Book: Selfish, Little: The Annotated Lesley Ann Downey
Author: Peter Sotos
Type of Book: Non-fiction, pornography, indescribable
Why I Consider This Book Odd: Peter Sotos wrote it. If that is not enough, just Google his name and it will all become clear.
Availability: I have one of the 1000 copies Void Books released, but it looks like Void has since rereleased the book (at a much more reasonable price, as well). You can get a copy here:
Comments: This is not going to be a coherent review. There is no way it can be.
The first thing that needs to be said about this book is that it is not an analysis of the murder of Lesley Ann Downey. It is not a biography about the 10-year-old child who died at the hands of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, the trickster and the moron who committed what came to be called the Moors Murders. They took pictures of the little girl, naked and bound, and recorded her as she spoke, begging them to let her go. It was one of the most outrageous murders in the 20th century, the sheer horror of the media remnants of the crime surpassing even the pictures Harvey Glatman took of his victims. It took Manson to top the duo, in terms of shock and fetish value of the murder victim. It shocks me, the number of people online who picked up this book thinking it would be either a fictionalized account of the girl’s life or her biography. Despite the title, there is remarkably little of Lesley in this book, in terms of cold, hard words. But as Sotos makes clear, she permeates every page. She is his muse.
This book grew out of his epilogue to Ian Brady’s load of horseshit, The Gates of Janus: Serial Killing and Its Analysis, which I reviewed on this site. Sotos was the only one, it seems, who had Brady’s number. Somehow, knowing that enabled me to read this book a little easier. Not much. Just a little.
Sotos is hard for me to read. He is relentless. I have to put him down and come back to him. I can never read him in one go. He upsets me. He makes me sick. At times, I do not understand him and when I do, it bothers me because it makes me wonder about the sickness that lurks in my own soul. But I comfort myself that what is happening to me is that Sotos is provoking a reaction, not a realization, which is why I think this book exists.
I expose myself to Peter Sotos for the same reasons I expose myself to any number of artistic darknesses: I have to. It is a compulsion and one I gave up fighting years ago. Sotos leaves me bewildered, unsure about what I just read. Parts of the book are unclear. Was it truth, a remembrance of actual sexual couplings? Fantasy? Is he describing himself or is it a fiction? And would knowing the truth make any difference?
I don’t know.
I flat out do not know.
Sotos is notorious for many reasons, but chief among them is that he once produced a ‘zine called Pure. In issue 2, he used copies of actual child pornography from a magazine and was arrested for obscenity and possession of child pornography. Only the second charge stuck and he received a suspended sentence. Is he a pedophile? There is a common misconception that he is. As in everything else in life, that is subject to definition. I know others violently disagree with this assessment, but in my head, until you behave inappropriately with a child, what exists in your brain is not enough to label you a pedophile. There are those who think that his use of images and his obsession with children like Lesley and Masha Allen (whose story he included in Show Adult and it made some foam at the mouth and boycott a book that had a release of only 113 copies) make him a de facto pedophile. Since his arrest for possessing kiddie porn, and the fact that he continues to write such transgressive fiction, it seems likely he has a huge target on his back and would be arrested very quickly if he did assault a child. But even though I say he is not a pedophile, he exists in a mental realm that will disturb even the most ardent freak. If he doesn’t disturb you, as the kids say, you’re doing it wrong.
Sotos is a transgressive writer, a real transgressive writer in a world where mainstream writers like Douglas Coupland and Bret Easton Ellis are still considered transgressive. Being strange, being quirky, being sick is not enough in my mind to be transgressive. You have to horrify or you have to provoke, and people misunderstand what it really means to provoke, thinking it a cheap shot for short reaction, but I am talking about real provocation here. You may have to hit your reader between the eyes with a sledgehammer and hope they see what you wrote when they recover from the blow. In this, Sotos succeeds. The problem is that when I see what he wrote, I filter it how I see fit and who the hell knows if my thoughts are correct.
In reading Sotos, you must understand that you will read that which cannot be unread. You must have the stomach for it and it is not his fault if you don’t. Morality is not needed here. Just a willingness to see what you will never be able to unsee.
In my brain, even extreme literature has a middle road of experience. You experience the art at the edge of reason, then come to the center to see what it is you experienced. Even mainstream fiction has a middle road, the place where meaning is clear, if banal.
I put reading Selfish, Little into the same cannot unsee category that I put Throbbing Gristle’s song “Hamburger Lady.” I still recall the first time I listened to it, on a loop, appalled, fascinated. Sotos fascinates me in the same, sick vein. There is a horror to it all that enthralls me, makes me read, makes me endure when I want to put the book down and never pick it up again.
But Throbbing Gristle’s middle road, and indeed the middle road for Genesis P-orridge, is far different than Sotos’s middle road. After hearing “Hamburger Lady,” I understood how very terrible it can be to be alive. Furthermore, Throbbing Gristle’s frontperson, P-orridge himself, or herself, as I am not sure which is correct anymore, became another sex, a third sex, and however unsettling it may be seeing him with breasts and plumped lips, he shows us there are many ways of being human. (Throbbing Gristle also performed a song about one of the Moors victims called “Very Friendly.” Just mentioning it so we can come full circle in a way… “Ian Brady and Myra fucking Hindley, very very friendly…”)
But when I look down Sotos’ middle road, the place I must come to digest and make sense out of his words, all I see is Sotos. Sometimes there is a greater truth, but mostly, it is just him. He is less coming to terms with the world around him than coming to terms with himself and it is an intensely personal process that has little universality to it. Sotos is not here to show you transgression, though he is transgressive. He is here to show you himself, however provocative he is. All you see at the end of the middle road of contemplation is Peter Sotos. This is not a fault nor is it a condemnation. It just is what it is. You yourself have to decide if Sotos himself is enough of a transgressive epiphany.
Sotos wrote this book to explain himself, in a way, to make clearer his obsessions:
Every book I’ve ever written begins and ends with Lesley Ann Downey. Every single one. Every thing I’ve ever fucked has been a stab at the idea of her somehow in my pathetically happy hands. Not as flesh and hair and precisely examined childhood but as simple, personally degrading pornography.
