Illustrations from The “Volunteer”

The “Volunteer” continues to be very well received by readers all over the world.  The novel has accumulated 12 reviews on Amazon.com, an additional 3 reviews on Amazon UK, and one other on the Canadian Amazon page.  The average rating among all 16 reviews is around 4.5 stars.

Before The “Volunteer” was published, an earlier draft was posted in serialized form at a couple of different websites, and it developed quite a following.  One anonymous reader, known only as SliceReality on the Web, became such a fan that he created several illustrations from that early draft of the novel.  Later, when the final version of The “Volunteer” was published, SliceReality created the cover art and design.

I couldn’t afford to publish an illustrated edition of The “Volunteer”, but I wanted to highlight the pieces he did create from that early draft.

Here’s the cover art without the title text.the__volunteer____front_row_nude_by_slicereality-dacle0r-png

This is from the interview with Clarissa from the school newspaper in the lobby of Dani’s dorm in Chapter Six.the_naked_interview__the___volunteer____by_slicereality-d9gxlde-png

This is from the live broadcast of Stossel in Chapter 13.

broadcast_live__uncensored___the_volunteer___by_slicereality-d9hchrz
And this is Dani on stage with Miley Cyrus at the Coachella Music Festival in Chapter Fourteen.the_festival__exposed_on_stage__the__volunteer___by_slicereality-d9ik3do

It is very gratifying to see others’ interpretations of one’s work, and I can imagine what authors feel when watching film adaptations of their books.  If you haven’t yet read The “Volunteer” and if these illustrations have piqued your interest, you can get your copy on Amazon by clicking here: Order The “Volunteer”

 

Detailed Review

Because of the way Amazon promotes items, books especially, any review by a reader is a wonderful thing.  Reviews don’t even have to be long to count in Amazon’s algorithms.  But The “Volunteer” did recently receive a very detailed four star review that I would like to highlight here.  The review is by Silver Screen Videos, although he also, obviously, reviews books.  The interesting thing is that he makes a comparison to Allen Funt’s What Do You Say to a Naked Lady?, something I never even considered even though I remember the movie.

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Here is the complete review:

Back in 1970, Allen Funt, creator of the popular TV series “Candid Camera,” took his show to the big screen in a way that network censors would never have allowed. The result was “What Do You Say to a Naked Lady,” a film that featured average people in typical public situations (on an elevator or in a business office) being confronted by women (and occasionally men) in their birthday suits, all the while unaware that Funt was recording the entire encounter. Author D.H. Jonathan has taken that concept and updated it for the 21st century in “The Volunteer,” a book that’s far more of a musing on people’s attitudes towards public nudity than an exercise in eroticism.

The title character of “The Volunteer” is Danielle Keaton, a rather reserved college sophomore at a large (fictional) college somewhere near Palm Springs, CA. When she gets caught stealing another student’s work and submitting it for a term paper, she is given a choice: either face suspension, loss of scholarship, and humiliation for her transgression or agree to participate in a highly unconventional study that involves a different type of humiliation. A sociology professor and proponent of public nudism wants to conduct a study and needs the appropriate subject, a student willing to go around in public for an extended period of time without any clothes (supposedly the professor has determined that such exhibitionism is legal under California law). Danielle reluctantly agrees to participate in order to expunge her record and begins walking around campus and attending classes au naturel.

As you might guess, Danielle, soon dubbed “naked Dani,” becomes an instant sensation on campus and, with the aid of social media and the ever present cell phone cameras, word of her exploits spreads rapidly. The reactions of those who see her range from shock and surprise to amusement and excitement. And, as Dani finds herself the focus of large crowds whenever she walks around on campus, her predictable initial emotional reactions of fear and shame gradually give way to acceptance and other more surprising feelings.

Although “The Volunteer” is classified by Amazon as erotica, it’s far from the typical Amazon erotica. Instead of a series of rather graphic descriptions of sexual behavior, “The Volunteer” is an actual novel, with a storyline that examines the ramifications, both internal and external, of Dani’s actions. The book is written in the first person, and, although Dani describes her various nude body parts on a number of occasions, author Jonathan generally eschews four-letter-word graphic slang in favor of more clinical language. Make no mistake; “Volunteer” does contain some erotic material (Dani’s new world isn’t all work and no play), but Jonathan is more interested in describing Dani’s new life in general than fixating on the sexual aspects.

Indeed, “The Volunteer” is actually an example of the philosophy of nudism put to the test in a far more public forum. The author has apparently done some research on the subject and talks about Andrew Martinez, an actual campus activist from the early 1990’s who wound up doing just what the fictional Dani does here (he is supposedly the inspiration for the sociology professor behind Dani’s study). The conclusion the book reaches is that this type of activity, and the public acceptance of it, can be healthy and beneficial. Jonathan could have written the book as an extended essay and had it wind up in the philosophy or social science sections of bookstores, where it would likely have sold in the neighborhood of three copies. Instead, by presenting his arguments in a fictional forum, he can reach a much wider audience.

Judge solely on its literary value, as opposed to its erotic or philosophical content, “The Volunteer” is fairly entertaining. The author spent a good bit of time working out the details of the preparation involved in this type of study and how Dani’s sojoun might really progress, and some of the details, although fictional, are quite interesting (hint: she carries a bottle of spray-on sunscreen to deal with the California sun). Moreover, readers will identify with Dani as her thought processes throughout the book continually change and evolve, sometimes in unusual fashion. As might be expected, the supporting characters are a bit sketchy and the author gets a bit preachy at times, but he usually strikes the right notes, at least as far as keeping readers interested is concerned.

