Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I was in Bangkok when I first heard of Iceberg Slim's autobiography "Pimp." While talking to a young english man about gender he mentioned pimp as being indicative of some of the dynamics between men and women. Eventually I picked up the book and read it quickly. Despite its heavy slang the book is easy to read and a page turner.

Published in 1969 the tale follows Iceberg Slim, a man so icy cold that he doesn't stir from his seat when bullets shoot through his hat, and his journey into becoming an infamous pimp in the 1920s and 1930s. The majority of the narrative centers around Slim's early days of pimping. From a young age he aspired to be a pimp and after a few bouts with the state via reformatory schools he acquired his first whore, who would later prove to be a hinderance to his life as a free man. He made his whore work 16 hour days and under the advice of a fellow pimp beat her with a wire hanger when she feigned sickness. The woman stayed with him much like someone involved in the cycle of abuse. The pimp has to secure the woman's continued employment by presenting some sort of end goal, that of a glorious future with the pimp.

Continual reference is made between the relationship between a whore and a pimp as being a reversal of the whore's game. A pimp is just a man who has reversed the dynamics on the whore. He demands payment for the whores work, just like a whore demands payment from a john for her work.

The book reminded me in many ways of Eugene Vidocq's "Memoir's of Vidocq" in which Vidocq is a thief and lives in the underbelly of society until he is "reformed" and becomes one of the pioneers of the modern detective skill set.

Like Vidocq, Slim preyed on those around him for the purpose of survival and like Vidocq, Slim is also reformed through the prison system. Reformed meaning that they no longer desire the precarious lifestyle afforded to them by being a thief and pimp respectivelly.

What is most apparent in both these books is the sense of adventure. Slim is continually on life's edge and is arrested several times. One of the most exciting parts for me in Slim's tale wasn't his countless conquests of women but in his successful prison escape.

While I can't condone Slim's predatory enterprise and bougerois spirit I do admire his adventurism and his life as an outsider of society. I hold a strong sympathy to those who toss the chains of society aside and attempting to living life according to one's own will, even if that life might not be particularly moral.