Selfish, Little is also one of many places where Sotos examines how the creation of victims and the media role in child abduction, rape and murder actually feeds the psyches of those who are aroused by or commit such crimes, that the media is often responsible for creating the monsters that feed the machine, and he’s probably correct on that point. But to get to that point, one has to consume a lot of vulgarity and sickness.
Is it worth understanding Sotos’ mind and what makes him tick? I cannot answer that question but I suspect the real answer lies in the fact that I read him at all. This is not the first Sotos book I have read. It won’t be the last.
But at times, this book aroused a visceral anger in me, a need to find Sotos and wrap my fingers around his throat and ask him point blank what was real and what was not, what goes on in his head and what comes out of his hands, even though I think I already know the answer.
Take, for example, this:
She’s begging them now. Not to undress her. Her mother even heard it. But how vulnerable is a child then. How much more vulnerable. What degree was she cold and available and attempting to cover herself up. Who was fucking reaching for exactly what when. Cunt. She was begging the adults. She’s begging for a chance to explain something she that she hasn’t even figured out yet. Just a pause. A wait. So she can plot her innocent little personality into a convincing argument to fool the adults of her honest and purity. This simply must happen. She absolutely needs to go now. There is no time for this. She must be home or her mother will be mad at her. Which was the best excuse she could come up with. And correct. She knew it wasn’t a total lie. And mum, ironically, bled safety into that mind then. She now just wants a little child’s chance at pity. She wants a little child’s chance to talk to them and tell them something that might – might – make them stop touching her. Please. She asks. She begs. She cajoles. She asks for just a minute. But wants more. Dirty liar. Dirty next step. Dirty little mind raging all her lessons into summations and bad guesses and pathetically lost chances. Dirty little bad sexy mistakes. Sweetheart. Sweetheart chances, Sweetheart naked chances with fingers all over her plans and mistakes and her open mouth and those little words on top of those fucking, fucking pictures. Where all she fucking does is fucking lay there. Alone. Though. She calls out for mummy. Or she calls out to her mummy. Or she may be calling fucking Myra Hindley mummy now. Anyone older must have her best protected safety in mind and should simply be her mummy right fucking now.
It is infuriating, and it is meant to be, but this nasty ramble goes somewhere, if you are willing to continue reading.
It goes on…
Her dirty filthy filled lowlife trash mouth. Calls Ian Brady dad as well. And she begs him to stop touching her skinny little body as if the little rat hadn’t been touched ever before. Like it’s the worst fucking thing in the world. As bad as the threats and yelling and worry about wherever could this go from here, darling. Little rat. All dolled-up naked as fuck. Like a little naked rat. Little fucking holed-out rat. They weren’t shoving a cock in her mouth and rubbing her back and her chest like it was going to be a good blow-job and she had great little tits there someday soon. Like a child promises. Like you don’t act like you want you filthy fucking fat pig. You fucking disease. You reactionary beast staring at her absence rather than her attributes.
You almost miss it. You almost don’t see the shift, and it doesn’t last long before he is back, thinking about naked Lesley, abused, the little rat who occupies his entire mind, but there it is, it happens. He spells it out, the realization that he is the filthy pig, the disease, the reactionary beast, and that all the eyes that looked upon this scene with relish in newspapers, that those ears that avidly listened to Lesley’s cries on tape, are the beast too, looking with horror at what happened to this little girl and seeing their own depravity.
And in all of this, after explaining how Lesley was a manipulative rat, he gives us this:
She expected more of how she had grown up till then. She expected maybe pity. But concern, care and, at least, above all, help.
God, maybe I am so conflicted about reading Sotos because I resent this yanking around he does, a revelation of the sickness with a dose of humanity when I least expect it. But it’s necessary in order for him to show how Lesley is a canvas upon which are painted illegal sexual acts, perverse interest in crime, hypocritical media examination and the genuine desire to help a child. She is what we have all made her, and she is what Sotos has made her. She is all things at once because the media still pokes at her corpse and because men like Sotos cannot get her out of their heads.
And then he makes sense, complete sense, and you understand, for a moment at least, where he was going with this wallow:
In fact, a danger arises in that one can easily see how the public’s recalcitrant lust for the murder and rape and recording of Lesley Ann Downey could create the misunderstanding that a more specifically degenerate interest in her could be quietly acceptable or benign. Or that the responsive media fascination is a signpost for perverts to avoid help and instead find their ugly delusions more appropriate in light of the public’s greater denials. That picky details are much bigger than petty… That there’s more honesty than facts or proof… Nothing is as terrible as child pornography. Just like they said. I still absolutely believe that.
Sotos understands, as he says elsewhere in the book, that the media and those interested in Lesley have raped her over and over again without ever touching a hair on her head. Which makes ironically hilarious the people pissed off that this book is not a detailed look at Lesley’s life, because Sotos calls them all out as perverts. Perhaps that’s why they were so angry.
Sotos also goes into excruciating detail about how he, or rather the narrator, has a collection of pictures of a specific little girl, a little girl he knows, a child he has watched grow up. Harmless pictures of a gawky child who wears swimsuits and sits awkwardly. All arms and legs, flat chested, long hair messy in that way that only a pre-teen’s hair can be. I cannot recall now if he masturbates on her photos or if it is just implication that he does. He speaks of how many perverts masturbate onto innocuous photos of children, that pornography can simply be an innocent photo assigned sexual intent by the viewer. We know this, I think. Don’t we? I think we do. But perhaps it is a revelation to some.
After reading that section, however, about all the masturbation onto photos, the cover of the book changed for me. All those little dots that look like the little round slivers left when you punch holes into paper suddenly became semen drops.
