Fifty Shades: William Giraldi / Jennifer Hamady / Lily Zheng

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A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I was working on an article about quality sexual literature.

The article is titled Beyond the Hype of Fifty Shades of Grey, and can be viewed in full at the OpEdNews website:

http://www.opednews.com/articles/Beyond-the-Hype-of-Fifty-S-by-Jess-C-Scott-Books_Culture_Sex_Sex-140814-381.html

The article features the expert opinions of ten professionals in the fields of academia, psychology, and media communications, who comment on the cultural implications of the series and share their recommendations for quality sexual literature.

I received some VERY lengthy and passionate responses, which I have compiled here on my blog, divided into three different posts. I could only feature excerpts in the above article, due to space constraints. Here are the full responses of the first three guest contributors!

P.S. Check out Part 2 and Part 3 for the full replies of the other guests.

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1. William Giraldi, professor at Boston University and Fiction Editor for AGNI:

William-Giraldis-Bunker

William Giraldi | Image from TinHouse

I’m not certain that men and women deserve better than Fifty Shades of Grey. Emerson once quipped that “people do not deserve good writing, they are so pleased with bad.” And I rarely disagree with Mr. Emerson. I’d tell men and women to put down these books because they are bad for their health, but people never listen to advice about their health.

Quality sexual literature can be found among the poems of Sappho and Catullus, in the satires of De Sade, and in the novels of Nicholson Baker. The Story of O and Venus in Furs are not masterpieces but they have some psychological depth and the prose isn’t toxic. I’d caution that the best sexual literature knows what to leave to the imaginative and what not.

2. Jennifer Hamady, voice coach, psychotherapist, and online columnist at Psychology Today:

jennifer-hamady

Jennifer Hamady

Thinking aloud, I don’t think the question is necessarily about whether people deserve better than Fifty Shades of Grey. In general I think wrong vs. right arguments aren’t the most helpful. Rather, I’d say that in our culture, which isn’t entirely open about and comfortable with sex, a book like Fifty Shades — or any book — can tend to have a more powerful influence than it might in a healthier context. I will say that the more violent aspects of the book concern me because — again — our current cultural context does not hold women on an equal footing to men (watch any music video if you need evidence). Whether or not it is intentional, the book therefore can be seen as agreeing with the idea that violence against and the subjugation of women is sexy, and even necessary for young women who want to be in relationships.

3. Lily Zheng, president of Kardinal Kink, an advocacy and support group for the kink community at Stanford University:

Stock Image from Dreamstime

(1) On whether men and women deserve better than Fifty Shades of Grey:

Fifty Shades of Grey enjoyed so much success because it talked, frankly and explicitly, about the type of sexual and sensual encounters that our society idealizes but outwardly condemns. In the existing social landscape of almost Puritan-esque opinions on sex and intimacy (sex is something that, if enjoyed at all, can only be enjoyed a certain way) the existence of Fifty Shades was disruptive and subversive in many ways. Not only the book itself, but the surprising number of men and women (women, mostly) who purchased it indicated that the book was fantasy, a fantasy that resonated especially well with its fans.

Erotic literature is necessary because it fulfills desires; erotic literature is necessary because it helps create a culture in which the sensual is more normal, in which physical intimacy is as much a diverse and varied staple as emotional intimacy.

And that precise reason is why Fifty Shades isn’t good enough.

Fifty Shades of Grey is ultimately a tale of nonconsent. As the relationships between characters develop, nonconsent becomes increasingly stamped across interaction after interaction. There is no negotiating of scenes, no establishing of hard and soft limits, not even a facsimile of the consent rituals and focus on safety that the real life kink and BDSM scenes feature. Fifty Shades of Grey isn’t a story that could or should happen in real life. Fifty Shades is fantasy.

