Kayden Kross is stirring interest of a different kind with her short story ‘Plank’ and her literary ambition

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from www.nydailynews.com – You shock yourself now with the way that you are. You’ve watched clothes float above the ankle in a season and you’ve watched boxes overflow with the things that you used to be, sloughed off, hauled away with thick-tipped markers taken to the flaps and sealed shut with tape in the garage. You didn’t eat green this time last year and now you take your sugar a little less sweet. You sweat. You made a true friend and it took time.

— excerpt from “Plank,” by Kayden Kross

Someone on the set has been stealing books from Kayden Kross. She suspects her makeup artist. But whoever it is has caused a great inconvenience, because shooting adult films is mostly a boring affair.

Kross needs her books.

“I have tons of time” between sex scenes, Kross says, and she spends spare moments reading, whether its the novels of David Foster Wallace or the short stories of Amy Hempel.

Kross is a literary porn star, and proud of it.

“We’re not retarded,” Kross says of her porn pals. Then she lists some of her favorite writers: the Southern master Barry Hannah, the writer-editor Gordon Lish and Gary Lutz, who, in her words, “makes me hate mediocrity.”

Kross is speaking from Los Angeles, where she is shooting a porn flick that she says is tentatively titled “Code of Honor.” At 26, the Sacramento, Calif., native is one of the rising stars of the industry. Last year she won three Adult Video News Awards (Best All-Girl Sex Scene, Wildest Sex Scene, Female Acting Performance of the Year) for “Body Heat.”

But books, not sex, are what Kross wants to talk about as she navigates the Southern California traffic. As of earlier this summer, she is a published author. Her short story, “Plank,” appeared in “Forty Stories,” an e-book of short fiction by promising young writers.

“Plank” fit well with the others. Hers is an experimental, somewhat stream-of-consciousness narrative told in a second-person voice, one more concerned with philosophical musing than plot. “You shock yourself now with the way that you are,” the narrator says at one point. And all this has nothing to do with porn.

Kross came to the attention of Harper Perennial editor Cal Morgan when, earlier this year, the literary journal McSweeney’s published a conversation between Kross and the writer Adam Levin. His book, “The Instructions,” is a thousand-page experimental novel in the style of Thomas Pynchon.

Kross showed she wasn’t intimidated during her conversation with Levin, telling him at one point, “Your book is literally open on my lap right this moment. Is that awkward? It’s always awkward for me when people say the same about my work.”

While searching for Kross on the Internet brings up plenty of videos and images of her pornographic work, her blog, uncrossed.blogspot.com, is full of her writing. There’s everything from short fiction (“Plank” appeared here first) to wry musings on the adult-film business, which she generally treats, in both writing and conversation, with an ironic distance.

Commenters leave notes like this: “Maybe you’d like [Judith] Butler’s ‘Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex.’ It’s kind of psychoanalytic and so ’90s.”

“I have fans who don’t watch my movies,” she says. “ ‘I don’t want to see your nipple, I want to see what you wrote,’ ’’ Kross says, describing her readers’ take on her work.

Of course, many people still want to see her naked and having sex. She knows that, too, and is unabashed about it.

“I really like the industry,” Kross says, noting that it gives her time to pursue her other passions, which include literature, travel and auditing classes at local colleges.

Born Kimberly Nicole Rathkamp, she was discovered by Vivid Video while a student California State University in Sacramento in 2006. She still takes classes at local colleges around Los Angeles today, and the proud “book nerd” stresses her attraction to the collegiate lifestyle.

“I love sitting in lecture,” she says, citing recent classes she has taken in political science.

Her latest venture is an autobiographical book about the porn industry, one that she says will treat the industry with neither moralizing horror nor condescending derision.

“You can’t possibly understand” the adult film business, she says, but hopes that people reading her book will do just that. Her own mother was not entirely supportive of her decision to enter pornography, and the book will likely cover that, too, and how “people want to be reassured” that doing porn brings no lasting harm — even if there is evidence to the contrary.

Morgan, the Harper Perennial editor, is now reading the first 200 pages of Kross’ book, though he declined to comment for this article.

Kross does have one huge fan in Stoya, another porn star with literary proclivities. Kross and Stoya starred in a web video called “Stoya’s Book Club,” in which they discussed Chad Kultgen’s new novel, “Men, Women and Children.”

Stoya raves about Kross’ efforts, calling her “super-literary,” before adding, jokingly, “The fiction, honestly, goes way over my head. She kind of loses me.”

For her part, Kross shares the aspirations of every artist. “I would like to do better,” she says, talking about her work — the literary kind.

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