But then there are other wallows. Wallows that are not as clear to me as the wallow with Lesley. The wallow with the man with Down’s Syndrome in the sling, all the encounters with fat men in restrooms, the shit, the blood, the cum on the floor, the gaping wet holes in bodies, in walls. I became angry too because I don’t think I wanted to get pulled down into that depth of self loathing. Sotos mocks himself sometimes with humor, and denies that he is as full of loathing as he appears in print, but I don’t buy it. There is some serious self hatred in these pages, in these almost stream-of-consciousness fantasies. Peter Sotos borders on despicable and and the subject matter, by its very nature, is going to sicken 99.9% of the people on this planet. It certainly sickened me.
So why did I read it? What does it say about me that I kept reading when, as I say above, it upsets me, makes me ill at times? Why do I not declare this book a load of filthy trash and burn it and warn others to give it a wide berth?
I don’t know. And that I don’t know, that I wonder, that I have such an extremity of emotion during and after reading, makes this book worth reading, I think. I have in me a kernel of respect for Sotos for being willing to reveal his mind in order to prove the points he wants to prove.
This book also forces the reader – well, true readers and not just ideologues and pearl-clutchers – to examine what they are about. There is no way for me to read Sotos and not wonder why I read Sotos. There is no way for me to read him and not wonder why I know so much about serial killers. There is no way to read him and not wonder about your own motivations in the things that you do and think. And I can tell you from where I sit that this is an uncomfortable feeling.
Still, in spite of all the wallow and the internal contemplation, at the end, I remember this quote best:
I don’t think I could bear it if anything happened to this child. She is worth protecting. I wouldn’t be able to think of anything else.
I have always had a lot of sympathy for the devil, so to speak. What does this mean to have this grotesque content in your head and yet also be the person who cannot bear anything happening to the child in the photos. If you read that line and still think Sotos is a pedophile, or some sort of apologist for harm to children, you have missed the point of this book.
But even though I think will read Sotos again, in fact, I know I will, it will be a long time before I pick up my copy of Lazy. I need Sotos in small doses lest I become inoculated to him. I don’t want this sort of foulness ever to become normal for me.
42 thoughts on “Selfish, Little: The Annotated Lesley Ann Downey by Peter Sotos”
I just finished this book an hour or so ago. I enjoyed your review, like you I am sure to read Sotos again and I will keep coming back to him. After this some Dennis Cooper will come as light relief.
Yes, it says a lot about each of us. How many tomes do we think of Lesley other than the child which is gagged and naked. Disturbing. I had never thought of it before. We seem to think of ourselves as so superior to the Moors Murderers – but . . .
If we thought of Lesley as th elittle girl at the fair, or with her mam, itwould not be the same as thinking ‘The child was gagged and naked’. Lesley was sacrificed for us all – to apease our libido and cruel facination wth those we feel we can condemn – sinde they ahve gone to places we could easily hav egone.
Ben, as you likely know, Cooper is someone who has championed Sotos’ body of work as necessary. He has the same trepidations as I do, it seems, about the approach Sotos takes but cannot deny the way it makes him question his own work and motivations. Me, I had to follow this up with a vampire novel then some old hat conspiracy. My brain toilet still isn’t flushed. I just… I wish I understood better why I am compelled to read Sotos, but I find it comforting others read him, too.
Ron, make no mistake – we are superior to the Moors Murderers and I know this after reading Ian Brady’s pseudo-psychological nonsense in The Gates of Janus. To be open and honest about one’s darkness is no small thing, and neither Brady nor Hindley had any core of honesty in them, only base desires and a need to trick, deceive and hide. Sotos is superior to both in admitting his darkness, and anyone who questions their own darkness can say the same. I have no idea who you are but having put your level of thought into the meaning of Lesley as society has consumed her image, you are, in fact, superior to Ian Brady and those who mindlessly consume her to satisfy urges they cloak.
In a way, if I think of Lesley as the girl at the fair or the girl with her mother, it breaks my heart even more, what happened to her. Sometimes I think I harden myself to this sort of imagery because otherwise my heart would never stop bleeding. It’s an interesting thought and one I did not have until I considered your comment – that perhaps I keep Lesley in my mind as the victim because to recognize her as the little girl who was debased and killed is too hard. In a way, in my head it may be a form of dishonesty, too, not seeing Lesley as she was instead of what Brady and Hindley did to her. I appreciate your comment a lot. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Yes, this is all very well. But the truth is, we allow Brady to reduce this poor child to a memory of something dreadful – not the person she was. The media feed on this sort of thing all the time, feeding the public’s morbid salaciousness. I guess this is what Sotos is saying, whilst at the same time admitting to his own facination with the details.
Really disturbing to each of us who read such items, if we are honest. What search terms did we use to get here? Undomfortable question? I bet it was closer to ‘The child was gagged and naked” than “Lesley Ann Downey, dutiful daughter”, or “Lesley Ann Downey, apple of her mother’s eye”. Regulars here are, of course, exepmt. It’s a symptom of the power of the media, and really disturbing – becuase it impinges on our own nature.
Ron, sorry I’m behind on my replies, but your comment made me wonder how indeed it is that people are finding this review of mine. I get a lot of hits for Ian Brady and I assumed that his name lead people to my review of The Gates of Janus as well as here. So I checked my stats for April and determined hits that could only have been generated by this review:
“harvey glatman victim photos”
“genesis p orridge pedophile”
“genesis p-orridge pathological liar”
“harvey glatman photographs”
“harvey glatman pictures”
“peter sotos blogspot
“peter sotos prison pedophile”
“peter sotos selfish little”
“peter sotos sociopath”
“peter sotos writing examples”
“what did lesley ann downey say on tapes”
“what was the object that ian brady and myra hindly keept tellin”
March read much the same except someone searched for “Masha Allen Blowjob.” Frankly, that out-disturbed me in terms of sheer “oh fuck” value than did any other search string that led people to this entry.
I think, in a way, that your point may be the real reason why I was and still am in a lesser manner obsessed with serial killers. Men like Ian Brady don’t just obliterate life. They alter memory for the masses. A person is rendered a humiliated victim for eternity. I think fear of such a thing happening to me or anyone I know, being rendered permanently a victim forever, is horrifying.
