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A Common Pornography (Future Tense limited edition, 2002)
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A Common Pornography (Future Tense limited edition, 2002)

3.53  ·  Rating Details ·  736 Ratings  ·  143 Reviews
A Common Pornography explores the fragmented world of youthful memories in a style at once spare, haunting, and uncomfortably nostalgic. Kevin Sampsell's daring and creative style of memoir is peppered with insightful (perhaps distracting) footnotes by Mike Daily and ethereal photo-colleges by Melody Owen to create a literary montage unlike anything of recent memory.
Published by Future Tense Books (first published January 1st 2010)
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Jan 22, 2010 Kevin rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
This is it. My first book with a major press. After 20 years of writing for various small presses, it feels good to have this out to (hopefully) a much wider world of readers. The fact that it's about my life makes it even more rewarding. For people who like my fiction, I think there are threads of similarity in this but I also think this book has a wider and more accessible scope. There's funny stuff, sad stuff, disturbing stuff, and some kinda sexy stuff. I think it's my my most layered and co ...more
Mar 19, 2010 christa rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I remember the moment like it was yesterday. I was lying in bed in a pair of baggy wide-legged olive green sweatpants, a stained white tank top, and for some reason a bra. A bra?! To bed?! I was just too lazy to remove it. And then, on page * of Kevin Sampsell's memoir "A Common Pornography," I realized that I was in the midst of something really special: The first contender for "Top Three Worst Books of 2010." I felt a rush of adrenaline that my body probably mistook for an aerobic workout.

Jan 03, 2010 Oriana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2010
I feel really, really guilty that I didn't like this book more than I did. I mean, everything I know about Kevin Sampsell (who is my "friend" on both GR and FB) makes me think he's terrific: really creative, quite influential in the indie press scene, very nice and funny and interesting. And I knew a good deal about this book going in, so I was seriously planning to love it, to be blown away by the captivating insanity of an incredibly fascinating, fucked-up life. I was expecting a lot of blood ...more
I think Montambo was reading this so when I saw it for sale I flipped through, liked, bought.

I just went to the author's reading at Powell's. If the book doesn't have a "voice" written into it, an attempt to capture an accent or regional slurring, I "hear" the words with a soothing, resonant, deep tone. Male and female characters, all the same. Sampsell's real voice was surprisingly (to me) soft, lispy, and soothingly nerdy. I had a major eyestrain headache brewing and almost decided to just go
A few weeks ago I was in the back seat of a car for 12+ hours. I arrived at my friends well prepared for the trip, a bag loaded with all kinds of boredom distractors (sudoku, knitting, novels, short stories, ipod, etc). But on the way out of my friends house I noticed this book on her shelf and started reading it while she finished packing.

I didn't touch the other stuff in my anti-boredom bag after starting Kevin's book. The book is interesting and sometimes funny and sometimes sad and frequent
Jan 02, 2010 Joshua rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved Sampsell's book. As a writing teacher, I'm always looking for examples of an author choosing the right structure/form to capture the subject matter. And this is precisely what makes "A Common Pornography" work so well: the symbiosis between the vignettes, the accumulation of their power as the narrative goes on. Suddenly, all the short pieces you've read compile themselves into a fully realized portrait, like tiles forming a stunning mosaic.
Jan 19, 2012 Olivia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The linked, flash-nonfiction structure Sampsell used for his memoir is addicting and unique. I tried starting it before bed and thought, "Just one or two more then I'll put it down." This led to staying up all night. The unadorned honesty with which Sampsell approaches his sex life and his family history is refreshing, and, in many instances, flat-out courageous. The only critique I offer is that sometimes the stories within the snippets felt unfinished, like in "Interruption." I wanted to know ...more
Sep 12, 2009 jeremy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
composed of brief, chronological accounts, a common pornography is kevin sampsell's unabashedly frank memoir. recounting the formative incidents of his youth, sampsell writes with great courage about family drama, sexual exploration, and the inevitable uncertainties of adolescence.
written without pathos, sentimentalism, or apology, kevin never resorts to the banal, woe-is-me affectations that have come to mark so many autobiographical works of late. funny, tragic, touching, and often unbelievabl
Mike Lindgren
Dec 10, 2009 Mike Lindgren rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Meh. A slapdash memoir of growing up dysfunctional in the Pacific Northwest from the publisher of Future Tense books. Has a modest twist in that it is composed of brief "snapshot" chapters with intriguing-seeming one-word titles: laziness masquerading as structural innovation. Also, the guy seems like kind of an asshole.
Jan 23, 2010 Lori rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Many thanks to Harper Perennial for sending me a copy of Kevin Sampsell's "A Common Pornography" for review. Had they not generously shipped it to me, I am ashamed to admit I may never have read it. Those who know me, and my taste in literature, would not be surprised by that statement. I am pretty vocal when it comes to non-fiction. I tend to steer clear for many reasons, which I shall spare you the details of here. Let's just say reading "A Child Called It" when I was younger, and more recentl ...more
Oct 15, 2009 Mykle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kevin Sampsell's writing has a surgical deadpan quality that instills every word with tension. Which has one effect when applied to his comical or psychosexual short stories, but quite another when he's describing his own traumatic childhood and creepy family dramas in this new memoir.

