Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent

Chicken CoverBuy the book.

“I walk all the way up Hollywood Boulevard to Grauman’s Chinese Theater: past turistas snapping shots; wanna-be starlets sparkling by in mini-skirts with head shots in their hands and moondust in their eyes; rowdy cowboys drinking with drunken Indians; black businessmen bustling by briskly in crisp suits; ladies who do not lunch with nylons rolled up below the knee pushing shopping carts full of everything they own; Mustangs rubbing up against muscular Mercedes and Hell’s Angels hogs.

It’s a sick twisted Wonderland, and I am Alice.”

Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent (ReganBooks / HarperCollins, 2002) is the funny, touching story of a sweet, wide-eyed son of Seventies Suburbia who becomes a teenage sex worker servicing rich, lonely women in Beverly Hills. After being abused his first night in Hollywood, David meets Sunny, the manager of Hollywood Fried Chicken, who teaches him all about chicken: how to fry one, and how to be one. But the wild adventures and the mad money are never enough, as he’s sucked into the dark side of Hollywood: the blank-eyed women, the Fall-of-Rome orgies, and the hungry predators. With a mix of breathtaking honesty, sly comedy, genuine tenderness, and an innocent fascination for the bizarre characters and world he enters, Sterry creates a narrative that is fresh, smart, and unexpectedly uplifting. Chicken is a book like no other—a playful, gripping story that explores what it means to suffer through the underbelly of the American Dream. And make it out alive.

Chicken comes with a personal guarantee unprecedented in the history of publishing. If you’re not completely satisfied, I’ll come to your house and wash your car. If you don’t have a car, I’ll vacuum your living room. If you don’t have a living room, I’ll buy you the warm beverage of your choice.*

*Proof of purchase required. Must pass brief quiz.

“Sterry writes with comic brio … [he] honed a vibrant outrageous writing style and turned out this studiously wild souvenir of a checkered past.” – Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“This is a stunning book. Sterry’s prose fizzes like a firework. Every page crackles… A very easy, exciting book to read – as laconic as Dashiell Hammett, as viscerally hallucinogenic as Hunter S Thompson. Sex, violence, drugs, love, hate, and great writing all within a single wrapper. What more could you possibly ask for? -Maurince Newman, Irish Times

“A beautiful book… a real work of literature… wonderfully written.” – Vanessa Feltz, BBC

“Insightful and funny… great stories… captures Hollywood beautifully…” – Larry Mantle, Air Talk, National Public Radio

“Jawdropping… A carefully crafted piece of work…” -Benedicte Page, Book News, UK

“A 1-night read. Should be mandatory reading for parents and kids.” -Bert Lee, Talk of the Town

“Alternately sexy and terrifying, hysterical and weird, David Henry Sterry’s Chicken is a hot walk on the wild side of Hollywood’s fleshy underbelly. With lush prose and a flawless ear for the rhythms of the street, Sterry lays out a life lived on the edge in a coming-of-age classic that’s colorful, riveting, and strangely beautiful. David Henry Sterry is the real thing.” –Jerry Stahl, author of Permanent Midnight

“Compulsively readable, visceral, and very funny. The author, a winningly honest companion, has taken us right into his head, moment-by-moment: rarely has the mentality of sex been so scrupulously observed and reproduced on paper. Granted, he had some amazingly bizarre experiences to draw upon; but as V. S. Pritchett observed, in memoirs you get no pints for living, the art is all that counts-and David Henry Sterry clearly possesses the storyteller’s art.” – Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait of My Body – Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait of My Body

“Like an X-rated Boogie Nights narrated by a teenage Alice in Wonderland. Sterry’s anecdotes… expose Hollywood at its seamiest, a desperate city of smut and glitz. I read the book from cover to cover in one night, finally arriving at the black and white photo of the softly smiling former chicken turned memoirist.” -Places Magazine

“Snappy and acutely observational writing… It’s a book filled with wit, some moments of slapstick, and of some severe poignancy… a flair for descriptive language… The human ability to be kind ultimately reveals itself, in a book which is dark, yet always upbeat and irreverent. A really good, and enlightening, read.” – Ian Beetlestone, Leeds Guide

“Brutally illuminating and remarkably compassionate… a walk on the wild side which is alternatively exhilirating and horrifying, outrageous and tragic… Essential reading.” – Big Issue

“Visceral, frank and compulsive reading.’ –City Life, Manchester

“Sparkling prose… a triumph of the will.” -Buzz Magazine

“Pick of the Week.” -Independent

“Impossible to put down, even, no, especially when, the sky is falling…Vulnerable, tough, innocent and wise… A fast-paced jazzy writing style… a great read.” -Hallmemoirs

“Full of truth, horror, and riotous humor.” -The Latest Books

“His memoir is a super-readable roller coaster — the story of a young man who sees more of the sexual world in one year than most people ever do.” – Dr. Carol Queen, Spectator Magazine

“Terrifically readable… Sterry’s an adventurer who happens to feel and think deeply. He’s written a thoroughly absorbing story sensitively and with great compassion… A page-turner… This is a strange story told easily and well.” – Eileen Berdon, Erotica.com

“Love to see this book turned into a movie, Julianne Moore might like to play Sterry’s mum…” – by Iain Sharp The Sunday Star-Times, Auckland, New Zealand).