I’d like to add the simple “Peter Sotos Pedophile” to that list. I ended up here trying to figure out what people thought the motivation behind his work was and how many people categorize him as a pedophile. Your review is extremely interesting, and I believe that based upon it I might for the first time entirely avoid the work of a writer who comes so highly recommended. Maybe the distinction you make regarding his behavior dictates only that it would be unfair to call him a pederast, pedophile is perhaps less clear.
Vince, your comment is very interesting to me because in the course of my education and reading, pederasty is a term I don’t come across much. Reading some about it indicates to me that a pederast is a person who literally has sex with a child, in most common usage, a little boy. You of course already knew that, but it is a new distinction for me. In that case, I believe Sotos is not a pederast (and this definition is limiting because from what I have read pederasty is a term that describes adult male on boy sexual abuse, leaving women and little girls out of the equation).
If one considers pedophilia the action of fantasizing about sex with children, then one can call Sotos a pedophile. I don’t consider him one. For me action is key. I tend only to use that word for people who actually have sexual activity with children. It is a hazy place, this area of thought, to be sure. Sotos was arrested for possession of child pornography, likely purchased before American laws changed in regards to such material. I know many who will say consumption of child pornography, regardless of why a person has it or how they used it, is a de facto act of sexual assault of a child, and I find it hard at times to disagree with that assessment. Yet I still don’t consider Sotos a pedophile. I think personal reaction is all any of us can go on when considering his work and those reactions vary wildly.
But all of his books are rough. His motivations are raw, perverse, sickening and even when they have social merit, Sotos’ words are hard to read. I fully understand why anyone would give this a miss.
Thanks for reading, Vince, and thanks for commenting.
Thanks for that. Yes, I recognise what you say. I agree with Sotos saying “I don’t think I could bear it if anything happened to this child. She is worth protecting.” I would not hurt a fly – and would give my life to protect a child like Lesley. Yet there must be something primative in me to follow the search terms you have outlined. What evolutionary purpose must it serve? Why am I engaged by the thought of Lesley Ann Downey – degraded and naked – subject to the evil will of Ian Brady?
Ron, please forgive the amount of time it took me to respond. My site got updated and I think I didn’t get comment notification for a bit. A new comment here made me aware of this comment.
As a woman, I used to feel very tortured about how dark and sickening my mind could be at times. Because like you, I don’t know if there is an evolutionary function to it, and in a very real sense, knowing the things I know and reading the books I read make me a mental and emotional outsider. Most women don’t dwell on this subject matter, and while my mind doesn’t focus so much on Lesley as it does on Myra (her willingness to become a monster fascinates me), I dwell on such horrible subject matter quite a bit.
Of course I cannot speculate on why it is you focus on Lesley. I think of her too, sometimes, but I mostly think about Myra. I think about Lesley because I was an unprotected child and it is very easy to mentally reenact my own psychodrama from a distance thinking about her. But I think about Myra because despite the fact that I am filled with darkness at times, because I was often a few steps away from becoming a Lesley in my own right, I grew up to be a person whose heart bleeds and who, like you and Sotos, would give my life to protect a child. I wallow in horribleness like this because it is the place from which I sprang up and yet it never was my destiny. I wonder about the line that separates me from people who do become the monster. We have more in common than I would like to think but I was never Lesley and I never became Myra. I think those near-misses fascinate me.
And, to be blunt, you think about Lesley because she is there to think about. Ian and Myra made sure of that. In a sense, if they had not hurt Lesley, she would not be in this realm for you to think about. It is not your fault nor should you feel bad for pondering the victim of a terrible crime.
But in the end, all that matters is that you would not hurt a fly. The human mind is built to explore all kinds of horrors and only strong minds can stomach this sort of content and not become the monster. Only strong minds can question themselves without mercy in order to understand themselves. It is all too easy never to look at that which is horrible and pat one’s self on the back for one’s clean but empty mind.
It’s a dreadful thought. How can anyone even think of doing this to a child?
I know. Lesley’s fate was so horrible.
Wow. This is a very interesting review. I ended up here after seeing Peter Sotos’ name mentioned somewhere, then reading his Wikipedia page and wondering what the ‘point’ of his works are, which led me here via google search.
And when I came to the end of the review (“So why did I read it? What does it say about me that I kept reading…”) I was forced to ask myself the same question – why did I navigate here and continue to read all the excerpts and the review?
I don’t think I want to read the book because I honestly can’t be bothered with the rambling “Little fucking holed-out rat” shit but I am very interested in the ideas re the media/public fetishization of these rape/abuse characters… and just generally how people find all this shit riveting… its all just very interesting, very disturbing… i don’t know
I find myself saying “I don’t know” a lot when I read Sotos and even more when I discuss him. The reason why he inspires such doubt is because while he talks about very interesting issues, like media creating a fetish out of children murder and sex crime victims, he also forces us to be a part of the victimizers as we read his words. His take on how the media more or less made Lesley Ann Downey’s mother the ultimate victim was interesting as well.
But Sotos makes you work for any revelation you can get. You have to slog through a lot of his id to get to the gems of his argument so I can see why so many people are interested by his ideas but reluctant to read him. It’s very interesting, but at the same time, it can make your brain and your soul hurt, analyzing yourself as you read his analysis. If I didn’t have this weird book compulsion in me, I am unsure if I would read him myself.
Thanks for commenting, Darren. I appreciate it!
I found this typing “peter sotos 2010”. Anyway, great thought provoking review.
