Hot 20 2009: Author Stephen Elliott


Photography by Anön.

A recent entry from writer Stephen Elliott’s Twitter page: “Interning at McSweeney’s today and then heading to a porn shoot.” An illuminative morsel, to say the least. The Mission resident does not, in fact, intern at the Valencia Street publishing house; he merely bleeds its free Wi-Fi.

He wasn’t lying about the porn, though. Elliott is a creative consultant for the pilot episode of a Showtime reality show about an SF sexual-fetish compound. “That place is so interesting, a monkey could direct a great show about it,” he says. Elliott also courageously writes about his experiences with BDSM in his books, namely My Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me Up (Cleis Press) and his latest, The Adderall Diaries (Graywolf Press).

The memoir, which has received rave reviews from such literary luminaries as Amy Tan and Roddy Doyle, is an astonishing tale of a troubled youth, an Adderall dependency, punishing sex, writer’s block and false murder confessions—one of them his own father’s. “It’s a book about finding yourself even in the absence of an absolute truth,” says Elliott.

His bohemian lifestyle—the result of a conscious decision to do only the work he desires—embodies an odd pauperism that prompted The New Yorker columnist Ariel Levy to tell Elliott he’s “the most well-connected person in his income bracket.” He may share a “big” one-bedroom apartment with two roommates, but he also gets a steady supply of comped airline tickets to speaking engagements all over the country. “I’ve been poor a long time,” Elliott says. “But I feel rich.”

Stylist: Rachel Lena Esterline. Styling assistance: Sonie Hack. Cheap Monday denim button-down, Club Monaco navy cardigan, Gap t-shirt and cargo pants, New Balance sneakers, all model’s own.

Check out the other 2009 Hot 20.

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