Chester Brown Is Awesome

Posted: March 7th, 2013 | Filed under: prostitution, You Will Die | 2 Comments »

Chester Brown, Louis Riel

The great graphic novelist, Chester Brown, was kind enough to write a blurb for my book, You Will Die: The Burden of Modern Taboos:

We think we understand our society’s taboos, I certainly thought I did. But reading Robert Arthur’s fascinating, powerful book showed me how little I knew about the subject. You Will Die challenged me in the way that really good books do.

He also gave me a copy of his celebrated biography of the Canadian revolutionary, Louis Riel, with a signed drawing on its title page (pictured above). As the kids used to say back in the 1940s, it blew my wig.

Brown’s latest best-selling graphic novel, Paying For It (2011), details his life as a patron of sex workers. His intimate description of the practice is a welcome rejoinder to the media’s portrayal of all johns as callous misogynists.

Chester Brown, Paying For It

“You Will Die” Release, History, and Thank You

Posted: January 2nd, 2013 | Filed under: You Will Die | 1 Comment »

You Will Die: The Burden of Modern Taboos

Yesterday the Feral House version of You Will Die: The Burden of Modern Taboos was released in both paperback and e-edition. The Feral House version is revised, updated, and has a new concluding chapter on the taboo of death. My illustrations from the self-published versions (Suburra Publishing) were removed and I begrudgingly admit this gives it a more professional appearance.

For those people who have supported me through this journey, I would like to thank you and share a little bit about the odyssey. I began writing this book about ten years ago when I was living in an abandoned schoolhouse in south central Pennsylvania after graduating from NYU Law. It was about five years later that I began self-publishing the first version. It was initially hand-bound. I used thin black cardboard from Ollie’s Bargain Outlet for the cover. For the second edition, I graduated to binding the book with covers made from cereal boxes.

An early fan of my book was a woman from Toronto. After e-mail correspondence and one short visit, I moved in with her on the corner of Bloor and Concord. I lived a bohemian existence there for about a year. Toronto is a wonderfully open-minded city. Evidence of this is that I received no complaints for the early promotional materials I posted in our window facing Bloor traffic.

A Toronto Window

Seekers Books in Toronto’s Annex was the first bookstore to carry You Will Die and one of its employees was the first person to request my autograph. Below is an old picture of a cereal-box You Will Die sitting for sale at Seekers.

A Seekers Shelf

I never expected much out of You Will Die. I thought it would be a short experiment. As I wrote in the introduction to my self-published version back in 2006, “If this book is a failure, I will try to conform to society, find a wife, get a real job, and settle down.”* The problem was that every time I was about to label it a failure and move on, I would catch a break. Some of the bigger breaks included winning the Montaigne Medal, having some blog posts/cartoons go viral, finding an agent (Jon Sternfeld), and finally finding a publisher.

Due to its nature, few people will be open-minded enough to read my writing, much less appreciate it. For those who have done both, I give my heartfelt thanks. You Will Die will probably never be a financial success, but one of the reasons I do not regret devoting such a large portion of my life to it is because of the fascinating people with whom it has brought me contact. In the “Death” chapter I wrote:

Life is absurd. No meaning is provided for you. It is marvelously bizarre, random, and comedic. You are brought here to wander and coexist for a brief moment, and then you are gone just as inexplicably and suddenly as you arrived. Many people never ponder death and merely accept the beliefs of those around them. They get pulled into the temporal concerns of the ego and the routine of robotic conformity.**

We will both die, so thanks for pondering life with me while we are here. If you are ever in DC and want to meet for a beverage containing the drug of either caffeine or alcohol, shoot me an e-mail.

Some You Will Die trivia:

  • Suburra, the name of my publishing company and this website, comes from the Suburra, a neighborhood in Rome. In antiquity it was Rome’s red-light district.
  • The shaky font used for titles in the early versions was taken from my grandfather’s handwriting on holiday cards he had sent to me in his early 90s. He is still alive.
  • When I first received notice You Will Die won the 2008 Montaigne Medal for most thought-provoking title, I took the word “title” literally and thought it was a “sorry, you didn’t win” award for having a clever name. It was not until a year or so later that I noticed other publications recognizing the accolade. At that point, I realized my mistake and started publicizing the award on my website as well as wearing the medal around the house.
  • My cousin is an independent animator who was nominated for an Academy Award for one of his short films.
  • My favorite comment on Narco Polo was the following by Moses in 2011, “how about updating your website you lazy dick head?”

    * Yesterday, I proposed to my girlfriend in the fountain at DC’s Dupont Circle. She said yes.
    ** Some of this wording was borrowed from a popular philosophy book. Kudos to anyone who can name it below. In You Will Die proper credit was given.

  • Ten Ways Social Taboos About Sex, Drugs and Death Scare Us from Learning the Truth

    Posted: December 29th, 2012 | Filed under: drugs, heroin, LSD, marijuana, opiates, prostitution, You Will Die | 2 Comments »


    In coordination with the January 1st release of the Feral House version of You Will Die: The Burden of Modern Taboos, AlterNet published my article, “Ten Ways Social Taboos About Sex, Drugs and Death Scare Us from Learning the Truth.”

    The ten harmful misconceptions caused by taboos covered in the article are:

    1. Taboo: Drugs—Misconception: Jesus was against drug use.
    2. Taboo: Sex—Misconception: Few women choose to be sex workers.
    3. Taboo: Drugs—Misconception: Drugs do not aid creativity.
    4. Taboo: Excrement—Misconception: We go to the bathroom properly.
    5. Taboo: Drugs—Misconception: Illicit drugs are exceptionally deadly.
    6. Taboo: Sex—Misconception: Jesus was against non-marital sex.
    7. Taboo: Nasal Mucus—Misconception: Nose-picking is bizarre.
    8. Taboo: Sex—Misconception: Homosexuality is a choice.
    9. Taboo: Drugs—Misconception: Drug dealers cause drug use.
    10. Taboo: Death—Misconception: Modern medicine can save us.

    Thanks to Kristen Gwynne (@kristengwynne) at AlterNet for running this unconventional piece.