Great review, very insightful. Glad you took the time to read and review this book, as you mentioned not many can stomach this particular type of material, let alone talk about the personal experience that comes with every Sotos read. I also find it comforting that I’m not the only girl out there that seems to enjoy his writings (on whatever level that may be) though I am somewhat hesitant to admit that fact for very obvious resons. I do wonder though, like most, what kind of urge keeps us glued to the pages, even when our brain is telling us to put it down for good reason. Oh, and a side note, Sotos is no pedophile, he may be sick, or deranged, but not a pedophile. He writes, we read and eat up every word with sick anticipation, he is little more than an author who writes for a “very specific fan base”…
Babybattles, you are the first woman I know of who has told me she reads Sotos. It is indeed comforting to know I am not the only one. And I tend to be able to admit that I read him because most people have no idea who he is and because I am both cuddly and inoffensive while being known as a consumer of very difficult literature. People expect the worst of me but no one fears me and I have little reputation to uphold. If I had kids or a day job, it might be a whole different kettle of fish.
I read Sotos because he provokes me. He forces me to think. He offends me yet forces me to evaluate my own morality and look hard at my own hypocrisies. And any decent armchair psychologist would insist it is because I was molested as a little girl, and there may be something to it. I have so much sympathy for the devil that I want to understand the mindset of those who have such a malignant sexuality that they are willing to risk everything decent and moral to express it. He fascinates and repels me with his deep honesty.
Do you think much of what Sotos writes is for a particular fan base – is he insincere? Or just focused on a fan base of which is may have mental kinship? I don’t know if he is a pedophile or not – I don’t think he has ever touched a child but there are those who insist that anyone who has actively consumed child pornography is a pedophile. That definition is an uneasy one for me because one must take into account whether or not the material is consumed sexually or for a social comment as Sotos did with his ‘zines. And as he proves, the evening news are the best kiddie porn merchants around.
Thanks so much for commenting. It really is very interesting to receive a comment from a woman regarding Sotos.
Anita, thanks so much for the reply 🙂 Well, first, I do want to say that I am truly sorry for what happened to you, it is not something most can cope with so well. You must be a truly strong and couragous person. These things, and many others that Sotos so brutally captures in his words are things that should not happen to anyone, and most would be in an alley somewhere shooting up and selling themselves, you’ve obviously got something that most people don’t. But on to Sotos, and, crazy as it may sound, a lighter subject 🙂 As far as the specific fanbase comment, I KNOW Sotos is being sincere, but his books are not for the general public. It seems strange to me that I, enjoy(?) his work because it is so very harsh, gritty, and brutal, and I am not a fan of scary/gory movies, or that of the occult/horror nature, I have no stomach for it, but Sotos, I could read all day. It makes me wonder why it’s so easy to keep turning the pages of his books. I border on being disappointed and upset myself that I like these books, but I still keep reading. make no mistake, I am not compelled to read his work, but I feel that the rare times when I do I may enjoy it too much. I enjoyed Index much too much. I am one of two people out of ten that tried to read the book and actually got through it, and I was the only girl who even tried. Which, in a way is much worse. Due to our genetics we are supposed to have much less of an affinity towards violence, especially of a sexual nature. So it does make me wonder, and worry about why I enjoy it so much… And as far as my background goes, I have no children, tho I am married and in my mid twenties with a full time nine to five. So the love of Sotos is definitely not something in my nature lol tho I don’t mind, he will alwyas be my guilty pleasure, just like Maroon 5 😀
You’d be surprised how seldom any sexual abuse really factors in my mental state, though it certainly fuels my interest in people like Sotos. But given how much sympathy for the devil I have, my experiences run counter to most, I think. No one chooses to be sexually attracted to children and it has to be terrible for a person who is not a sociopath to realize that his or her primary sexual attraction is to children. I can never put my finger on why anyone reads Sotos, other than the idea that some of us are simply fascinated by the the worst that people can do, and that falls into so many categories. Some follow serial killers, some read splatter punk, some submerge themselves into sexual lifestyles that demand violence. It’s interesting, but since starting this site, I can see that the attraction to darkness is actually so common. Love for Sotos seems so rate because he is pretty fringe but you can see some of his mindset taking place in works by relatively benign and banal writers, like Mary Higgins Clark and Jennifer McMahon. The deviant who looks normal, the child in peril. Sotos just gives the details that so many voyeurs deny that they want.
But regardless, it is very nice to know I am not the only woman who reads Sotos and finds him fascinating. 🙂
It is quite hilarious to read the endless pseudo intellectual comments & reactions regarding Peter Sotos`s “works”, & the “artistic interpretations of his “books”.I am one of these girls who read Sotos,just out of curiosity. It didn’t shocked me, because that`s Sotos motivation in the first place. He writes the way he does & chooses his “topics” because he understands there is a “market” for this kind of controversial trashes.There is a sucker born every minutes & Sotos is fully aware of that.
The fact is, Sotos uses pedophilia, kiddie tortures-murders & celebration of Nazis atrocities,because that`s the most easiest way to create controversy & shock people.Anyone can do it, I could write an “essay” about my fictional sexual experiences involving defecation,Sadomasochist plays,& mutilations of my partners. That would be a hit 🙂
Peter Sotos hates women,good for him but who gives a rat,that`s an issue between him & introverted psyche. I think I know why Peter Pan Sotos hates women.Sotos never got laid in the first place, or suffers from serious erectile dysfunction.
If Sotos only had an ounce of talent he could dream of writing like Bataille or De Sade, but he doesn’t.He goes for the easy stuff,creating controversy & nausea over the celebration of kiddie porn & the butchering of young girls. He reminds me of the casual nasty brat who exposes his little penis in public while screaming “dick fuck shit piss..”. I`d hate to be in Sotos shoes, life must be boring as hell, some middle aged man
playing the anti social behavior to the extreme. Sotos is a pure product of Middle America fractured mind.
I have a tip for Peter Sotos, wanna make a name for yourself?, why dont you act in a scat porn movie? :).
Tara, thanks for the comment. If you are one of the women who reads Sotos, how do you square yourself with your assertion that Sotos is preying on the notion that his extremity attracts suckers? Where does your suckerism play into your own consumption of his work? Of course I don’t agree with anything you’ve typed out in your response to Sotos’ body of work, but I can say that the demonization you present here is no different than the demonization that others have assigned to the works of other transgressive writers. People who hated De Sade because they found his content gross, tiresome and irrelevant sound similar in their derision. It’s a valid reaction but not one I would call particularly intellectual.
