Only after UV law student David Wienir readily accepts the opportunity to study for a term in Amsterdam does the idea dawn on him to write a book about the city’s fabled Red Light District. And only after he begins work on this project does he discover the rich landscape of philosophical and ethical laws which here govern the world’s oldest profession.
As the author points out, the late 90s might have been the last period in our lifetimes of anything considered innocence. Pre-911, pre the isolating effects of the internet, with jovial Bill Clinton in the White House and the collapse of the Soviet Union leaving the US at the proverbial top of the international heap, it was not yet a necessity to apologize for being American. What better time, then to enter a program which would find Wienir spending a term in the historic Netherlands city.
A stalwart student, author and scholar, Wienir dedicates himself to his studies. This doesn’t mean, however, that he ignores the two things that westerners think of when they think of Amsterdam – cannabis and prostitution. A relative cannabis teetotaler, Wienir surrenders to the “when in Rome” trope and indulges at the local cafes. While not overwhelmed by the experience, he is neither repulsed by it and continues to casually smoke during his stay.
His approach to the city’s prostitution, however, is definitely a hands-off one. Not only is this due to what may be the parameters of his moral compass, but also because he knows that any information he garners from the District workers while he is in the capacity of a paying customer would be skewered and slanted. While this may set well with the mores of the writing profession, it doesn’t gain him many interviews as he is almost universally met by slamming doors when he asks the workers if they’d like to be interviewed for a book without getting paid for their sexual services.
Finally he happens upon Emma, a young District worker who agrees to talk with him for AMSTERDAM EXPOSED. Though she unfortunately stands him up for that first interview due to work scheduling, they do eventually get together to begin discussions of his project. Then he learns she’s suddenly moved to Africa. Then just as suddenly she moves back to Amsterdam. It’s like this throughout the rest of his time in the city as Emma keeps popping in and out of his world.
While his intentions continue to be focused on AMSTERDAM EXPOSED, he does begin to find himself wondering if the opportunity for a deeper relationship with Emma might be in the cards. As he would eventually learn she has wondered the same thing in regards to him. With only two days left in his European stay he finally gets the in-depth sit-down with Emma where she finally opens up in detail about her life and her chosen profession. She lets on how hers is a sad existence and concludes her story with her wish to one day leave the profession and have a normal life.
Wienir leaves Europe with only a fraction of the information he was hoping to gather in order to write his book. But rather than junk the project, Wienir does complete AMSTERDAM EXPOSED, not so much as a book about the District itself but about his attempts to write about the District.
David Wienir’s AMSTERDAM EXPOSED is not only a dictionary definition of meta-literature, it is also a warm, humorous and heartfelt tribute to the city of Amsterdam.
~Johnny Masiulewicz for Indie Reader