To some extent, that’s okay. It’s perfectly fine for fantastical or improbable tales to exist, and many are excellent in their own right. It becomes a problem, however, when people begin to mistake fantasy for reality. People read erotica to experience it. We seek the sensual because we project ourselves into the stories we read, and envision ourselves — tied up, gagged, begging for release, our bodies burning like firebrands — through the lens of the words on the page.

We deserve erotic literature. We deserve good erotic literature. We deserve realistic erotic literature. Argue all you want the Fifty Shades is “good,” but it’s unmistakably unrealistic. Worse still, most people who read it don’t know that.

Most people who read Fifty Shades find themselves fantasizing about or imagining the nonconsensual, dangerous interactions as legitimate, as positive, as desirable. Almost every young adult (and their mother, apparently) knows the general plot of the novel.

“It’s kinky BDSM stuff, right?”

But Fifty Shades is to kink as rape is to sex; they may both look the same on the outside but the differences are fundamental, substantial, and potentially dangerous.

The inaccurate and fanciful depiction of kink in Fifty Shades of Grey hurts both the existing kink and leather communities and nonkinky people alike. The wrong type of kink is normalized by this book, and whether or not we fancy ourselves purveyors of good literature, we deserve to read better novels.

(2) On quality sexual literature:

Quality sexual literature can be enjoyed in more than one way. Quality sexual literature engages with the reader aesthetically — the prose flows well, the flow is dynamic, the descriptions are vivid in lush, practical and concise exactly where they need to be — and viscerally — the writing evokes a physical or bodily reaction from the reader, whether that reaction be sexual, sensual, or emotional. However, the best sexual literature is these two things and more: the best sexual literature is relatable.

There is a difference between imagining the abstract notion of “bondage” and being able to conceptualize the excited negotiation, the handpicking of rope, the vocalizing of desires and fears all laid out bare on the bed long before any clothing comes off. There is a difference between imagining rope on your body and understanding the meaning of the tightness on your skin, the significance behind the vulnerability, the worth of that “yes, sir!” or “yes, mistress!”

Owning Regina, a novel by Lorelei Elstrom written in diary format, is a story about kink that meets that bar. Unlike Fifty Shades of Grey, there is no magic telepathy between people, no porno-levels of endurance, no “perfect” interactions or scenes, no encouraged nonconsent. Rather, this book displays kink as it is in real life: consensual, communicative, and imperfect, a dance between people.

The realism in this novel is impressive. The conflict feels real and pressing; the characters are deep, well-developed, and likeable, and most importantly, the writing tingles with that uncertain excitement that I can most accurately describe as the moment before knocking on the door of partner’s house. This is a diary — it’s not hardcore erotica, but it’s not a documentary either. It’s gritty, dirty, raw, and satisfying in a way that neither of the two are on their own.

I recommend this book because it isn’t fantasy kink. The triumphs the characters exult in are triumphs many practitioners of BDSM and kink, veterans and casual play partners alike, experience. The conflicts are conflicts everyone who has experienced kink with a partner must go through.

Kinky literature tends to be marketed towards those who have never experienced kink, with most people in actual kink communities scorning that brand of erotic literature. For that reason, when kinky literature succeeds with both kinky and nonkinky people alike, it is especially important to acknowledge and understand why.

Owning Regina is one of those few novels I have found that manage to meet the bar I have set for kinky literature.

Fifty Shades: Russ Linton / Cliff Burns / Nick Shamhart

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My article Beyond the Hype of Fifty Shades of Grey features the expert opinions of ten professionals who comment on the cultural implications of the series, and share their recommendations for quality sexual literature.

I received some VERY lengthy and passionate responses, which I have compiled here on my blog, divided into three different posts. I could only feature excerpts in the above article, due to space constraints. Here are the full responses of the guest contributors #8-10!

P.S. Check out Part 1 and Part 2 for the full replies of the other guests.