“The Volunteer” isn’t a book for everyone; it easily earns the literary equivalent of an R-rating. But for those for whom the subject matter isn’t an immediate turnoff (or who expect non-stop sex in every chapter), it is a breezy, entertaining read with a likable heroine who winds up and works her way through some highly unusual situations. Neither Dani nor the author has anything to hide here; “The Volunteer” lets it all hang out.

Thanks Silver Screen Videos!

A Writer who Models for Art

I have been a model for college art classes and drawing and painting sessions at local art centers for over 30 years.  With very few exceptions, all of these are held in closed studios with access limited only to those who are either registered for the class or, if it’s for a drop in session at an art center, those who have paid for that time.

A new art group recently started holding drawing sessions in the Riverside Arts district of Fort Worth.  Their aim is to highlight several of the studios in that area, so their figure drawing sessions are held at those studios on a rotating basis.  Almost all of these places are on Race Street.  The local ice cream parlor, the privately owned Gypsy Scoops, expressed an interest in hosting a figure drawing session.  I was lucky enough to be the model for this session.  At 8:00 PM, right when the ice cream parlor closed to the public, I took a one hour pose for the sixteen artists who had gathered.  After the pose, I got dressed, and a bunch of us ate ice cream.

This week, that group held a life drawing session on a slow Monday night in a local bar called Shipping and Receiving.  I was the model for this as well, although I suspect I may have been the only model on their roster willing to pose nude in the middle of a bar open to the public.  The session was a success, although it was not as well attended as the ice cream parlor one.

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I am enjoying these de-contextualized figure drawing sessions, taking the practice out of the studios and into new and unique places.  The session in the bar, with people coming in and out, a few of them drawing but most not, inspired me greatly as I begin to work on the sequel to The “Volunteer”. Like Dani during her nudity project, I was on display to any and everyone who happened to enter the building that night.  What made me even more on display was that I couldn’t move; I had to hold the pose even when a pair of giggling ladies came into the bar, ordered drinks, and went out to smoke on the patio.

The experience gave me just a little more insight into how Dani would have felt having to be naked on campus in The “Volunteer”.  The good news is that the bar session was a success and that another one is being planned for mid-September.

Olympic Gymnastics

I have found myself enraptured by the US women’s gymnastics team, which has just been dominating the Olympics.  Simone Biles is a force of nature, doing things on the floor exercise that I have never seen.  And I have a soft spot for Aly Raisman, both because she lost out on a medal in the 2012 Olympic individual all around because of a tie breaker rule and because she posed nude for ESPN Magazine‘s 2015 Body Issue.  Chapter One of The “Volunteer” makes reference of ESPN’s Body Issue, but the magazine shown to Dani in the book is the 2014 edition.

Here is a video Aly did during that shoot…

Dr. Slater’s Examples

In Chapter One of my novel The “Volunteer”, Dr. Lorraine Slater gives Danielle several examples of casual nudity in popular culture in her pitch for her sociology project.  While The “Volunteer” is fiction, the things cited by Dr. Slater are real.

Volunteer book promo

Of course, in the novel, it all starts with Andrew Martinez, who has his own Wikipedia page here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Martinez

Brown University does host a Nudity Week, usually in late September or early October: http://www.thecollegefix.com/post/19624/

ESPN Magazine does publish an annual body issue which has its own website here: http://espn.go.com/espn/feature/story/_/page/body/espn-magazine-body-issue

The Naked and Afraid TV show has been very successful on the Discovery Channel: http://www.discovery.com/tv-shows/naked-and-afraid/

Dating Naked is still airing on VH1: http://www.vh1.com/shows/dating-naked

And Buying Naked aired on TLC Network: http://www.tlc.com/tv-shows/buying-naked/

Including such real world examples in Dr. Slater’s justification of her sociology experiment firmly sets the novel in today’s world and should make for a more enjoyable reading experience.  The “Volunteer” is available in both paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon and other retailers: https://www.amazon.com/Volunteer-D-Jonathan-ebook/dp/B01HAM329Q/

Naked Protests

The Republican National Convention is underway in Cleveland.  In this year in which it seems that the Republicans and Democrats have both nominated the worst candidates they could have possibly chosen, protests seem inevitable.  This week’s GOP Convention was kicked off with photographer Spencer Tunick’s latest project, 100 naked women posing just across the river from the arena where the convention is being held.  Esquire has a piece on it here, but be aware that the photos with the article are not safe for work:  http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/a46763/republican-national-convention-nude-women/

I first heard of Spencer Tunick, who has become known for shooting large groups of nude people in very public places, while watching a television show called Real Sex on HBO in the fall of 1993.  In that show, he was merely shooting two or three nude models at a time in various locations in New York City.  I was immediately intrigued.  I had already been modeling nude for art classes for a few years at that point, and I couldn’t help but imagine myself as one of the nude models out on the city streets.  (What really vexed me is that I had just moved back to Texas from New York City, where I could have easily signed up to model, the spring before that show aired.)  That idea of modeling nude in public stayed with me long enough to coalesce into the story told in The “Volunteer”.

The striking thing about Spencer Tunick’s photos, not just of the 100 women this week but all of his past work, is how similar we all are under our clothes.  When naked, we are not CEOs, doctors, lawyers, politicians, or fast food workers; we are just human beings.