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Jan 03 2017

Books You May Have Missed

[This is the text of the book reviews from episode 36, which was a recap of books I’d reviewed prior to having the podcast, grouped by genre. Some books didn’t make it onto the website so this is the first time some have been mentioned, while I’ve rethought my opinions on others.]

Fiction

The first book that came to mind after I had my Realisation was The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty—the first book in the Sleeping Beauty trilogy by Anne Rice. It’s now a quartet, as Rice added a fourth book in 2015. The books had been introduced to me when I was sixteen or so by a friend of mine who was both a fan of the author and also wildly horny. I can’t recall if I even finished the first book, but certain scenes stuck with me.

After realising a few things about myself I thought I’d give it another go. Yeah… I’m not a masochist and forced submission does nothing for me. Even in fantasy. The constant crying, humiliation and forced public nudity is a huge turn off. It’s written extremely well, though, and I recommend it to people who are looking for a specific sort of erotica. It’s just not for me, which was kind of a shame because there were three other books and it’s always nice to have your reading list set for awhile. I didn’t make it as far this time as I did as a teen—there are scenes I remember that I didn’t get to—now that I know about how consent works in BDSM I really need it. My fantasy life includes contract negotiation.

Then we have Something Leather by Alasdair Gray. This was an odd one. Quotes from my written review:

The stories felt very different from one another, which, at first, I thought was because the characters each came from different class backgrounds and had different personalities. Then it turned out Gray had reworked several of his plays to use as short fiction. One story was from one play, another was from another, etc.

Something Leather is an odd little book. If you’re only looking for the sexy/naughty bits read Chapter 12: Class Party and maybe Chapter 13: New June. The Epilogue also had some interesting insights into what Gray considered doing with some of the characters and plots at different points.

It’s more of a character study than about plot, though some weird occurrences…occur. To some weird people. Who live in Glasgow, which if probably part of their problem. (Kidding.)

I gave it a 3/5.

Next on the fiction list was Mary Gaitskill’s story collection Bad Behavior. I had high hopes here because it includes the short story the film Secretary is based on, which is one of the very few times the film was a vast improvement on the source material. I did a piece of writing comparing the story to the film (they’re both called Secretary)—the link will be in the show notes—if you’re curious about similarities, differences and so on. It’s a scene-by-scene, sometimes line-by-line comparison so, you know, here’s your spoiler warning.

Anyway, the book—the stories are about a bunch of people you’d never want to know. They’re interesting enough to read about, though. Several of whom are into sadomasochism, but not in a good way. In a—let’s not discuss boundaries—sort of way. A story called ‘Romantic Weekend’ was an excellent example of this.

From the original review:

Mary Gaitskill’s Bad Behavior is a collection of stories about some truly unlikable people. Really. I wouldn’t want to have lunch with one of them. Reading about them was engaging, though–Gaitskill captures the grimy, complicated reality of life, but this isn’t feel-good material. It isn’t redemptive reading, either–where someone triumphs over adversity. It’s a collection of people who live odd little lives and interact with others living odd little lives.

I gave it a 4/5.

Gaitskill herself had some questionable things to say about sadists and masochists and then I had some things to say about that—you know, in my shrinking violet way—in a writing that will be linked to in the show notes.

The final fiction book was The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek. It’s the novel the film of the same name is based on. I’d seen the film first and loved it and the book is even better. The film is so well-made, though, that the book only enhances re-watches. If you’re unfamiliar with either, it’s about a repressed piano teacher, Erika, who works at a conservatory in Vienna. She focuses entirely on her students and art, with the plan/dream of becoming a great star one day. She has many kinks, though they have never been explored or expressed, as she lives with her suffocating mother.

Eventually she meets a student, Walter Klemmer, who is everything she’s wanted to submit to. But he’s a vanilla guy and she doesn’t have the correct language to ask for what she needs. If you’ve seen the film—the book is written from several characters’ points of views and you get more background on Erika when she was very young and how she became the paragon of sexual freedom and expression she was as an adult.

I gave it a 5/5 and said it was a ‘must for any sadomasochistic bookshelf’.

