06. Uncle Shelby!

“Anybody can write a realistic account of his first post-graduation summer of growing up and making love, but to make such a story the stuff of legend, as Chabon has done here… takes something close to genius.”Playboy

This isn't a post about Michael Chabon; it couldn’t be, I haven’t even read the book yet. 
This is a post about Playboy.

I have incredibly mixed feelings regarding Playboy: it’s this giant contradiction that I can’t help but love. I never look at it as a magazine or as porn, it doesn’t feel like either. It feels like a fantastical ridiculous lifestyle. “Once a playmate, always a playmate.” 

And it is, it’s the perfect contradiction: nude pictures of “girl next door” types. The archetypes of “boy next door” and “girl next door” are epitomized by Becky Thatcher and Tom Sawyer in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. What mental imagery! Playboy is a fantasy of what if the Becky Thatchers of the world wanted to pose in magazines. There are old interviews with Hugh Hefner about the “good girl” image the playmates were required to maintain and the rules concerning their dating habits. I can’t even describe how that makes me feel, but it sure as hell interests me.

Three ridiculous reasons why I love Playboy:

1. The girls. Clearly not all of them. I do not know who all of them are, but there are several who just come across as so kind and rational and Canadian (and the whole not being ashamed of your sexuality is a big plus). Now I realize the Canadian thing might just seem to come out of left field, but being Canadian is something worth bragging about. Not all the playmates I like are Canadian. Bettie Page wasn’t, Jayne Mansfield wasn’t, Holly Madison isn’t, but Shannon Tweed is and Pamela Anderson is and reality television’s greatest shit disturber Jayde Nicole is. The main reasons I like them are fairly stupid: the house Pamela Anderson lived in when she was on MtV’s Cribs is the reason why I like her, it was so floral and lacey and throw pillows everywhere, it was like she was living in her great grandmama’s house. It was awesome. Shannon Tweed doesn’t even need to be explained, watch Family Jewels, watch Detroit Rock City, watch that episode of Murder She Wrote that she was on. She’s a badass.

2. Old Playboy issues. If you find a used book store that sells them, pick some up. The hairstyles alone are worth a gander, the jokes and comics are just as bad as they are now and the advertisements are superb. Both the general product ones (“Four out of every five doctors, prefer the smooth taste of Marlboros”) and the specifically Playboy ones: ‘What sort of man reads Playboy?” Answer: jetsetters.

Two Examples of Playboy humour
A smoking advertisement.
3. How else would I find out what to read? Popular book lists never help, I don’t want to read Dan Brown or SMeyers; Oprah lies to me all the time and the last time I asked the public librarian for a recommendation she gave me Stargirl. I was seventeen and completely insulted. Playboy has/d great authors writing for them.

A list of contributors of one issue of Playboy. Nabokov! Bradbury! King! Kerouac! Wodehouse! Shelby!
Illustration by Robert Andrew Parker that accompanied The Eye by Vladimir Nabokov
Visually, it's pretty stunning. 

The left is an article comparing Lincoln to JFK. The right is from the collected book of Shel Silverstein's travels for Playboy. Oh, this is slowly going to turn into a love letter for Shel Silverstein, but how can it not? A big part of why I like Playboy is really Shel Silverstein. I love that I grew up with his poems and that while his work for Playboy is different, some of it really isn't. I bought one issue just for his fable Lafcadio: the Lion Who Shot Back. His first children's book! Published in Playboy. Amazing. 

I read all of his books and poems when I was younger and I remember the day that the vice-principal came on the PA to say that Shel Silverstein had died. Whenever someone says "I should have...", in my head I hear ("all the would coulda shouldas laying in the sun, talking about the things they woulda coulda shoulda done, but all those would could shouldas all ran away and hid from one little did."). Shel Silverstein is a big deal. Shel Silverstein can make you like Playboy and let's not forget...

let's not forget. Shel Silverstein wrote "A Boy Named Sue". Do you hear that voice? It's like Allen Ginsberg unique and crazy good. If Shel Silverstein = Playboy, then I'm listening to what Playboy has to say about authors. So, come at me, Michael Chabon. I'm taking you on. 

Oh and back to that Canadian thing. Best (and least Scandalous) Issue Cover Ever: 


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  2. thank you so much

  3. The feminist in me has a bit of a hard time with Playboy, whilst the vintage-crazy side of me LOVES all the old issues - such lovely photos.

    I'd never go and buy a new one, and the whole "playmate" philosophy makes me want to throw a brick at Hugh Hefner - still the old issues look really cool though.

  4. Hef disgusts me. At one point he was dating twins and it is all I can think of now when I hear his name.

    The list of why I dislike Playboy would be a lot longer. New Playboys are like Times Square: everything about them is just so fake and obvious and it hurts to look at.

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  6. Ooo la la! How sexy. We <3 Playboy, too. xo style, she wrote

  7. Great post!

  8. I LOVE Detroit Rock City, yes I feel 'porn' magazines today really kind of miss the point of the original. Theres a vintage shop where I visit regularly and they have the best 70s penthouse collection, and the images could be in vogue! I swear! The modesty and classiness has been lost and women's bodies have since lost their value.