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Aiden Shaw’s My Undoing

posted on Generally speaking, books on the gay porn industry tend to fall into four categories: breezy and full of smutty anecdotes (like Chi Chi LaRue’s “Making It Big”); dark, cautionary tales (the Jon Vincent bio “A Thousand and One Night Stands”); blow-by-blow sex confessions (Geoffrey “Karen” Dior’s “Sleeping Under the Stars”); or posthumous tell-alls (“Wonder Bread and Ecstasy,” “Clone,” “Boy in the Sand”).

Aiden Shaw’s autobiography, “My Undoing,” contains elements of all of these niches, yet falls into a tragic category all its own.

One of the first British men to break into the American gay porn industry in the 1990s, Aiden Shaw is not your typical porn star. The blood pumping through his body not only engorges an impressive penis, but also powers a bright mind full of an expressive creativity not often seen in this profession.

He’s written three novels (“Brutal,” “Boundaries” and “Wasted”), numerous magazine articles, a book of poetry, and songs for his band, Whatever.

Why, then, is “My Undoing” such a disappointment?

For one thing, it never entirely finds a satisfactory angle. Purportedly, “My Undoing” is about Aiden Shaw’s efforts to find love and a lasting relationship despite his infamous status as a gay porn star. In fact, it’s much more of a chronicle of how empty, shallow and repetitive his life was until a stupid accident nearly left him partially paralyzed.

Anyone waiting for an inner revelation on Shaw’s part will be sorely disappointed. From the outset, Shaw makes it perfectly clear that “I am not a reformed character,” and that “I’ll probably make the same mistakes again, if not worse.” Yes, this candor is initially refreshing, but his apparently learning nothing from his travails becomes vexing rather quickly.

Likewise, anyone hoping for a juicy tell-all about Shaw’s co-stars in porndom will be similarly let down. He keeps such talk to a minimum, but does admit to an off-set dalliance with Cliff Parker, and relates his experiences with the erection injection drug Caverject. In many ways, his feelings on the industry are summed up thusly: “No matter how much I liked the model, it was rarely enough to compensate for having to perform for hours under the heat of studio lights in front of an unnecessary amount of inefficient crew, twisting my body so the sex would be visible to the camera.”

One interesting moment happens when a guy tells Shaw, “I know who you are,” to which Aiden retorts, “That’s not to be confused with knowing me.” For a while, it seems like this will be one of the book’s major conceits – and it’s a compelling notion – but unfortunately it’s not dwelled upon in any great depth. Instead, Shaw seems far more interested in regaling readers with his crystal meth binges, the odd results of some of his appointments with “punters” (i.e., his sex clients), more drug taking and minutiae with his circle of friends. It gets old really, really fast.

The most interesting part of “My Undoing” concerns the accident in Belgium which left Shaw partially paralyzed; he got run over by a car, and his band member Nina got hit too, but wasn’t as severely injured. This is easily the core of the book, but ironically Shaw has no memories of the accident. Instead, Nina and fellow band member Marc fill in the blanks from their perspectives, and Shaw rejoins the narrative when he wakes up in the hospital and slowly rebuilds his life as he recovers. “Everything was new and different, but not in a way that made it interesting or exciting,” he writes.

While there are other engaging moments in “My Undoing” – such as Shaw’s dealings with an obsessed ex-roommate turned stalker, and his battles with depression and the effects of antidepressant medications – overall the book is sadly lacking. By the time one finishes this book, one will know Aiden Shaw better, but like him a good deal less. Whoever once famously said, “There’s nothing duller than dull pornography,” obviously never read “My Undoing.”


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