* This post is part of a short series:
QUALITY EROTICA (aka “Jess’s Erotic Stash”)
[PART 4: Erotic Novels / Anthologies]
These are some of the books/novels that REALLY opened my eyes re: sex/sexuality/gender/love/relationships.
Doesn’t get much better than Anais Nin and D. H. Lawrence, etc etc.
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16. Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov | Amazon.com
Awe and exhilaration — along with heartbreak and mordant wit — abound in Lolita, Nabokov’s most famous and controversial novel, which tells the story of the aging Humbert Humbert’s obsessive, devouring, and doomed passion for the nymphet Dolores Haze. Lolita is also the story of a hypercivilized European colliding with the cheerful barbarism of postwar America. Most of all, it is a meditation on love — love as outrage and hallucination, madness and transformation.
Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.
She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.
(Lolita, opening lines)
Exhilarating –“You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style…” (a quote also from this book).
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17. Switch Bitch, by Roald Dahl | Amazon.com
Great wit, melancholy, and lust pervade this collection of four adult short stories by Roald Dahl. Included here are “The Visitor” and “Bitch,” featuring the hilariously vivid exploits of the notorious Uncle Oswald, as well as “The Great Switcheroo” and “The Last Act.”
In these taut black comedies of human weakness and unexpected reversal, Dahl captures the delicious thrill of sexual triumph and the galling deflation of defeat.
I only hope that my reticence will not create too strong a sense of anticlimax. Certainly, there was nothing anti about my own climax, and in the final searing paroxysm I gave a shout which should have awakened the entire neighbourhood. Then I collapsed. I crumpled up like a drained wineskin.
(The Great Switcheroo, Page 76)
It’s funny how many of the books on this list were just books I “happened” to find or receive (I didn’t specifically look for them to make a purchase). I think I bought Switch Bitch at a used books store in Singapore (for $0.50 or so). I loved Roald Dahl’s books for children. His work for adults is equally impressive/superlative in terms of style and wit.
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18. Venus in Furs, by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch | Amazon.com
Blurb (including excerpt/s):
An early manifesto on the potent relationship between cruelty and the pleasures of the flesh, Venus in Furs was written by a man once called the “poet” of masochism. “To be the slave of a woman, a beautiful woman, who I love, who I worship.” This is the sole desire of Severin, a young aristocrat who has fallen in love with the beautiful Wanda von Dunajew.
Wanda is initially reluctant to embody his fantasy, to become Severin’s Venus in Furs. But empowered by his desire, she begins to play her role with a passion that surprises even her lover. “You will be mine,” she tells him, “my plaything, which I can break to pieces, whenever I want an hour’s amusement.” A fascinating exploration of power in sexual relations, Venus in Furs is an erotic detour down love’s thorniest path.
This is real BDSM in a very non “sensational” or hyped way. The term ‘masochism’ is derived from this Austrian author’s name (that alone is reason enough to check this out).
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19. Little Birds, by Anais Nin | Amazon.com
Blurb: Delta of Venus and Little Birds, Anais Nin’s bestselling volumes of erotica, contain striking revelations of a woman’s sexuality and inner life. In Little Birds, each of the thirteen short stories captures a moment of sexual awakening, recognition or fulfilment, and reveals the subtle or explicit means by which men and women are aroused. Lust, obsession, fantasy and desire emerge as part of the human condition, as pure or as complex as any other of its aspects.
She felt dizzy with conflicting sensations. She did not move or turn her head. A hand now sought an opening in the skirt and discovered the buttons. Each button undone by the hand made her gasp with both fear and relief. The hand waited to see if she protested before proceeding to another button. She did not move.
Then, with a dexterity and swiftness she had not expected, the two hands twisted her skirt round so that the opening was at the back. . .
(“The Woman on the Dunes” / Page 15)
OMG this was *the* erotic book which I started off with (bought it together with the Poe anthology at a book sale). I’d just finished secondary school at the time and this book was unlike anything I’d ever come across. It was the first time I knew of Anais Nin. I didn’t even flip through the book’s contents before deciding to buy (something I do very rarely). The back copy text (i.e. the blurb above) and the cover image convinced me of the inner contents.