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8. Russ Linton, speculative fiction writer and former FBI Investigative Specialist:

russ_linton

Hi Jess: Glad to have inspired you in your writing and I’m amazed that anyone ever found that comment of mine buried on Bransford’s high traffic blog. While I have much respect for any writer making it in this tough industry, I couldn’t fathom the Fifty Shades apologist responses. The book was poorly written. I won’t deny it was extremely successful, but to argue it was -not- poorly written was hard for me to understand.

I’m not sure I’m an expert on the subject. I am a writer and I read enough of Fifty Shades to know it was badly executed. I don’t regularly read erotica, however.

But, to answer your questions (may require a bit of editing):

Of course people deserve better. We deserve better books, film, television — all manner of stories which explore sexuality.

Mostly we deserve better quality in literature, especially from traditional publishing houses which continue to claim some sort of supremacy over self-published authors. If they want to maintain the illusion that they are the gatekeepers of that quality, they can’t then snatch up poorly written work and sell it solely based on the titillation factor. If they want to legitimize sexuality in writing, they should find a manuscript that isn’t an absolute train wreck and put their resources behind those authors – they do exist.

Fact remains, however, that erotica is firmly a self-publishing and indie publishing pursuit. As a society, we are much more willing to let mutilation, murder and blood letting of all kinds infiltrate our fiction than we are to allow people to explore their sexuality. Amazon has shown its contempt, along with many distributors, by tightening rules on erotica and at no point did traditional publishers come flying to the rescue. So the “better” stuff is out there if you want to look beyond the high-profile, traditional channels who have only opportunistically grabbed the spotlight of this genre.

I have to recommend the work of fellow critique partner, Jennifer August. I’d recommend any of her books as I’ve critiqued her prose and even learned from her detailed writing and plotting processes. She writes erotica, but at the same time, is concerned about the craft as much as she is the authenticity of the experiences which her characters share. Well-written, well plotted, character-driven smut of the best kind.

9. Cliff Burns, (outspoken) literary pioneer and founder of Black Dog Press:

cliff_burns

YES, men and women deserve better than Fifty Shades of Grey. Because the sexual act, regardless of your orientation, is a ballet, a perfectly breathed and measured poem. It is peerless brush technique and faultless meter and syntax. It reveals the paucity of talent in the Mona Lisa and makes a mockery of the Grand Canyon. It is NOT a tuneless, idiot orchestra, conducted by a tone deaf four year old. It deserves better than Crayola scratchings of sexual congress, stick figure intercourse. Cheap graffiti in a filthy toilet stall. Sexuality is our most fearless and pure expression as human beings. Fifty Shades reduces it to a mere bowel movement.

The hottest sex scene I can think of, at least on paper, is a torrid moment about forty or fifty pages into Terry Southern’s Blue Movie. There are also erotic poems like Yeats’ “Leda & the Swan” and verses of quiet yearning by Sappho. Long, sumptuous passages in D.H. Lawrence’ silly, pornographic “routines” scattered throughout the work of Wm. S. Burroughs. Henry Miller’s up close and personal couplings, genital lice and all. Something for all tastes.

* Cliff Burns’ thread on LibraryThing contains more suggestions for quality sexual literature.

10. Nick Shamhart, public speaker and contributing writer to Esquire and Vibe:

nick_shamhart

(1) On whether men and women deserve better than Fifty Shades of Grey:

Art is of course subjective. Personally I shudder to label a Bodice Ripper as art, but some people consider Robert Mapplethorpe to be an artist. It’s a matter of personal choice — the externalization of the internal.

That said, to tear apart the Fifty Shades trilogy would be unfair. The phenomenon that the books stirred about had little to do with the quality of story telling, the prose, or the presentation. What happened was that the populace brought it upon themselves. Worldwide reading trends are quite sad. Entertainment on demand fired a bullet pointblank into the floundering corpse that was the publishing industry. The statistics for the USA are nothing shy of terrifying. 58% of Americans will not read a book after high school. One in ten thousand Americans is an avid reader, meaning they read more than one book a month.

