The Story of a Sex Worker

March 06, 2006

Coming Clean

I don’t know how many people are coming back here, but I want to come clean. "God’s Wife" is a novel I wrote five years ago. My name’s Henry Baum. This may disappoint some people. A lot of readers seemed to get really attached to Shirley, which was a great thing. But some people might call this fiction bordering on lying.

The story is this. I published a novel in my early twenties. "God’s Wife" was my follow up novel. It took me three years to write and it nearly broke me. It was a difficult novel to write. The book didn’t get published which was hard because I poured a lot of my soul into the book. Last summer, I discovered blogging and thought why the fuck not? Blogging can become a new kind of fiction where a writer completely inhabits a character.

I had no idea that the blog would get so much attention. It was an experiment. I wrote to a few people--as Shirley--and they linked to her and people started reading. This last thing is what makes me feel dishonest and why the blog was leaving a bad taste in my mouth. I felt like I was taking it too far. She even got published in a collection of non-fiction essays--the cover is on the right. I hope that revealing this as fiction will not reflect badly on the other writing in the book. Shirley’s just one chapter. Please check it out. I recently released the novel, North of Sunset. It’s the book I wrote after "God’s Wife."

Overall, blogging the novel was a very good experience. It was flattering that people thought she was real. I guess the fact that she could be real was enough. Believe it or not, I got insulted when people would attack her for being a work of fiction. The comments I liked best were those people who said, who cares if it’s fiction or not, I’m enjoying it.

So that’s it. I published the first part of the novel because I couldn’t get it published. Thanks a lot for reading and commenting. If you want to read my own personal blog, I write at Ash Tree.


  • At 6:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    ouch. well I feel stupid. good luck with the book

  • At 3:06 PM, Blogger cribcage said…

    Your name's Henry. You're a writer. You emailed people claiming you were a female porn star named Shirley...and it wasn't until people began linking to your blog that you felt "dishonest"?

  • At 7:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    No one cares. You're a lousy writer.

  • At 8:45 AM, Blogger Henry Baum said…

    I was waiting for the "no one cares" comment. It was a given.

    You’re a lousy writer.

    No, I’m not. Feel better?

  • At 9:56 PM, Blogger Loreleilee said…

    the shirley shave story always facinated me. It was always pretty clear to me that it was in some way fictionalized. I had guessed it was the some-what fictionalized memories of a bored housewife.

    whatever it was I was always utterly facinated by the story and your captivating writing. shirley was a wonderful character and I was really drawn in by her story. I was really sad when you stopped writing it.

    I would love to read your books. did you say that you've written shirley's story? did it get published? I would *love* to read more of it.

  • At 5:57 PM, Blogger Henry Baum said…

    Thanks for the comment, Loreleilee. Mostly seen negativity so far. This is the most of "God’s Wife" that’s ever been published. It’s only part one of the novel. In part two she moves to New York, strips, becomes a prostitute. Part three she moves to Vermont and joins a religious/revolutionary cult. The book takes a more far out turn. In the end she becomes a kind of godess commune leader. I had an agent for the book who sent it out with no luck. The novel I’ve just published is about Hollywood.

  • At 9:23 AM, Blogger Loreleilee said…

    That is so unbelievable to me. I guess everyone responds differently, but for some reason I can't quite understand, I really identified with Shirley. She seemed so real. I suppose I'm not a literary critic though, just a normal person.

    Have you ever thought about releasing the story as an ebook? Anything but letting it languish on your harddrive. I just can't believe that it wouldn't find an audience.

    How many books have you published? I don't want to miss any.

  • At 10:23 AM, Blogger Henry Baum said…

    Thanks for the encouragement. Means a lot. I’ve published two novels--Oscar Caliber Gun, released with different titles in the U.K. and France. I’ve just self-released my novel, North of Sunset. "God’s Wife" was written between those two books. Parts 2 and 3 need some more work before I release the book. I may be releasing a novella I wrote as an ebook pretty soon. I haven't experimented with ebooks yet.

  • At 6:16 PM, Blogger Doom/Blondie said…


    I looked back to see how many comments I'd left... And what I'd said.

    I cannot honestly remember if I thought this blog was bogus or not... there are quite a few out there that seem too well written to be casual diaries by regular people. But often one has to give the benefit of the doubt. To rampage from blog to blog questionning people's integrity is just bad manners.

    The shame is, that in my opinion, the appeal of your blog was that it appeared real... to see that it is a work of fiction suddenly forces the reader to judge it from a totally different point of view.

    Each supposedly real event suddenly can become contrived or melodramatic - Truth can indeed be stranger than fiction - yet suddenly the dimemmas and occurences lose their potency when revealed to be fiction.

