On the cover of my proof copy of Sean Thomas's non-fiction account of his adventures on the internet-dating scene, Millions of Women Are Waiting to Meet You, there is a jokey warning that "this book reveals how men really think." This isn't true. Sean Thomas may believe himself to be a normal man, but in the course of this book he decides a woman named "Bongowoman" is an appealing person to go on a date with; describes how his first sexual experience (at 12 years old) involved him flashing at his parents' cleaning woman; reveals that he can only go out with women who are shorter than him (he describes such women as "sit-on-my-lap girls"); fakes suicide to impress a girl who's broken up with him; suffers from several bouts of serious impotence; catches crabs from an Australian woman; boasts about the TV celebrity he used to date, a relationship which began when he shoved his hand up her skirt; gets so addicted to internet porn (particularly "Bernie's Spanking Pages" and "extremely convoluted scenarios where submissive Danish actresses are intimately shaved by their dominant female doctors in the shower") that he masturbates himself into the hospital, where he ends up on a saline drip; goes into a 15-page explanation of why he doesn't want to sodomise a woman who's begged him to do so, before deciding that he will do it after all; explains how when he was 30 he made his 17-year old schoolgirl lover have an abortion; gets a blow-job from his best friend's girlfriend on Bayswater Road in full view of the public; performs oral sex on a woman moments after she has finished having sex with his friend in the other room; goes to a strip club in Thailand so often over a three-month period that one of the strippers writes messages to him with a pen clenched in her vagina; has an abortive threesome in Russia which ends with him prematurely ejaculating over the carpet, and in one of the book's most flabbergasting chapters, mistakenly believes he's impregnated a prostitute and considers throwing everything in and starting a family with her.
Now, Sean, that ain't normal. It is, however, hilarious. I can't remember reading a book that's made me laugh out loud as much as this one. Thomas must be extraordinarily brave to reveal so much about his personal life, and this book truly ups the stakes for the male confessional genre, offering an even more intimate insight into one man's mind than Toby Young's How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, which previously seemed as far as comic self-abnegation could go.
But, while Thomas is unbelievably open about his sex-life, by being quite so down on himself he misses a couple of tricks. He presents himself as a loser who "reviews Lego for Amazon", only occasionally disparagingly referring to his past career as an author. But he is a very good novelist, whose last book, The Cheek Perforation Dance, was a brilliant account of the darker extremes of sexual desire.
Here, he mostly plays the biographical details that clearly inspired this fiction for laughs, acknowledging this side of himself but trying to fit it into a conventional romantic scenario. Also, when towards the end of the book he talks about his difficult relationship with his novelist father (D M Thomas), he uses it to explain his problems with women, which seems an inadequate use of material that would perhaps be more suitable for a different sort of memoir.
I thoroughly enjoyed Millions of Women Are Waiting to Meet You, but I hope the easier sell of confessional literature doesn't distract Sean Thomas from continuing with his career as a novelist, especially now he has got this out of his system.