Moving on to

Memoirs

Of which I have read two—both by Sophie Morgan. I’m looking for more memoirs, though, so please recommend good ones.

Morgan’s first was The Diary of a Submissive and was followed up by No Ordinary Love Story. Morgan is a journalist and so her writing is a bit detached—even though it’s about her own life. The first book covers the realisation of her kinkiness and first experiences with various boyfriends. One of whom isn’t the most communicative of human beings to walk the planet.

The follow up—No Ordinary Love Story. Ugh. This title. It sounds like what every teenager would call their first relationship. There’s a marked improvement in the writing—it feels more personal and less journalistic (the writing is quite good overall—it is what she does for a living—but capturing the intimacy of memoir and the subjectivity of journalism are two different talents.)

The second book picks up right where the first one left off and we get to spend more time with Sophie and her friends and her boyfriend (who’s also her Dominant.) One of my favourite parts is when she and her very inventive boyfriend go to a kinky cottage for a weekend. And they played Scrabble the whole time. Weird.

I gave Diary of a Submissive 4/5 and had this to say in the original review:

It was interesting to read about a person whose submission expresses itself in such different ways to my own. And to see what other people find a step too far, just too degrading. She’d happily do things I’d safeword on but other things I wouldn’t think twice about she found the utter end of humiliation street. That sort of thing is fascinating to me.

Morgan is very headstrong and has some brattish qualities. Then again, she will choose some cocky bastards to spend time with. Such a masochist, this one. Naturally submissive she is not, blanching at bog standard Dom requests. But that just goes back to everyone’s submission being a bit different.

No Ordinary Love Story received a 5/5 and I said:

If you’re looking for new ideas for some fun play—or just want to read about two people with an obvious connection having a great, kinky time—this is a good one for it. It gives an inside look at a relationship that’s heavy on the D/s, even if it’s not 24/7.

The next genre on the list is

Classics

The first one doesn’t really qualify as kinky, but let me tell you about it, because it was on the site—It was by Mark Twain and was called: 1601: Conversation as it was by the Social Fireside in the Time of the Tudors. Catchy. It was originally published anonymously in 1880 and Twain didn’t claim it for twenty-six years. I read it because it was included in a kindle collection of smut. It’s not really about anything kinky—it’s just ribald and has Queen Elizabeth (the first one) making fart jokes and talking about the plural of the word ‘bollocks’ with Ben Jonson, Sir Walter Raleigh, Francis Bacon and William Shakespeare while some other Elizabethans loll about. It’s a short read—less than half an hour—and is available at Project Gutenberg for free.

From the original review:

I’ve always enjoyed finding risque and out-right pornographic pieces by people who are considered ‘classic’ writers. Part of the fun of this one is that it’s written by the person who wrote Tom Sawyer. You know. Wholesome Mark Twain! We read him at school! Ahem.

I gave this a 4/5

On to Fanny Hill or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure by John Cleland, which is billed as the ‘first’ pornographic novel in the English language. It was published in 1748 and 1749. From the review:

The plot is one of innocent young thang (IYT), orphaned at the tender age of fifteen, who makes her way to the big city of London to live with a friend. Said friend dumps her quickly and Innocent Young Thang shelters under the wing of kind woman who turns out to be a madam of multiple prostitutes quelle surprise!

Then again, this is the first book to use that plot device so it’s every other book that’s the cliche. Perhaps it was an actual surprise to readers at the time. Trying to image that breaks my brain a little.

There is very much, a lot of sex—some of which is kinky. Here is one non-kinky scene:

Then the turtle-billing kisses, and the poignant painless love-bites, which they both exchang’d in a rage of delight, all conspiring towards the melting point; it soon came on, when Louisa, in the ravings of her pleasure-frensy, impotent of all restraint, cry’d out: ‘Oh Sir!–Good Sir!–pray do not spare me! ah! ah–I can no more.’ And all her accents now faltering into heart-fetch’d sighs, she clos’d her eyes in the sweet death, in the instant of which she was deliciously embalm’d by an injection, of which we could easily see the signs, in the quiet, dying, languid posture of her late so furious driver, who was stopp’d of a sudden, breathing short, panting; and for that time, giving up the spirit of pleasure.