“Chicken expands our understanding of who does sex work and what it involves; of how family dislocation, dysfunction and desertion affect children and adolescents; and of the complex interplay between social norms, sexual practices, “deviant” behavior, and identity. Academics might use Chicken profitably to help students explore non-fiction and memoir writing, or substantively in courses on gender, sexuality, adolescence, deviance, the sexual revolution, the 1970s, southern California, and related topics. As a floodlit slice of life or an object lesson about attempts to counterbalance (dare I say “straddle”?) propriety and impropriety, Chicken is highly recommended. The writing style in Chicken is brash and engaging. Reminiscent of “gonzo journalism” and Lewis Carroll, Sterry’s style includes vivid descriptions, trenchant metaphors, creative compound words, and a taste for alliteration. Yet the book is more than just flashy, over-the-top recounting of colorful anecdotes. Rather, Sterry’s writing style serves his substance well, clearly evoking the milieu of 1970s sexual-revolution-era Hollywood. At the same time, the book is visceral and brutally honest about Sterry’s emotional and physical ordeals during his year as a sex worker. He expresses both sympathy and anger for his clients; in regard to his own behavior, he is subtly introspective, smoothly moving between an account of his feelings at the time and a retrospective evaluation of his actions and motives. While his account does not appear to temper the meanness, sadness or vapidity of many of his customers, he does not shrink from reporting his own failings, either. For example, his recounting of his displaced rage on the basketball court is unflinching and heartbreaking.” Dr. Ann Lucas –Sexuality & Culture, an Interdisciplinary Quarterly

CHICKEN: THE SHOW

#1 Play in Great Britain. -The Independent

“Poignant…a rare pleasure… moving and original… revealingly honest… Sterry is a sharp comic, using his limber body and versatile voice to create memorably portraits of the hungry, lonely, wealthy women who employ his services…Sterry needs no other prop than a wooden bench to get full mileage out of the ludicrousness of sex… But what gives it depth is the hard, sad reality beneath its Rabelaisian humor… Richly entertaining and thought-provoking… Speaks cleverly and provocatively to anyone who’s ever been or had a child.”
—Robert Hurwitt, Head Theater Critic to The San Francisco Chronicle

“Full of energy… fast, provacative, and highly engaging… Simply unmissable…” – The Hearld

“Irresistible… very enjoyable… radiates honesty… funny, physical, and fast…” -The Scotsman

“What a rare pleasure it is to see a writer perform his own work… dream-like profundity…Sterry’s portrayal of his 17-year-old self is immediately honest and believable… juxtaposed with his masterful control of poetic dialogue balances the show.” — SF Examiner

“Sterry summons up in glorious technicolour an amazing array of characters… Extraordinary… engrossing and touching… a great story… It’s a must!” —Daily Mail

“Graced with insight and empathy—Sterry finds a literary rhythm as fluid and alluring as the strut of his ‘nuthugging elephantbells’… a sense of humor as bright and ridiculous as a ‘blood-engorged wangdangdoodle- hammer’.” —S F Weekly

“Disturbing, heartrending, and so funny it makes you choke… intoxicating energy and magnetic storytelling charisma… the poignancy and honesty hits you hard.” – Brighton Argus

“A tour-de force.”—SF Bay Times
“Sextacular.” – Beth Lisick, SF Gate
“Frank, funny and surreal.” –The Stage
“Pick of the week… Hysterical.” – The Guardian
“Hard-hitting and universal.” -Time Out San Francisco
“Sterry is a man you should know” -Year-End Best Of SF Weekly

“Sterry tells a sad and harrowing story with humor, energy, and a sharp eye for the sort of characters an ‘industrial sex technician’ might meet in the weird aftermath of the ‘60s.” —Michael Scott Moore, The San Francisco Weekly

“Hugely compelling to watch… real skill… The story is told in deft snippets… the language is poetic, and a 1970’s soundtrack gets the audience in the mood… [a] triumphant story… it’s clear that this is a comedy hiding in a tragedy.” -The Independent

 

About David Sterry

David Henry Sterry is the author of 16 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, book editor, activist, and book doctor. His first memoir, Chicken, was an international bestseller, and has been translated into 10 languages. “As laconic as Dashiell Hammett, as viscerally hallucinogenic as Hunter S Thompson. Sex, violence, drugs, love, hate, and great writing, what more could you ask for?” – The Irish Times.

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