What happened with the Fifty Shades books was a direct result of those numbers. When people don’t read they have little to use as a basis of comparison. So, instead of E.L. James’ books being swept into the growing heap of erotica, with the likes of Steele, Collins, and other ladies that have been working that trade for decades, people took notice.

Social Media, and its fickle trends helped word spread about the books.

It was the same ecumenical ripple effect that Rowling’s Potter books had. They were fine for what they were, in that case fantasy for Fifty Shades erotica, but for true avid readers that could compare the books to a much broader and larger personal library they were nothing special.

That’s why children like simple, brightly colored toys. They are stimulating, and the child has no previous experience to say whether the toy is good or bad. Most of the staunch supporters of the Fifty Shades book that I have met read very few books annually. Half a dozen at best, so if they have read less than a hundred books in their lifetime. Who is to say what they are basing their love of Fifty Shades against?

Author Interview, Brian Whitney

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Interview #80, with writer/editor, Brian Whitney!

Hi Brian! Describe yourself in 5 words:

Aware of who I am.

Cool! Share a short blurb of your work (10-100 words):

am_pleasing

Nate used to deal crack and be naked. Sometimes he wouldn’t put on clothes for weeks and people would come over and buy crack and Nate would just sit there, naked, dealing it out and sucking on a pipe. I mean, let’s face it, that sounds awesome, but how long does the story of a happy naked crack dealer last? Dealing crack and using it is like a monkey trying to sell bananas.

Share an excerpt of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

It wasn’t until a few weeks of living with her that I learned about her hooking business. When I was gone she would take men into our place and give them head for ten to twenty dollars apiece. According to her she never had real sex with them and I’m inclined to believe this because I have been in whorehouses before and they have a certain electricity to them. It’s in the air. I never felt this electric feeling when I walked into my home. ~ Arthur Bradford

Comment on the writing versus publication process, in your experience:

I am published with three different independents right now and all of them are cool. Of course I am broke as a joke, but I have been lucky to work with people that appreciate the work that I do without either of us having a lot of commercial expectations. [Note from Jess — have you met Cliff Burns? :)]

What is your definition of “good writing”?

I feel it and I know it when I see it.

Well-said. Please share your #1 tip for writers:

Just do what you do. Don’t think for a minute about whether people will like it. Sit down and write.

Your websites/blogs/etc:

https://www.facebook.com/37stories37women

* * * * *

Much thanks to Brian for stopping by — do visit his website!

BRIAN’S SHORT BIO (in his own words):

I might possibly be the best author ever — and I am managing editor of a new mag. It has national distribution although it is at the grassroots stage. If your work gets in the mag we also do an ad for your biz.

It is an erotic-lit mag for the sexually entertained. So if you send me a photo of a kid and a dog, I am gonna turn you in to the cops.

~ Brian Whitney | December 11, 2013 at 9:11pm

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Author Interview, Daniel Clausen

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Interview #65, with the author of “The Ghosts of Nagasaki”: Daniel Clausen!

Describe yourself in 5 words:

Hopelessly romantic coffee drinker.

Share a short excerpt and blurb of your work (10-100 words):

Inoue

This is the first paragraph from my upcoming novel, The Ghosts of Nagasaki:

The long backward perspective one gets from the angle of a word
processor some years later is a tricky one. As a connoisseur of
biography and autobiography I know that there is nothing less reliable than someone writing about his or her own past from his or her own perspective. And for the general welfare of those who look for the bare facts of the matter, I am obliged to stamp on the very first page, in the very first paragraph, in bold italics: All fact-seekers beware.

* You can join the emailing list for this book at: ghostsofnagasaki.com

* If you would like a free paperback or PDF version of the excerpt
“Silence” from this book, you can email Daniel at: lexicalfunk@gmail.com

Share an excerpt of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

Not my favorite book, but one of my favorite authors, Haruki Murakami.