Most transgression has recurrent themes and Sotos is no different – his theme is the victimization of young girls. To demonize specific transgressive topics because you find them puerile or unintellectual is, in fact, quite anti-intellectual. I found Bataille’s Story of the Eye to be simply bizarre and boring because the transgression did not resonate with me, which means I found it hard to absorb the text in an intellectual manner. I was simply too uninterested in the social rebellion involved in sexual interaction with eyes, eggs and urine. But there’s a pretty wide chasm between finding a transgression uninteresting and demeaning a body of work because you dislike the author or the content. I think perhaps the most “hilarious” element of your comment is that while you are laughing at that which you find quasi-intellectual, you unintentionally use one of the most unintellectual approaches – denying intellectual value to that which you do not like or that which you find offensive. We all do it from time to time. I just think it’s best to be honest about it when we do it.
Sotos examines his psyche in frightening and disgusting ways and while I can see some of the truth in your reaction, I also reject your notion that examining the the visceral personal and media reaction to child rape and murder is no more than the words of a “casual nasty brat who exposes his little penis in public while screaming “dick fuck shit piss..”” The public reaction to child murder and rape is at the heart of what Sotos writes and if you get distracted by the wallow as he shares the horror, I’m not sure that is a deficiency with Sotos’ writing.
Lastly, I have no idea how long or short Sotos’ cock is but I get antsy when people engage in this sort of analysis to make a point. I get too many e-mails from men calling me a fat bitch as if that somehow means anything where the quality of my writing is concerned. Bringing up ass, dick, breast and body size is a cheap rhetorical device the has no place in a discussion like this unless you have proof of his penis size and a psychological report that shows that Sotos’ dick size affects his writing. Although I’m certain that many readers think my ass size has some bearing on how I write, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t.
Anita,I have to confess, I took an easy & cheap shot at Sotos “virility”, but you cannot blame me for making a fool out of him?. I was thick skin enough to read his books,& I am confident you wont be offended if I used the “dick” word?:)transgressive is the mantra of the day :), I am mocking a man who is considered & labeled a monster by the rest of humanity.Am I transgressive enough? :). I have to say,I enjoyed your feedback and the very nature of your site, very interesting.Keep it up.
“Sotos is a pure product of Middle America’s fractured mind.”
This may be the only sentence you wrote that I fully agree with. 🙂
And I haven’t actually read any of the man’s books – just excerpts online – although the Nine Banded Books re-issue of ‘Tool’ is currently on its way to me.
Anita, I am not demonizing Sotos, that`s exactly what he is looking for.Bear in mind, I never even called him a “pedophile”.I strongly believe Sotos is looking for a cheap shot.Besides I have read and watched even more disturbing materials.Sotos cannot put me inside his “victims” list, this simply doesn’t work:).
Regarding my initial comments “pseudo intellectual…..”,I never meant to be insulting & demeaning to anyone who reacted & commented on this page. To cut a long story short, what I mean was,I strongly believe Peter Sotos is a con artist & 90% of those who have read his books are falling upon his scheme. Of course the subject of pedocriminality & the fascination for sexual necrophiliac activities with children is so vile that it is impossible to comprehend.Someone like Sotos,who goes on gloryfying such acts, fully understands he is committing the ultimate sacrilege, & how easy to create outrage & repulsion over such despicable acts.Sotos is playing with people sensibility,& it works.
Suffice to say, I admire women who have the ability to read such books 🙂
Tara, thanks for clearing that up and apologies from my end for misinterpreting your intent.
If you don’t mind further discussion, can I ask some questions? If your theory is correct and Sotos is playing with sensibilities in order to create outrage, to what end is he doing this? His books have pitifully small print runs, he makes far less money than other transgressive writers, and if my e-mails are of any indication, most of those who are attracted to his works are people who are already in possession of the socially marginalizing ideas he presents in the books, so he doesn’t have a large, moneyed fan base.
I wonder if the end goal is just the renown? Just to be the cultural aggressor who plays with such ideas? That’s the only end goal I can see and I don’t diminish it as a small thing.
We clearly are going to have different views on the value of Sotos’ works, and that’s fine. Argument and discussion are why this site is here. :). But I felt him less a con artist than a man sickened by himself and full of an intense desire to explore his darkness as well as the darknesses of others. I don’t know what it says about me that I sort of understand that impulse. I find myself continually reading the worst, looking at the worst and I am unclear on my motivations aside from a stark need to understand. Sometimes I do understand. The desire to destroy innocence and purity, devoid of sexual impulse, makes perfect sense to me. I think I read Sotos simply to understand that which is “impossible to comprehend.” Sometimes it is soul-affirming to know that there is so much I won’t understand. But I keep looking…
If you look at the Industrial culture of late 70`s mid 80`s, there were a lot of artists,musicians, performers who dealt with equally offensive materials. the band SPK with their “Surgical penis klinik video”, their imagery of child porn,mutilations,medical experiments,rape,& Nazi extermination camps galore.Even before,in late 50`s the Austrian Vienna school of extreme performers,already used,self mutilations,blood,urine,ritual enemas,scatological acts & animal dismemberment in their shows. Peter Sotos jumped on this bandwagon (a bit too late…),maybe Sotos is trying to externalize his own demons,but I do not consider it “literature” or even transgressive “art”.You and I could do the same thing. Couple of years ago,I saw a guy wearing a “big boys go pedo” teeshirt!.The imbecile was transgressive , but that doesn’t make him an artist:). What I am trying to say,is, it is very easy indeed to create controversy and outrage,especially with a subject such a kiddie porn. I dont think there is much “psychological” implications behind Peter Sotos books.But beauty is in the eye of the beholder:). Can I ask you a question?,What makes you read Sotos books in the first place?
PS, I understand your attraction for such literature, & the morbid fascination that comes with it.I for one, always try to push myself off the edge, I want to know how far I can go,because as a girl in today`s society,I am not supposed to even stomach to discuss such matters. I consider myself pretty thick skin & fear is not a part of my vocabulary :).
