Tomorrow night, I will be meeting the author Linda Jaivin. Being utterly unfamiliar with her work, I thought it best to seek some out.
Only when I got to the library did I realize that the novel of hers that is available there, Eat Me, is erotic fiction. I thought perhaps the “CLASSIC EROTIC BESTSELLER” proclamation and bright pink, embossed cover (bringing to mind the phrase “pink bits”) was just for show, but flicking through the novel quickly a few indicative words jumped out at me.
Checking it out, I felt like the librarian was judging me. “This is a girl who looks for sex in novels!”, she must have been thinking. I wonder – is telling people you’ve been reading erotic fiction akin to telling people you just watched porn?
Don’t get me wrong – from the first few pages, the quality of writing seems very high. I don’t mean to infer that erotic literature is all trashy in the same way that porn is. The link between porn and erotic literature is perhaps in the reasons we seek it out. Sex for entertainment value? Is it curiosity, fantasy-fulfillment?
Maybe it’s got something to do with the people I discuss reading with. I don’t recall anyone ever telling me they’d just read a really good piece of erotic fiction. Yet I don’t recall ever really telling anyone the same thing either. This is probably because I haven’t really read any – with the exception of The Bride Stripped Bare, which is admirable not just for the story but for (*ahem*) pulling off a second person perspective so successfully. I own a copy of Story of O, but haven’t gotten around to reading it. I wonder whether I’d tell people it’s good in the same way I did with The Bride Stripped Bare, since it’s well known as an “erotic novel”, and is a bit taboo in a way that The Bride Stripped Bare was not.
Checking out this book today felt like the first time I bought condoms. So do we all read erotic literature and not talk about it? Is it a bit of a taboo? Or is this just a genre I haven’t discovered?
I’m 21 pages into Eat Me and feeling less shamed about checking it out – turns out it’s fairly humorous. Even so, the librarian probably doesn’t know that. Questions about porn and erotica still stand.
17/05/2011 at 8:05 am
I often theorize that the birth of eReaders mean people read more erotic fiction because people can’t see the cover when you’re reading it on public transport. I can’t say I’ve read any but have made numerous attempts of my own. I’m good at building up to it but often freeze before the actual moment and the story lays dead on my hard drive.
17/05/2011 at 8:07 am
Sex is really, REALLY hard to do well. My story “Hold On” has a sex scene in it, and I went through about twenty re-writes before I vagued over the thing so it’s not even clear they had sex.
Some people do sex well – Annie Proulx in Brokeback Mountain is frank, but not obscene.
You might be right about eReaders. I’ll be very curious now when people are on public transport as to whether they’re engaging in some smut next to me… 😛
17/05/2011 at 10:11 am
Great post, Sam. And it prompted me to ponder. Was Penthouse magazine the first Graphic Sex Novel? I mean they had great stories and all the pictures were air-brushed.
17/05/2011 at 10:15 am
Aha! Almost undoubtedly. I see you’re a connoisseur, your knowledge goes way back! 😛
18/05/2011 at 10:40 am
I read Eat Me a few years ago. Erotic fiction is not something I tend to dabble in but I thought.. you know.. I should read more female Australian authors and it seemed like an easy way to do so! From what I remember, it was a confused (and confusing) book in many ways – the many storylines sometimes seemed just an excuse for various fantasy sequences which didn’t gel with the supposed plot. Maybe I expected too much – erotica is about fantasy in many ways. Even so, I remember quite enjoying it, and one thing which really struck me was the empowerment behind every sexual encounter and the characters’ attitudes as a whole. That is definitely a product of its time, informed by feminism’s acceptance of women’s sexual appetites.
25/05/2011 at 5:51 am
I don’t think I have read any erotic novels before and I wouldn’t mind it would be embarassing to take out in public though. I do remember reading the Time Traveller’s wife on the train and feeling a bit uncomfortable with some of the sex scenes, thinking ‘is someone reading over my shoulder?’
I have been wanting to read an erotic/feminist book called the Wetlands though. Maybe one day I’ll get the courage to approach the librabrian.