I actually don’t have any copies of my favorite books, as strange as that sounds. Here is something from Kafka by the Shore.

The massive bank of thunderclouds crossed the city at a lethargic
pace, letting loose a flurry of lightning bolts as if probing every
nook and cranny for a long-lost morality, finally dwindling to a
faint, angry echo from the eastern sky.

Comment on the writing versus publication process, in your experience:

That’s tough. A great deal of books on book marketing will tell you to begin your writing process with a target audience in mind.
This is counter-intuitive for most writers since most writing comes
from a desire to communicate something deeply personal. In other words, most authors start their books thinking about themselves, not their audience.

Even if you do decide to write something deeply personal, make sure
you get a good editor. Make sure you have an advertising
strategy that is practical and coherent. Make sure your book is the
best physical product you can have. And hopefully, the germ of your
inspiration to write will survive this process…there are no
guarantees.

What is your definition of “good writing”?

I’m not sure what good writing is, but good fiction should aspire to
be more truthful than real life. Good fiction can reach for honesties
not captured by the world most people know.

Please share your #1 tip for writers:

There’s no pot of gold, just the joy of doing good work. Doing good
work is difficult, so when you do it, it’s very rewarding.

Ah, diligence :) Your websites/blogs/etc:

ghostsofnagasaki.com

I just started the website, so please join the emailing list. If
you’re not sure how, just email me at: lexicalfunk@gmail.com

* * * * *

Much thanks to Daniel for stopping by — do visit his website for more info about his project!

Erotic Books: Poetry

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* This post is part of a short series:

QUALITY EROTICA (aka “Jess’s Erotic Stash”)

PART 1: Introduction + Erotic Art Books
PART 2: Erotic Books (Non-Fiction)
PART 3: Erotic Poetry
PART 4: Erotic Books (Fiction)
PART 5: More on Love/Sex/Relationships

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erotic_books

Jess’s erotic stash / “sex education”

[PART 3: Erotic Books / Poetry]

I’ve loved poetry since a really long time ago (of all subject matter and styles). It combines succinctness with wisdom/clarity, beauty with spirituality, so on and so forth. What’s there not to like?

AND when the topic is about sex or erotic love…

* * *

erotic_love_poems

11. Erotic Love Poems of Greece and Rome | Amazon.com

Blurb:

A taste of amour in the ancient world-newly translated. From the famous erotic poetry of Sappho to love scenes from Homer’s The Iliad, as well as works from such eminent Roman poets as Virgil and Catullus, this enthralling collection taps into a range of passionate, timeless emotions.

Excerpt:

Seeing someone incredibly beautiful can leave the timid observer speechless. So it was twenty-six centuries ago. In this poem, Sappho describes what she experienced when, from a distance, she saw a young man sitting close to the young woman she loved.

(Tongue-Tied, Page 27)

The beauty of ancient Greek/Roman culture and mythology are things I’ll never get tired of. A very concise + tasteful book.

Link: Amazon.com

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love_poems_japanese

12. Love Poems from the Japanese (Shambhala Library) | Amazon.com

Blurb:

Drawn from classical, medieval, and modern sources — including the imperial collections of the Manyoshu and Kokinshu — the poems in this collection are some of the greatest love poems from the Japanese tradition. The poems range in tone from the spiritual longing of an isolated monk to the erotic ecstasy of a court princess — but share the extraordinary simplicity and luminosity of language that marks Kenneth Rexroth’s (the translator’s) verse style.

Excerpt:

Since “the pillow knows all”
we slept without a pillow.
Still my reputation
reaches to the skies
like a dust storm.

(Lady Ise / Page 43)

This is the most expensive of all the poetry books here (bought from Singapore at Kinokuniya a long time ago — I won some book vouchers). Money well spent. It’s a perfect book — nothing superfluous.

