A book about a man’s willingness, desire, and, eventually, habit of paying for sex should, by rights, be seedy, risqué, and, at least, partly erotic. Instead, Paying For It: A Comic-Strip Memoir About Being a John by Chester Brown is simply matter-of-fact, insightful, even funny at times.

Published in 2011 by Canadian niche comic book publisher Drawn & Quarterly, Paying For It has just been released in India by HarperCollins, and like many other D&Q comic books that seek to find the extraordinary in the ordinary (I am told the technical genre for these comics is “slice of life"), it is semi-autobiographical. Canada would appear to be a powerhouse when it comes to comics. From Guy Delisle to Dave Sim to Seth to Michel Rabagliati (and to Chester Brown and Pia Guerra), the country seems to have more than its fair share of comics-riches.

Brown’s very personal story about a very-strange-for-a-comic-book subject explores a serious theme with the seriousness it deserves, especially through some very detailed appendices in which he discusses the physical, social, and cultural aspects of prostitution. It is a rare comic that has near-academic appendices (albeit, well-written ones in this case). Then, Paying For It is rare, not so much in the fantastic way many of the works that appear in this column are, but in a very sensitive, human way. Comic book writer Neil Gaiman describes it as a comic for grown-ups. I can’t do better.

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R. Sukumar is Editor, Mint.

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