This is the first pornographic novel. We started here. That’s a high bar. And now… Well…

I gave this a 5/5 and will be reading it for patrons who support at a certain level on Patreon after I finish the current book, which is the Victorian smut-fest Romance of Lust.

Classics-wise, I have read Venus in Furs a couple of times, but haven’t reviewed it on the site and it’s been quite some time since my last read so I’ll give it a proper review on the show once I read it again.

The film was terrible. Avoid. (Source)

The next genre is non-fiction and a book I’d like to talk about overlaps between classics and non-fiction. It’s Psychopathia Sexualis by Richard von Krafft-Ebing. I read it fourteen years ago and, had I been paying closer attention, I could have joined the BDSM scene then.

Anyway. I’ll probably read it again for funsies, but won’t devote an entire podcast episode to it because it’s quite niche. It was the first catalogue of sexual deviancies based on case studies that was to be used, ostensibly, for medical and legal purposes. The more scandalous parts were in Latin.

Yeah, that didn’t stop people, the general public ran out and bought the thing like it was the last book in the Harry Potter series. ‘Ooohh, what are the neighbours doing with the other neighbour’s floppy bits? Those nasty buggers! Turn the page!’

It’s definitely a product of its time—masturbation makes men weak and nearsighted—and people often came from families with a history of neurasthenia, which could be headache, anxiety, depressed mood, high blood pressure, heart palpitations or fatigue. There was all sorts of Victorian goodness like that. That’s just how I feel watching the news now, though. 2016, the year of neurasthenia.

But, Krafft-Ebing thought being gay was just who you were—it wasn’t changeable or necessarily awful. He didn’t think it was entirely healthy, either, but one step at a time. This was 1886—it’d be nearly a hundred years before they’d remove homosexuality as a mental illness from the DSM and the VP-elect currently believes you can torture the gayness out of people. So… This dead Austro-German dude was ahead of that guy.

The book is interesting in some ways—it shows how fetishes are shaped by our culture. Men often fetishized womens handkerchiefs and gloves—because that’s one of the first items related to women they were allowed near. The same is true of listening to women urinate into chamber pots.

The edition I read was unexpurgated with previously removed case files re-inserted and the Latin was translated into English so you can see what they thought was just too much for sensitive readers back in the day. Here is a link to that specific edition. It’s hard to rate this one because you’ll either find it interesting for historical/scientific/psychological purposes or it’ll bore you to death. Make your decision based on the review.

On to

Nonfiction

The first two are by Janet W. Hardy and Dossie Easton. They’re The New Topping Book and The New Bottoming Book. They’re two separate books, but I think they should be read together. No matter which side you fall on it’s useful to know what the other side is thinking, doing or feeling. And if you’re a bottom then it’s very useful to know what ethical tops will be like so you can identify non-ethical tops.

There was an episode of this show about these books—episode seven—where the Multiamory crew came on and reviewed the books. Their show is about polyamory but they were interested in exploring kink and wanted to know what I’d recommend. I said both of these books and all three hosts read both books. They did a great job.

I think everyone coming into the scene should read these—it should be part of Kink 101.

Both authors are bisexual switches with decades of experience and they include personal stories to demonstrate specific techniques between chapters starting with the basics up to a bit more complex play towards the end.

There are more personal stories in the Topping book than the Bottoming book—it would have been nice to have more stories in the second book, but that’s a quibble.

If you read both books there will be some repetition because most people aren’t going to be so thorough as to read both and some information is applicable to either side of the situation. I read a review where someone was complaining because they’d read both and were upset about some of the same material being in both books. They called it lazy writing and thought they did that to take up space.

Um…no. Most people are only going to read the book geared toward their interest and knowing how to communicate properly is important. The skills are the same. And the majority of the two books are different.

