Here is my ‘rundown’ on Pimp: The Story of My life by notorious pimp turned writer, Iceberg Slim. First, I must confess that this is one of the most unusual memoirs I have ever read, in large part since the story focuses on what many might consider a taboo in civilized society – the underworld inhabited by a Black pimp who manages a ‘stable’ of prostitutes. Set mostly in the 1940s and 1950s, in the Midwest of the United States, Iceberg recounts the vicissitudes of his descent into a life of crime and vice. Despite the book’s lurid subject matter and quirky pimp jargon (which admittedly takes several chapters to get used to), I was surprised by how smooth and enthralling the narrative flowed. Iceberg has a knack for impeccably describing characters and situations with colorful and creative language, which brings them vividly to life before your eyes.
What is perhaps most intriguing for me about this story, is Iceberg’s revelation of the intricate psychology involved in ‘pimping.’ He argues rather convincingly that pimps all possess an innate hatred and resentment towards their mother’s related to their childhood upbringing, which they unwittingly manifest towards the prostitutes under their control. This provides a reasonable explanation for the harsh, manipulative Jekyll and Hyde behavior that pimps exhibit towards their stable of streetwalkers. Yet it goes even deeper than this. There is also a complex psychology ingrained in the women who become prostitutes, which Pimp: The Story of My Life partially sheds a light on. According to Iceberg these women are so madly in love with the pimp that they are willing to do (absolutely) anything to please him; even going so far as to sign over all their worldly possessions to him. Admittedly, it is a mutual ‘con’ (i.e., deception) since both parties continuously try to deceive, gaslight and trick the other to get a leg up in their relationship. So the ‘love’ of the prostitute for the pimp is twisted and often corrodes over time into hateful, disdain.
Where Pimp: The Story of My Life falls down for me is in the ending. Iceberg dedicates just a handful of pages to recounting how he decided to end his career as a notorious pimp and hardened criminal. This seems inadequate after spending two hundred plus pages expounding on the gory details of his rise and fall as a pimp. Part of what drove me to the end of this book, was my burning curiosity about how Iceberg actually managed to escape this life of immorality. I thought perhaps he might offer a profound gem of wisdom that might deter other young men from going down a similar path. Yet the scant details that he offers, at best touch the surface of what must have been a tumultuous shift in his life.
Overall, I would recommend Pimp: The Story of My Life to anyone, provided they are not triggered by drugs, profanity, explicit content, racism and misogyny. This is a raw, edgy story which can open your eyes to a part of society that is often swept under the rug, which in my mind makes it worth reading.
***Some examples of the quirky jargon used by Iceberg Slim in Pimp: The Story of My Life (which incidentally reminds me of the colorful lingo in Clockwork Orange)
Scratch = money
Hog = car
Jib = mouth
Mickey = watch
Rollers = police/cops
Vine = suit
Have you ever read Pimp: The Story of My Life? What are your thoughts after reading this book? What do you find most intriguing about Iceberg Slim’s literary style? Thanks as always for stopping by! Please feel free to share your thoughts or reactions in a comment below. Also, if you would like to receive more updates about my writing please consider joining my newsletter mailing list by subscribing below.