Honestly, I'm not a fan of the memoir genre. And because Kevin is a friend of mine, this book has a completely different effect on me than it would on a stranger. If you don't know Kevin personally, here are some w
Kevin Fanning
Jul 29, 2009 Kevin Fanning rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really affecting memoir. It's so good, because it seems like most memoirs, especially ones having to do with sex or some kind of history of abuse, or so lurid, so tightly focused on the negative. So PORNOGRAPHIC, which is why the title of this book is so perfect. But these are snapshots not just of the bad stuff, but the fun stuff, the boring stuff, the OK stuff.

The taternut section ended up being my favorite, I think. Because for kids growing up in bad circumstances, it's not always all bad. Y
Jul 20, 2013 Cari rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't read much memoir, don't generally enjoy it. What I loved about A COMMON PORNOGRAPHY (in the running for Best Title Ever, by the way) illustrates well what I don't like in more conventional memoir. A COMMON PORNOGRAPHY is written in short segments, roughly--but not strictly--in chronological order. They're fragments, postcards that stand on their own but of course echo each other and build in layers to form an impression of Sampsell's early life. Which is to say, this memoir is written in ...more
Oct 28, 2007 Kevin rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
This is probably my favorite of my own books, maybe because it's the most personal. I was surprised about all the feedback I got about this book (a series of vignettes about growing up in Kennewick, Washington, and doing things that boys do). There were only about 600 printed so it's pretty hard to find now. I'm working on a longer version of this to republish. Any interested publishers out there?
Jan 23, 2010 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I stand in awe of anyone who can write and publish a memoir, for two reasons: first, that some people have had lives interesting enough that anyone wants to read about them; and second, that some people are brave enough to write about particular incidents and personality quirks -- see, esp., one's sex life -- without altering the details to make themselves look more noble, more thoughtful, or more mature than they really are.

Kevin Sampsell succeeded in impressing me on both counts. I will confes
Kevin is a righteous writer/editor/Powell's small-press section curator dude I know from the early Aught's online literary world and Eyeshot. We're both Sixers fans, and at one point in his memoir he mentions Sedale Threatt, the best-named backup point guard during Charles Barkley's (or anyone's) era. Started reading this right after the Canadians beat the US in hockey and finished a little after midnight. I rarely read 216 pages in a single sitting, but I found the short chapters consumable, th ...more
Jun 26, 2012 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Last month I took a class that Kevin Sampsell taught (along with Chloe Caldwell) and my interest in reading and writing memoir was piqued. Kevin mentioned he had written this book, so I decided to read it. It was all the more exciting because I love reading people's writing that I know or have even just met, in Kevin's case.

The book is told in little vignettes and short essays on his youth spent in Kennewick, WA. The first parts of the book establish a somber tone that seemed to linger through
Several of my friends told me that I needed to read this book for the interesting way in which it deals with memory.

Several of my friends said that they found this book to be interesting, but hard to read due to the fragmented state of its narrative.

