire circus has brought attention to the literature syllabus and that’s important.

It does bear mentioning, after all, that Voorhis students’ reportedly perform better than others (96 percent of test-takers passed the English Regents with a 65 or above last year, compared to 68.6 percent at other schools in the city)–is it possible the renegade teacher is on to something?

OK, fine, enough about education, you pervs, here’s your snippet from this SHOCKING! STORY! ABOUT! MASTURBATION!:

This must be why girls want to sit on your face. The suction is like taking a dump that never ends. My dick hard and getting my butt eaten out, I do not need air. My heartbeat in my ears, I stay under until bright stars of light start worming around in my eyes. My legs straight out, the back of each knee rubbed raw against the concrete bottom. My toes are turning blue, my toes and fingers wrinkled from being so long in the water.

And then I let it happen. The big white gobs start spouting. The pearls.

It’s then I need some air. But when I go to kick off against the bottom, I can’t. I can’t get my feet under me. My ass is stuck.

Emergency paramedics will tell you that every year about 150 people get stuck this way, sucked by a circulation pump. Get your long hair caught, or your ass, and you’re going to drown. Every year, tons of people do. Most of them in Florida.

I know it’s a lot to ask, as you can hardly read a tweet completely, but given you’ve gotten this far, go read Guts by Chuck Palahniuk in its entirety.

Also, if you feel strongly about supporting Voorhis, you can join Save Mr. V on Facebook or follow him on Twitter, where he’s @Gvdubs.

Image from The New York Post and The Cult, information via Gothamist.

AV Flox

Your humble editrix-in-command.

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Sex and the 405 is what your newspaper would look like if it had a sex section.

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