Reminds me the words of late Howard Philip Lovecraft “The strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown”.
We can further this conversation by email if you wish so.
I can see how we would have greatly different views of who Sotos is because I guess I analyze him in a vacuum, not looking too much at how he started, though I am culturally aware of it, and the movements he was involved with. He came to my attention via Jim Goad’s ANSWER Me!, the so-called rape edition and I had not been exposed to any modern writer who handled so viscerally the ideas he attacked.
However, it must also be said that while I was less affected by avant garde performance art, I was affected by ‘zine culture that engaged in exploitative extremity and if I mentally placed Sotos into any camp, it was that camp of deranged and diseased writing.
But unlike the man in the idiotic shirt, I do think that Sotos is transgressive and that his writing is of literary merit and I think I explain it pretty well in this discussion but the way he shows himself, the monster and the demon, while also showing how he is at war with himself and the forces of decency that condemn him yet glorify the very actions they condemn. His writing has layers that show me more than just the sort of pedophilia LOL that permeates a lot of outre culture. His writing for me is hard to decipher and yet strangely rewarding when I try. It’s writing that shows the worst and best of a man at war.
But as I said above, it’s clear we have radically different views of Sotos.
I have no idea why I read him. I have no idea why I read much of what I read other than some sort of biblio-compulsion that fuels much of my time.
And to answer the comment below this one, sure, feel free to contact me via e-mail. anita at ireadoddbooks dot com. Or continue to comment here.
What book did you read of Sotos’, or which article, that formed your opinion of him.
And despite the bitchy start on my end, I appreciate your comments. Once I got a handle on what fuels your opinion (my intense reactions to literature should make me more able to see such intensity in other reactions), I found this interesting. Back and forth forces me to make sure I think what I think. If that makes any sense. 🙂
bad Tara, I think you may want to go back to Mother Goose Grimm Tales, you obviously don’t have the mental capacity to understand and feel what this book invokes. It is not just some shock fiction, this is human need and desire and hatred, more things than I can describe to you, so maybe wait a couple years, wait till something really bad happens and your perception of yourself and the world changes. It will happen in one way or another, pain, heartache, sickness, violence it touches us all one day. Maybe then you’ll be able to really take something from these books.
Just had the misfortune of coming across this disgusting vile page. Who in their right mind would read a book by a sick pedophile. You are all clearly pedophilia posing as fuckin book reviewers. Taking a hard on at an innocents torture and murder. If I had a gun, I’d shoot the lot of you. Do the world a favour and go die.
Oh no, another marginally stupid drive-by comment left using a proxy server, but this time with a bonus threat of potential gun violence.
Settle down and read some transgressive literature before your mind calcifies further.
this is why no one talks about their love or fascination with Sotos, ignorance. Why am I a bad person because I read Sotos? because you decided it was wrong? The next time your hillbilly, gun toting ass spits on the ground you may want to think about the fact that people in other countries get beaten with bamboo canes for it…because someone decided it was wrong. Welcome to America, the land of the free.
I came across Sotos name and started to get curious. I found your review while searching his name and found it pretty interesting and while it served as a fair warning I was still pretty curious. It wasn’t until I stumbled across the “Pure” zine, that I realized this goes far beyond my interest in true crime and after giving it a glance, deleted it quickly.
Oh dear, did you find issue 2? If so, yeah, be sure to wipe your cache and history, too. No sense taking chances.
Sotos is hard to take and his actual work can cross the line from interest in true crime to horrifying descent into paranoiac disgust. For example, I can read about the Moors Murders, but I do not want to see or hear what happened to Lesley. I can read about Fred and Rosemary West, but I don’t want to see in graphic detail what they did to their victims. I understand your curiosity and your retreat.
Thanks for leaving me this comment!
Just finished ‘Tool’ the other day and, even having been prepared well in advance, the sheer hatred and disgust of the “narrator” toward, really, everyone and everything, was just staggering. In that respect I’d say it is easily the most extreme stuff I’ve ever read.
such a fucking hard on
just wanted to drop a comment saying I really appreciate your posting of this review as well as the one for Tool. I discovered Sotos a few years ago through the Buyer’s Market CD he released in the 90’s. At the time, I dismissed him as a boring shock artist with nothing new to say, and my dismissal turned into an outright dislike upon discovering his child pornography arrest (something that I still have trouble understanding and causes me to question his motives to some degree). I take a somewhat unexplainable interest in cases of child abuse, pedophile rings, and the media hysterics that go along with them, and over the following years I’ve kept running into his name in discussion groups and articles and finally decided to do some more dedicated research. Your writings are some of the few I’ve found that are actually lucid in their reasoning for appreciating his work, and it’s nice to see that the comments, for the most part, don’t degenerate entirely into shots at Sotos as a person and people getting stuck on the material he wrote thirty years ago. I recently picked up a reasonably priced copy of one of his works, “Tick”, off ebay and am “excited” (maybe “anxious” is a better word) to finally confront the man who has been haunting me, in a way, for quite awhile.
I’m so sorry it has taken me this long to reply, RS. I appreciate this comment very much.
I have a hard time enjoying Whitehouse (or most of the groups I blithely call Fascist Industrial) and Sotos’ music career never really interested me as much as his written work, but Buyer’s Market was the entry way for many people drawn to his work. Many of them, like you, disliked it intensely yet found themselves returning to see what else Sotos has to say.
I never really hold Sotos’ child pornography arrest against him and for a while it bothered me that I wasn’t upset about it. I’ve come to understand why that is for me and I’ll share it with you in case it serves you well in your approach to Sotos.
The first thing to bear in mind is that while most minds recoil at the very thought of child pornography (or crush or bestiality videos), the laws against owning and distributing child pornography were unclear for many year and were unclear when Sotos published Pure. It wasn’t even overtly defined as a form of speech deemed worthy of banning due to the harm metric until the Meese report of 1986, though certainly other agencies and venues and court cases had recognized child pornography as harmful. There were still court cases as late as 1990 in courts determining if banning possession of child pornography violated the Constitution.