Link: Amazon.com

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emily_dickinson

13. The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson | Amazon.com

Blurb:

Though generally overlooked during her lifetime, Emily Dickinson’s poetry has achieved acclaim due to her experiments in prosody, her tragic vision and the range of her emotional and intellectual explorations.

Excerpt:

Wild nights! Wild nights!
Were I with thee
Wild nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile the winds
To a heart in port, —
Done with the compass,
Done with the chart.

Rowing in Eden!
Ah! the sea!
Might I but moor
To-night in thee!

(XXV, Emily Dickinson)

Wow, Emily Dickinson. A poet before her time, I think (with regards to style / mode of expression). But with reading her poetry, what I remembered the most was how she captured the sentiments/moments of our existence. I got this at the same time as the Japanese poetry book above, by the way.

Link: Amazon.com

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baudelaire

14. Baudelaire | Amazon.com

Blurb:

Modern poetry begins with Charles Baudelaire (1821-67), who employed his unequalled technical mastery to create the shadowy, desperately dramatic urban landscape — populated by the addicted and the damned — which so compellingly mirrors our modern condition. Deeply though darkly spiritual, titanic in the changes he wrought, Baudelaire looms over all the work, great and small, created in his wake.

Excerpt:

Eyes glowing like an angel’s
I’ll come back to your bed
and reach for you from the shadows:
you won’t hear a thing.

(“Incubus” / Page 102)

Baudelaire was a French poet, essayist, art critic, and pioneering translator of Edgar Allan Poe (!).

Links: Amazon.com | Wikipedia

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erotic_poems

15. Erotic Poems | Amazon.com

Blurb:

These poems, selected from most of the cultures and histories of world literature, provide magnificent witness to the fact that love is as much an act of the imagination as it is of the body. From fourth-century Li Ch’ung’s “Parody of a Lover” to John Betmeman’s “Late-Flowering Lust,” they re-create, through the revelations of language, that experience of the erotic. Other poets include Theodore Roethke, Robert Graves, Octavio Paz, Joseph Brodsky, Sylvia Plath, Frederico Garcia Lorca, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and many others.

Excerpt:

…but I won’t call
Her ‘beautiful’. She has one fatal fault —
No sex-appeal: there’s not a grain of salt
In that big dish to stir the appetite.

(“Many Think Quintia’s Beautiful,” by Gaius Valerius Catullus)

Never know what I might find in this eclectic collection ;)

Link: Amazon.com

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QUALITY EROTICA (aka “Jess’s Erotic Stash”)

PART 1: Introduction + Erotic Art Books
PART 2: Erotic Books (Non-Fiction)
PART 3: Erotic Poetry
PART 4: Erotic Books (Fiction)
PART 5: More on Love/Sex/Relationships

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Recommended Erotic Books

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* This post is part of a short series:

QUALITY EROTICA (aka “Jess’s Erotic Stash”)

PART 1: Introduction + Erotic Art Books
PART 2: Erotic Books (Non-Fiction)
PART 3: Erotic Poetry
PART 4: Erotic Books (Fiction)
PART 5: More on Love/Sex/Relationships

=====

erotic_books

Jess’s erotic stash / “sex education”

[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.

* * *

lolita

16. Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov | Amazon.com

Blurb:

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.

Excerpt:

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).

Link: Amazon.com

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switch_bitch

17. Switch Bitch, by Roald Dahl | Amazon.com

Blurb:

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.

Excerpt:

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.

Link: Amazon.com

* * *

venus_in_furs

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).

Links: Amazon.com | Wikipedia

* * *

anais_nin_little_birds

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.

Excerpt:

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.

Link: Amazon.com

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anais_nin_delta_venus

20. Delta of Venus, by Anais Nin | Amazon.com

Blurb:

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.

Excerpt:

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 ;)

Link: Amazon.com

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lady_chatterley's_lover

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.

Excerpt:

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.

(Chapter 9)

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.

Links: Amazon.com | Wikisource (Chapter 9)

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sons_and_lovers

22. Sons and Lovers, by D.H. Lawrence | Amazon.com

Blurb:

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.”