I honestly have to go with the first group if I am to take sides. I honestly din't find this memoir hard to read in any way. In fact, I found its matter-of-fact approach to memories a bit less ego-istic than most memoirs. The "main character" in this
Jan 28, 2010 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Many coming-of-age memoirs depict a journey through hellish abuse. Sampsell’s verbal snapshots capture the more peripheral scene of a kid along for the ride, under the watchful eye of a distant, resentful father—“a humorless, God-fearing bore.” For many who grew up in the 1970s and ’80s, the details of this American life will be familiar: the music, the sports teams, the Jaws-inspired aquaphobia, the release of the hostages from Iran, the mannerist rebellion of New Wave. Other aspects will reson ...more
Jan 03, 2010 Brandon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sampselliana
I bought this earlier today and read the entire thing tonight. The book largely recounts stories of Sampsell's sexual awakening, his failed coming-of-age romances, and his memories of an unlikable, distant father. It accurately captures how subtly rebellious children can be, and in turn how foolishly irrational adults can be. It does all this without glorifying the narrator (or even really demonizing the father), and comes across surprising honest. Just the facts. Much of it makes me nostalgic f ...more
Kent Winward
Jan 08, 2017 Kent Winward rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This memoir by vignette doesn't shy away from the dark corners, but the book description and title make the book appear to be more salacious than it really is. Sampsell quickly becomes someone you would like to meet and someone you feel like you understand as he plops down events from his past. In many ways this is one of the most enjoyable forms of memoir for me to read. It is the same literary technique that Charles Bukowski uses in his poetry and short stories. I would also be remiss if I did ...more
Riley Parker
Nov 09, 2009 Riley Parker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most daring pieces of non-fiction writing that I have ever read. Kevin Sampsell speaks about his life in a tone that is both intimate and slightly distant, never romanticizing his adolescence but rather focusing on moments of doubt, and embarrassment, and the seemingly mundane. As a character in his own story, Kevin is often too flawed to root for, but it is then, in the moments when he is the least likable, that he becomes the most relatable. Kevin Sampsell, from his own account, has ...more
Folks in the book world may recognize this author's name--he's Powell's Bookstore's event coordinator. He's written quite a bit in the past (LIT, Hobart, McSweeney's, Night Train just to name a few journals and web sites, as well as two short story collections of his own) and is the editor of Portland Noir. He's also the publisher of Future Tense Books. But this book is different--this is personal, about his family and his life as a young man that he calls "a memory experiment". Written in short ...more
Matt Briggs
Mar 04, 2010 Matt Briggs rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book takes what was a really solid little zine style book and turns into a fully fleshed memoir. This is perhaps the best book about Kennewick, WA that has ever and probably will ever be written. My grandmother lived in Ephrata, and the desolation and disconnected world of Eastern Washington it captured very well in Sampsell's short pieces about the house, and for some time basement, where his family lived while he grew up. The form of the book is really great. It directly addresses the amb ...more
Mar 03, 2012 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This has to be one of the oddest (and most interesting) memoirs I've ever read. Most memoirs I've seen seem to take some organizing viewpoint and filter everything through that, some pose that the author wants you to view their life through. Sampsell frames his work well through his experience of his father's death, but he is much more subtle about the connections between the vignettes. He seems to let the experiences speak for themselves, not acting like he's necessarily figured it all out and ...more
Amy Harper
Jun 03, 2010 Amy Harper rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
From beginning to end, I was moved by this unique and amalgamated story. The literary design caught my attention and held it firm. Each chapter is like a secret; an unveiling of narrative that sometimes punches in the gut and at other times shyly hands over a gift. Kevin Sampsell is an envoy for an expression of a certain generation. His is a voice at ends of the spectrum: buoyant and poignant, forthright and enigmatic. After reading A Common Pornography, I looked eagerly on the shelf for other ...more
Mar 09, 2010 Kaya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Full disclosure: I met Kevin last summer when I read at Powell's and he gave the the greatest introduction I heard on my entire book tour, and I've been a long time fan of his press, Future Tense. His memoir has an unusual structure; short, snapshot-style chapters that flow in and out of chronology, in and out of a kind of half dreamy, half nightmare small town reality. An unusual, striking book that stayed in my mind for days after I'd finished it.
Jan 31, 2010 Greg rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There's a great evocation of time and place here. But ultimately A Common Pornography is a self-billed "memory experiment," and for me, the fragmented stories of the book weren't enough to deliver the true emotional gut-punch you'd expect from a memoir about a family with a history of "incest, madness, and betrayal." Meh.
i actually have the lofi chappie version of these puppy, which is a beaut. kind of hard to imagine that sampsell blew it up into this much bigger and deeply affecting stew of revelation and dark family secrets and tales of awkward sex that he blew it up into.
Jan 05, 2014 Jeff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I grabbed this memoir, after reading this Portland author's novel "This is Between Us," and was not disappointed. Written in 1- and 2-page snippets, the book paints a fascinating portrait of growing up in a dysfunctional family in Tri-Cities, WA.
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I am the publisher of Future Tense Books in Portland, Oregon. I work at Powell's Books and also make collage art. I write reviews and articles for various papers and mags. I have a few books out. My newest short story collection, Creamy Bullets, came out in 2008 from Chiasmus Press. Portland Noir, a book of crime fiction that I edited for Akashic Books, came out in 2009. My memoir, A Common Pornog ...more
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“I realize that nothing is really normal. All it takes to alter normalcy is a death or a birth. Or just some misguided fear, love, or loneliness that never goes away.” 7 likes
“We wondered what was inside her heart” 3 likes
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