I like how the title comes from the first story in the anthology (and the usage of the words in the story too). This slim (but extremely potent/influential) volume made the difference between my “young teenage” life and a more mature/worldly outlook ;) It was really a form of sexual awakening, in retrospect.
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20. Delta of Venus, by Anais Nin | Amazon.com
Anais Nin’s Delta of Venus is a stunning collection of sexual encounters from the queen of literary erotica. From Mathilde’s lust-filled Peruvian opium den to the Hungarian baron driven insane by his insatiable desire, the passions and obsessions of this dazzling cast of characters are vivid and unforgettable. Delta of Venus is a deep and sensual world that evokes the very essence of sexuality.
Then John saw that she wanted him, that she was offering herself, but instead of being stirred, he recoiled. “Martha! Oh, Martha!” he said, “what an animal you are, you are truly the daughter of a whore. Yes, in the orphanage everybody said it, that you were the daughter of a whore.”
Martha’s blood rushed to her face. “And you,” she said, “you are impotent, a monk, you’re like a woman, you’re not a man. Your father is a man.”
And she rushed out of his room.
(Many Think Quintia’s Beautiful, Page 56)
I think this one’s even more hardcore (in the sophisticated/artistic/intense way) than Little Birds ;)
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21. Lady Chatterley’s Lover, by D.H. Lawrence | Amazon.com
Blurb: Lady Chatterley’s Lover is both one of the most beautiful and notorious love stories in modern fiction. The summation of D.H. Lawrence’s artistic achievement, it sharply illustrates his belief that tenderness and passion were the only weapons that could save man from self-destruction.
Connie was surprised at her own feeling of aversion from Clifford. What is more, she felt she had always really disliked him. Not hate: there was no passion in it. But a profound physical dislike. Almost, it seemed to her, she had married him because she disliked him, in a secret, physical sort of way. But of course, she had married him really because in a mental way he attracted her and excited her. He had seemed, in some way, her master, beyond her.
Now the mental excitement had worn itself out and collapsed, and she was aware only of the physical aversion. It rose up in her from her depths: and she realized how it had been eating her life away.
One of the best of the best. I had to read the book twice in order to appreciate it (I first read it when I was 16 — didn’t really ‘get’ some parts yet at the time). I can remember very well (in my mind — in terms of desire + emotional intensity) the part where Oliver Mellors (the gamekeeper) first meets Lady Chatterley.
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22. Sons and Lovers, by D.H. Lawrence | Amazon.com
D.H. Lawrence’s great autobiographical novel is a provocative portrait of an artist torn between love for his possessive mother and desire for two young beautiful women. Set in the Nottinghamshire coal fields of Lawrence’s own boyhood, the story of young Paul Morel’s growing into manhood in a British working-class family rife with conflict reveals both an inner and an outer world seething with intense emotions.
Gertrude is Paul’s puritanical mother who concentrates all her love and attention on her son Paul. She nurtures his talents as a painter — and when she broods that he might marry someday and desert her, he swears he will never leave her. Inevitably, Paul does fall in love, but with two women — and is unable to choose between them.
Written early in Lawrence’s literary career, Sons and Lovers possesses all the powers of description, insistent sensuality, and scathing social criticism that are the special hallmarks of his genius. “A work of striking originality,” writes the critic F.R. Leavis, by “the greatest creative writer in English of our time.”
“A what?” she asked brightly and unashamed.
They thought awhile. He was sensible all the time of having her opposite him. Suddenly their eyes met, and she smiled to him — a rare, intimate smile, beautiful with brightness and love. Then each looked out of the window.
The sixteen slow miles of railway journey passed. The mother and son walked down Station Street, feeling the excitement of young lovers having an adventure together.
(Chapter V: Paul Launches Into Life, Page 89)
Wow, another best of the best. Words cannot describe the substance in classic works like this (desire is just one component; there’ll also be the social / societal / human condition aspect). I have other D.H. Lawrence books but if I had to recommend just two it’d be these two.
QUALITY EROTICA (aka “Jess’s Erotic Stash”)