P is for Prostitution is s series of sharp vignettes of real-life experience from some of the most difficult and damaged worlds within our culture. Like walking bare-foot over fragments of smashed mirror each letter – ‘B is for Bulimia’, ‘H is for Hospital’,’P is for Pills’, ‘S is for Squats’ – reflects something of the troubled early life of artist, writer and occultist Charlotte Rodgers. This is an everyday story of excess with all the beauty, intensity, boredom and horror that a lifestyle lived on the edge brings.
Such books easily become rather tedious catalogues of; ‘we did too much drug X, then had wild sex, then did something really fucking dangerous and then someone died’. But P is for Prostitution avoids becoming a bland litany of self-abuse through various devices. The first is that the book is, relatively, short. This is a punchy download of comedy, tragedy and delight that you could happily read in a day or two. The second is the use of the primer style (using letters to title the sections in the work) which again keeps the pace fresh and stops the grind of being a junkie in New Zealand (where a significant portion of the action happens) becoming a slog to read. But third and most important is simply the quality of Charlotte’s writing. She is self-aware but not self-indulgent, able to paint lyrical pictures of the powerful relationships and moments of bliss in her out-there younger years. She is also possessed of a restrained and intelligent ability to reflect on her experience in prose. In doing so she seems to come to terms with the facts of her chaotic life in a way that neither castigates her old self as being entirely ‘bad’ nor treats the whole painful business as something to simply be proud of.