How this applies to Peter Sotos: I am sure someone less tired than I am can find out if it was illegal to possess child pornography in Illinois when Peter distributed the second issue of Pure but the revised Illinois law about possessing child pornography did not become state law until late November 1985. Peter was arrested in early December 1985. Peter’s home was searched and he had the pornography he used to make the cover of Pure, and that was it. He was not found in possession of reams of child pornography, he was not found to have produced any and he was never found to have done anything inappropriate to a child. Any accusations of distribution stemmed from the actual issue of Pure, not any other materials.
Sotos was initially a target because a man arrested for child abduction in Scotland was found with an issue of Pure in his possession. The ‘zine alarmed officials and Sotos became a name of interest in the USA as the Scottish officials tried to find out the nature of the ‘zine and why the Scottish criminal had it. Had Sotos not written from such a visceral place in such an alarming way and had he never come across the radar in relation to a person who actually harmed children, he never would have been arrested and convicted.
Many people say, and with good reason, that basic decency should have caused Sotos to avoid such media but anyone who remembers the early days of the ‘zine knows how much provocation was involved in the more outre offerings. Long before the Internet brought horrible images to us through grue and gore sites, college libraries had to lock up books that had photographic depictions of extremely brutal deaths. Crime scenes, rapes, Holocaust imagery, Khmer Rough atrocities, and on and on. Such books were defaced as ‘zine publishers found the extreme images that they needed to shock. Many find the use of Holocaust images on album covers and extreme literature to be in terrible taste, and it often is. Sotos’ use of a child pornography image was in terrible taste. But Sotos was writing extreme content and illustrated it with an extreme photo. He just happened to do it during a place in time where the Satanic/Ritual Abuse panic had taken hold, just after a law changed in his state, after coming to the attention of law enforcement and legal personnel who did not know what a ‘zine was and why anyone would write such obscene content.
Compare Sotos to Jim Goad in this regard. Jim Goad would never have gone to jail for assault had he not released the rape edition of ANSWER Me! He would have been charged with misdemeanor assault. Anne Ryan would have been given the same and no more would have come from it. But because Jim had become an anti-feminist boogey man, the words he wrote or published, words that were in historical framework a clear response to the way words meant more than actual assault and other excesses of radical feminism, he was sent to prison for assault, an assault that even the victim’s mother felt was mutual combat. Similarly, had Sotos not come to the attention of law enforcement because a genuine criminal was in possession of one of his ‘zines, it’s questionable that he would have been arrested for possession.
Sotos did not use that image of that underage boy forced into sex to titillate, though I’m sure some who saw Pure 2 engaged with it in a masturbatory way. Sotos did not reproduce the image to further harm the child or to tempt other pedophiles. He used the image to shock and appall. Sotos was definitely operating in the same realm of extremity those who used images of adult rape victims, bloody crime scenes, bodies in piles in ditches, animals tortured in testing or by psychopaths, the naked women lined up to be shot in Baba Yar, and on and on. One can make the case it was a bad idea to use the image he did but one can also take note of the time in which Pure was released, the ‘zine culture, and the life he led before and after his arrest and feel better about Sotos as an artist and as a man. For those who rather like the idea of him being punished, he was punished. And whether or not his intentions or historical context matters is up to you.
The hell of it is, Sotos would likely snert at my explanation/apologia. He said in Comfort and Critique: “I’m absolutely sick of the differences between intention and interpretation. I want to create an art that is ideally shored. One that can’t be misunderstood any longer. Not by the powers that want to see me jailed or by the fucking mice that pretend I’m doing something socially significant.”
I’m a fucking mouse. And that’s one of the reasons I read Sotos – he will never be writing for me, the mouse. It’s rare to encounter that sort of dedication to expression that absolutely does not give a shit about the audience.
The only way to approach Sotos is with anxiety, though the anxiety can of course be exciting. It takes a lot out of me to read him and it takes even more out of me to write about him. He makes me anxious, mainly because he and I have so many interests in common, so many cases I know by name and minute detail show up in his work. Sotos forces me to examine myself and that always makes me anxious because sometimes I fear I am a piece a shit and sometimes I fear I’m a genius and both can mean the same thing in the end. Sotos makes me worry I’m not a good person. He makes me analyze that which makes me Anita and that which I pretend is Anita so I can get by without too much worry.
I have several of his books I need to discuss and a couple I still need to read but I don’t have Tick, or at least I don’t think I do. I’m behind in cataloguing my books. But given how hard it is to find his work, I need to get off my ass and read and write about the books I’ve been able to score.
Please let me know how you feel after reading Tick or any other Sotos title. I’d love this conversation to continue.
The story I heard was that someone from an industrial band was suspected of grave robbery by Scotland Yard and that was how they came across the zine. I think this was said to be either for a skull for use on a mic stand or bones for the purpose of making Tibetan-style ritual instruments (such as the kangling).
Also, every description of the cover of Pure #2 I’ve heard has said that the photo was of a girl (I haven’t seen the uncensored cover and for obvious reasons, I’m not seeking to).
Here’s what Tim Tate says about it in Child Pornography, in regards to how Chicago police came to know about Sotos:
I have never been able to find a source that spells out who the suspect being investigated was. I initially thought it was Robert Black but he was not arrested until 1986, and I can find no source that indicates he was a grave robber (though he was charged with preventing the lawful burial of a body, in addition to abduction and murder charges). Black muddies the searches for any sort of string involving child murder or abduction in Edinburgh and strings for grave robbing in Edinburgh just goes down a Burke and Hare rabbit hole, even if you include 1985 in the search. If anyone ever finds out who the person being investigated was, please chime in.
Regarding the child pornography used in Pure:
Alternately, I have been told that there was a single photo used of a close-up shot of a little girl’s genitalia. I’m not sure if it matters, though, as Sotos has never denied using the pornography in the ‘zine.