    But it was well constructed and well put together - would I have read it if I knew it to be fiction?

    probably not.

    But who cares?

    Peace and Love


  • At 6:20 PM, Blogger Doom/Blondie said…


    You want to make a movie out of any stories then drop me a line.

  • At 12:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The Best thing about being in love is that its fun. you get a best friend who just happens to be as much fun horizontal as he or she is vertical ;) remember that


  • At 4:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I really wish that I had just deleted the link instead of "just checking in one more time", in the hope that Shirley Shave had not been killed. I would have rather had her best wishes in my mind instead of dissapointed wishes for you.

  • At 11:44 PM, Blogger Chym-a said…

    I wonder what it would feel like for a male writer to pretend to be a female sex worker, who seems to be very accepting where she is situated and not challenging for the situation in any sense. I am a real sexworker and a sloppy blogger, so I admired any sexworker who could blog regularly.

    It could have been nicer to mention that it was a fictional series of writing done by a male author. If you did, no one would have claimed any exploitative element in your writing, if reduced to be a voyerism by somebody who is writing from somewhere safe. Given writing is to excercise your imagination and it is not necessarily supopsed to be based on a real story all the time, this is another commonality in the blog world and the current literary scene, I personaly was not surprised and it does not matter, because all that matters is the quality of the writing. Shirly was a very accepting and forgiving, almost to the extent of being resigned; there were times that I was puzzled to find her voice to be unusially passive. I believe I can use your writing to analize what men's pshych is like in term of imagining a woman's psyche, especially when she is a sex worker.

  • At 10:41 AM, Blogger Anastasia said…

    I think you've basically proven that anyone, within the Blogosphere can successfully maintain a charade and/or make people believe (or those who don't live or experience these lifestyles)that the writer was female. All writing aside, it's no different the deceptive measures taken by recent writers. So it makes me question as to why this tactic is employed. Is it a case of feeling insecure that a story won't be accepted from a male author (writing about a female character in first person?) that you wrote it in this manner and operated on a reader's personal response (made it into an online 'journal'?).

    See if you did this (in the current publishing climate, that has seen a couple of authors deceiving readers and publishers) after publication, after thousands of books were sold, you would only be a 'one novel' wonder because authors of this caliber are somewhat blacklisted by publishers because of the backlash.

    It's one thing for a story to be fictional from the outset and another thing to lead a reader on, the latter is what's known as deception, and readers don't usually don't appreciate it.

    My opinion? Only amateurs deceive readers. By 'amateur', I don't refer to the writing style or grammatical skill but the mentality behind the deception or need to deceive a reader.

    I actually clicked the link to this page thinking there would be an update, and I was going to link the referring blog 'Ash Tree' but as a result of the revelation made, I'm not particularly intrested anymore.

  • At 12:03 PM, Blogger Anastasia said…

    'the comments you liked best' were the ones that didn't put you in the awkward position that you ought to be in.

    And your ego is astounding. You know how many millions of people write? You won't be the first and you won't be the last person, and that doesn't make you the 'best' writer because even great talented writers who hoax have a limited lifespan.

  • At 8:03 PM, Blogger Henry Baum said…

    Frankly, I don’t think this is that big a deal. I couldn’t get the novel published so I published it as a blog. It’s unlike the recent scandals because I didn’t make one dollar off the blog. I side with James Frey in the scandal. It’s the publishing industry’s fault that they prize memoirs over fiction and don’t give a lot of fiction a chance. No memoir is 100% true, so it shouldn’t make a difference. No fictional character is 100% false either. Shirley’s supposed to alive, she’s supposed to be real. There’s some truth to her story, or else nobody would have paid attention.

    When do I ever call myself the "best" writer? You know what? It was fun to post the novel as a blog. You call it a "disgrace." It’s a blog, a writing experiment. I can understand some feelings of betrayal, but there are far more disgraceful things. This blog doesn’t hurt anybody--the same argument people make about porn. I admit to feeling guilty about the duplicity but it was also satisfying to finally get readers for a book which took a lot of years to write and a lot of work.

  • At 11:08 PM, Blogger Anastasia said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • At 11:10 PM, Blogger Anastasia said…

    Talk to the hand Henry or better yet, talk to your 'ego'.

  • At 9:44 PM, Blogger sinsulita said…

    I always enjoyed the blog. I shouldn't be surprised to hear it was fiction, but I'm not disappointed either. I was drawn in.

  • At 9:08 AM, Blogger Aura de soles said…

    I'm Aura de Soles, an spanish sex women. All in this blog is very interesting.