The penultimate book on the list is Living M/s: A Book for Masters, slaves and Their Relationships by Dan and dawn Williams. Dan and dawn have the Erotic Awakening podcast and they put together this set of writings around ten years into their power exchange. I wanted to read it because I’d been listening to their show and they seemed like such a happy couple—really down to Earth and articulate about what they got out of power exchange. I read this when I was really new to the scene and connected with it on a profound level—Dan’s writings are excellent examples of what a good D-type can be and dawn’s writings… Wow.

From the original review:

Multiple times I found myself thinking that this was a person who absolutely ‘got’ me—or at least an aspect of me that others wouldn’t. It’s one thing to be accepted and loved by your friends (and I’m not denigrating that for a second), but it’s another thing entirely to see someone else’s words and realize they completely understand you. They get it.

At the time I gave it a 5/5 and recommended it to everyone, but now that I’ve read more widely—I’d probably say this is a good one for beginners.

If you listen to Erotic Awakening (and you should give it a listen! It’s great!) You’d probably like it, too. They write the way they speak so it’s like getting to know them a bit better.

And finally, The Pleasure’s All Mine: A History of Perverse Sex by Julie Peakman. From the ancient Greeks up to the present, from one country to the next, what has been considered ‘moral’ and ‘normal’ in terms of sexual activity and interests has varied wildly. This book looks at an impressive list of desires, fetishes and activities and compares how they’ve been viewed in various parts of the world during various periods of history.

Hey, did you know male masturbation used to be punishable by death? It was considered murder so it was a capital offence. This book was full of ‘You know…when people say everyone was nicer in the olden days, they were really hardcore dickweasels.’

Some of the topics covered:
Heterosexuals
Masturbation
Gays
Lesbians
Transvestites
Transsexuals
Bestiality
Sadomasochism
Necrophilia
Incest
Paedophilia
Exhibitionism
Voyeurism
Coprophilia and Urolagnia (Scat and Piss)
Flogging and Spanking
Fellatio/Cunniligus
Fetishists
Apotemnophilia (self-demand amputation)
Objectum sexuals (people attracted to inanimate objects)
Sexual cannibalism
Infibulations (male, as in piercing the foreskin)
Fisting
(and more!)

One of my favourite pieces of information (and there was much to love) was that the term ‘heterosexual’ was originally used in 1892 by Dr James G. Kierman to mean ‘abnormal manifestations of the sexual appetite’; this included desire for both sexes.

This means that bisexuals are really heterosexuals and heterosexuals are really homosexuals. Because they only like one sex. Homosexuals are also homosexuals, too. Tell your most homophobic relatives today!

There were some problematic, challenging areas covered—like the discussion of how do you decide the age of consent for people? It’s completely arbitrary from one country (or state) to another and always has been. And what’s wrong with necrophilia? (I mean, if we’re going to tell living women what to do with their bodies why can’t we tell dead people what to do with theirs. They’re dead—they won’t know, right? Why do the dead have more rights than the living?)

There were a few sections that force the reader to think about some uncomfortable topics, but that wasn’t a negative, necessarily. Unless you don’t like thinking. In which case, I’m not entirely sure why you’re listening to this show.

It’s available in hardback, paperback and Kindle. I got it in hardback because as soon as I heard about it I was: GIMMEE IT. And that is a heavy, well-made book with high-quality paper—that glossy kind. It has 180 images, sixty-eight of which are in colour. As an object it’s beautiful—it’s also a little spendy, but it’s worth it. The images are sculptures, paintings, illustrations from literature and history and that sort of thing.

For that reason I would recommend a physical copy—even if it’s the paperback, though I don’t know if they’ll have colour pages or if it will still be the heavy, glossy paper that I may or may not have kept shoving my face into the take a big whiff.

More from the original review:

The weakest point of the book is Peakman’s writing, which isn’t the strongest. It felt like a highly readable dissertation except for some repetitive word choices. That’s a minor quibble, though. Overall, The Pleasure’s All Mine was interesting and thought-provoking. I learned a lot about the history of lots of sexy things and some things kinky. And some things a little blerg. But I believe all information is useful information. Even blerg information.

I gave this a 4/5.

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