Since this blog is about everything that’s mod-related and I get to read about, I’ve decided to play with reviewing books on the subject I got to read and found interesting. Coincidentally, I can start with a book that, for me, started it all, so here’s the first, purely subjective, book review:
When in spring 2003 I got to read Modcon by Shannon Larratt for the first time, my initial reaction was horror, soon to be changed into fascination. Coming from a pretty strict Catholic background, with all its lovely consequences, I simply was not prepared for feelings, desires and experiences described in this book.
My copy was a softcover of quite a big format and rather pale pictures that showed all the graphic details nevertheless. Pictures illustrating the procedures described were very intense and they shook me quite hard but it was Shannon Larratt’s writing that made even stronger, and yet very different, impression on me. He was both inquisitive and subtle, revealing and yet leaving a huge margin of personal space of his interlocutors untouched. Shock value aside, he was able to keep their dignity unscathed and even though shocked with the images I was, the words “freak” or “sick” never crossed my mind while reading the book.
Back then I was making my first steps into the realm of body modification, even this mainstream kind, let alone the extreme one, so Modcon served me also as a kind of “who’s who” book on the subject. Such names as Jesse Jarrell (about whose work I would love to learn more even now), Steve Haworth or Blair were still unknown to me at the time and, just like many more times in the future, Shannon’s work helped me see and learn more on the subject.
The ‘old’ Modcon book was not only about extreme male genital work and a few pictures and short notes about ‘famous’ practitioners but it was also a gallery of other people – less known body modification artists, heavily modified people, amputees and thoughts behind their choices. An interesting, even if often scary, journey into all these people’s minds and an opportunity to trace their thoughts and feelings etched onto their bodies.
It was the first book on body modification I got to read and at the time I was not aware that soon this subject would become one of my own main interests and pursuits. A few years later, after many hours of tattooing and with scarifications, large gauge dermal punching and suspending under my belt, I consider it a nice coincidence that the Modcon book is was available again, in a new, improved in my humble opinion, format.
The contents did not change much but a new preface and a biographical note reflect the changes that happened over time. It is a strange feeling to browse through the book after a few years and all the changes the body modification industry had undergone. Certainly it is a totally different, who knows if for better?, industry than even only a few years ago and yet Shannon Larratt’s book is still valid and fascinating to read. Even if the feelings and thoughts of the people portrayed in the book changed over time, it is still a valuable document of people and their body modifications and times.
The format of the book is different and much better at that – a smaller, more compact book with brighter and more vivid pictures, Shannon’s reflections on the change of times and people and our own awareness of the passage of time make it even more interesting to read than a few years ago when everything was very new to me.
The writing still holds strong and, after having read so many articles published on the subject of body modifications and possible reasons behind them, it still remains respectful to the people who decided to tell Shannon (and, consequently, us) about their experiences with the whole emotional ballast that goes with them which really is important, especially now when the modified are so often accused of wanting to shock others, being reckless and irresponsible or just of following the celebs’ example. Shannon’s interlocutors were usually those who preferred to keep their modifications private and personal, who went for them after having put much thought into their decisions and who accepted how life-changing and lasting their modifications actually are.
The book may remain more or less the same and yet it reads quite different now; it certainly did not lose any of its strange and fascinating appeal and it gained even more of historical value. On a very personal, subjective level it also shows me how much my own approach to body modification had changed.