  • At 10:42 PM, Blogger 00goddess said…

    I don't think anyone intelligent thought it was real. It was incredibly unrealistic- didn't you bother to do any research?

    I think you HAVE been dishonest. Especially in allowing yourself to be published in a non-fiction collection. You should be ashamed.

  • At 8:57 AM, Blogger Henry Baum said…

    Goddess, relax. You’re insulting everyone who thought she was real. But I’m not going to say you should be ashamed. More on the negative reaction to this here.

  • At 7:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Nice job, I have to admit I was taken in.

  • At 4:12 PM, Blogger Loreleilee said…

    Wow, I'm so shocked that people are so upset. I think it's sort of a bizarre mindset to take at face value anything one reads. I never do. I don't have a basic expectation of pure truth when I read anything, be it blog, news, or whatever. Even if I had thought it 100 percent real, I might have been a little let down, as truth is always more interesting then fiction. But I would never have had this offended,
    entitled reaction. Get over it, people.

    I think the fact that so many people are furious about this shows that it was a great story, one that touched people. I wish it could see daylight as a hardcopy book. I never saw the hassle over James Frey's book. It certainly didn't seem half as plausable as this story. It made for good reading, but it just wasn't believable. This was.

  • At 12:23 PM, Anonymous RC said…

    Phenomenal. I think it is great. While I don't particularly care for porn-type writing, I can appreciate the creativity that you took in creating this character Shirley. As a middle age man, you had to 'become' a woman, a porn star at that. The fact that so many people identified with her is proof of that fact.
    The interesting thing is, would you have taken as much shit, if you were a woman writer pretending to be a male gigalo? Most likely not.

    Great work, and, 'You got me', it was a fun ride, and the ending makes it even more fun. I like a good plot twist.

  • At 5:43 AM, Anonymous Jacob Hugart said…

    I suspect that even if you had stated in your initial post that this was fiction, some people would have believed it. There are people who think Bridges of Madison County is a work of non-fiction, or at least based on real characters and events.

    Part of the appeal was that Shirley Shaved was an insight to a world few of us have the chance to interact with. Many of us has seen porn; few of us have knowingly encountered professional performers. Shirley's blog gave us a chance to connect to that world, and also a chance to reinforce or alter our ideas about that world. For some people, to discover that Shirley was fiction was a betrayal of their attachment to her and that worldview.

    As for yourself, Henry, you certainly aren't the first person who had an idea get out of control. I'm reminded of the New Wave story, where a high school teacher demonstrated how fascism works, and the Brown Eyes/Blue Eyes teacher who redefined racism for elementary school students. In both cases, things got out of hand.

    The fact that you brought the truth to light was good. People were concerned for Shirley...or rather, for the Shirley persona. Anyone who posts on-line adopts some sort of mask to wear when interacting with others. We do this in real-life, but not to the extent we do it on-line. People adopt pseudonyms, and write differently than they might speak. I've worked in computers for 25 years, and seen people attempt things on-line because they felt it wasn't really themself, that there was no connection between the "real" person and the persona on-line. This invariably failed.

    Being where I am in my life, I can see this as part of the integration-of-self which is a main task in the mid-life stage of our lives. In much the same way as our teenage years are about defining ourselves as adults, mid-life is a re-examination of that definition, and whether it is suitable as we move forward. Some people stubbornly cling to an image of themselves that was shaped before they knew how to drive, as if that self-conception should work for the rest of their lives; these are the people who experience a mid-life crisis.

    I do not know if anyone has tried to find a parallel 'crisis' or phase for people who dwell on-line. That is, do people initially choose a limited persona for themselves, and then outgrow it and attempt to integrate that persona into their whole personality? It may be age-related, or experience-related. And some people may persist in showing themselves as someone they are not.

    Thank you for the mask and the revelation.

  • At 10:33 PM, Anonymous Suzan said…

    I have not read your story, nor do I know anything about you other than doing a search for Gods wife. The reason for my search is I am an alternative healer and doing research for my thesis for my masters in metaphysics. If you research Egyptian religion you will find that this title infact did exist. Through what I consider masterbation meditation this came to me before the research of proof.

    so I just want to say even though I have not read your book I would like to comment on the caption itself as it truly is an energy you wished to portray that although the story my be fiction the fact is it was a real status to hold.

    My personal experience with this energy has been more than a delight. So I will look forward to finding the time to read this story to see if any of it can fit into my scientific spiritual findings upon sexual healing.

  • At 7:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It was a good read. Possibly more fun when pretending to be real, so no crits there either.

    Good Luck!

  • At 8:19 PM, Blogger PlatinumPleasurePalace.com said…

    Kudos! And much success II you!



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