Excerpt:

“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.

Link: Amazon.com

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QUALITY EROTICA (aka “Jess’s Erotic Stash”)

PART 1: Introduction + Erotic Art Books
PART 2: Erotic Books (Non-Fiction)
PART 3: Erotic Poetry
PART 4: Erotic Books (Fiction)
PART 5: More on Love/Sex/Relationships

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Poet Interview, Frank Mundo

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Interview #51, with poet, Frank Mundo!

Describe yourself in 5 words:

frank_mundo

Student of literature and art.

Share a short excerpt and blurb of your work (10-100 words):

frank_burbury

REMORSE by Frank Mundo

I must lay this to rest, must cast it aside,
Where memories map and nightmares collide
Like basic units of matter and mass.
I must embrace the lie: that this too shall pass
In time with patience if virtue is true,
And forget all I think (or thought) that I knew.
I must plough forward, despite all desire
And accept what faith and the future inspire
Without ever, of course, accepting the blame
For all that I did that earned me the name.

Share an excerpt of your favorite poet’s work (10-100 words):

* Note from Jess: I’m unable to accurately format this poem (in terms of spacing, etc). The poem’s original formatting can be viewed here.

The Triple Fool by John Donne

I am two fools, I know,
For loving, and for saying so
In whining poetry ;
But where’s that wise man, that would not be I,
If she would not deny ?
Then as th’ earth’s inward narrow crooked lanes
Do purge sea water’s fretful salt away,
I thought, if I could draw my pains
Through rhyme’s vexation, I should them allay.
Grief brought to numbers cannot be so fierce,
For he tames it, that fetters it in verse.

But when I have done so,
Some man, his art and voice to show,
Doth set and sing my pain ;
And, by delighting many, frees again
Grief, which verse did restrain.
To love and grief tribute of verse belongs,
But not of such as pleases when ’tis read.
Both are increasèd by such songs,
For both their triumphs so are published,
And I, which was two fools, do so grow three.
Who are a little wise, the best fools be.

Did reading a poem first spark the desire to write poetry, or was it an experience?:

After reading and studying for many years, I decided to give it a try myself. But it was reading Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales that inspired me to write my book The Brubury Tales.

I did link the two together ;)! What goal do you seek through your poetry?

To take a big fat stick and challenge our history, traditions, values, beliefs, mores, standards, stereotypes and anything else we take for granted or as gospel.

Most excellent (I like to combat the ‘sheeple’ mentality too). Please share your #1 tip for poets/writers:

Passion is not enough. Never stop studying your craft.

High standards. Your websites/blogs/etc:

Frank Mundo Books on Amazon.com

Twitter: @frankemundo

Facebook: FrankMundoBooks

You Tube: FrankMundoPoet

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Much thanks to Frank for stopping by!

Frank’s Bio:

For 14 years, FRANK MUNDO worked as a graveyard-shift security guard in Los Angeles, a job which allowed him to write and publish hundreds of stories, poems, essays, book reviews and author interviews. A book reviewer for the San Diego Union-Tribune, The New York Journal of Books, LA Books Examiner, Westside Today, Karisma Magazine (UCLA) and The Swamp, Frank earned a BA in English from UCLA, where he completed the Creative Writing Program.

His first book of poetry, The Brubury Tales, won the Poet Laureate Award Nomination from UCLA and CAL, Reader Views 2011 Reviewers Choice for Poetry Book of the Year, the 2011 Bookhitch Award for Most Innovative Poetry Book of the Year, a Reason to Rhyme Award from Byline Magazine, was selected for UCLA’s Words poetry exhibit at Powell Library, and selections were published by Fusion Literary Magazine (Indiana University) and The Swamp. Born in Maryland, Frank grew up in Los Angeles where he currently lives with his wife, Nancy, and their dogs, Jax and Rusty.