Sunday, November 4, 2012


I think I have an odd kind of synesthesia. I feel words. When I write it is like sculpting. It feels like motion. I feel like I am running my hands over a scultural form. I can tell when the piece is too flat. I can feel the rise and fall of it. I can feel it when I am reading too which is why I get so angry when the words I am reading clang flatly. It is a ride and if the ride is not fluid I am jerked out of the story.

I know this now because I went on anti-depressants last week. I took them for 5 days. They stopped me from sleeping. I broke out in pimples on my nose and forehead. I sweated terribly and smelled funny. But the worst of it was I wrote words without feeling them at all. They were all flat on the page. I had no way of telling if they were good words or bad words. I was removed from the dance of them. I couldn't feel them in three dimensions any more.

Last time I went on the drugs I didn't write for a year.  Now I think I know why. What is the point of writing flat words on a page. If the dance is gone or if you are removed from it, why bother to try to dance at all?

I have stopped taking the drugs. I know I have been close to the edge. I know I have been worrying my friends and bothering my acquaintances with my odd paranoia. I have been thinking about the long sure plummet of late and that is a concern. But what is the point of living if you are vaguely happy. What is the point of working if you cannot feel the words.

Maybe it is not synesthesia but if not it is something terribly similar. Whatever it is, it allows me to wrap my arms around the body of the work an bend it into the most pleasing shapes. It is like being with a responsive lover. It is like the best kind of kissing. I am not yet ready to abandon this for the safety of sanity. I have come off the drugs. Bear with me. We may be up for some hard times. yet.


You are playing with her. Playing as a child plays, full of joy and wonder. There is just the bubble of you and her, she giggles and moves her arm, you lean towards it, chasing. This is kiss chasey only on a micro scale, here in the bar surrounded by the rest of us. You are just flirting. Both of you partnered off to other people, but for this second there is only the pure childish joy of this moment.

You are fun to be around.

I hear you say it and it throws me. I am here with everyone else and I am alone. I do not flirt. I am not flirted with. I am not fun to be around at all. You lean in to chase her arm and I withdraw. I am close enough to touch and yet I am not touched. I could be chased but I remain heavy and static, a statue made of brass, untouchable.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Little stop

Little stop, my grandmother used to say. Now a little stop. I think of this when I place it on my tongue and swallow. I don't feel quite right, but then I wasn't quite right before. This unbalanced feeling is perhaps a leveling.

1.30am. A ridiculous time to be so awake, awake enough to work and yet with nothing to offer. The pounding in my skull is the sound of the world emptying out. My palms are sweaty. There is a faint odour.

I have been taking the drugs for three days. I can still see the slide of the knife into my eye. I can still imagine the cold O of the mouth of a gun. I can do myself harm, but what is the point when I have no passion for it. I no longer weep because I am all dried out and I am thirsty as a dog in summer.

I sit on the couch, sleepless, wide eyed. I sit and know the vast emptiness of eternity and my place within it. Only now eternity is shrinking, day by day, closing up on itself till, next week, or the one after, I will walk down a small street into a small city and it will feel like everything there is.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Genre Attack

It is strange when I suddenly realise that what I am writing fits within a genre I didn't expect. It happened with Steeplechase (Text Publishing due May 2013). I was writing this book and I thought it was just a straight literary fiction. It was only sometime in the second draft that I realised I was writing a ghost story of sorts, not actual ghosts but the ghosts of your past. I started to read gothic ghost stories and suddenly the whole book fell into place.

This next book, Abstinence had the same journey. I wrote the first draft referencing classic erotic texts and it was truly an erotic novel. That was it's genre. Facing the second draft I knew something was not quite right. It seems what I have written is a sexual superhero story. I blame my obsession with Wilhelm Reich, of course, but now that I come back to the book, the Orgone energy thread is the strongest trope in the book. My heroine is a sexual superhero. She is Barbarella, she is Batman with a cunt. I am learning to embrace this now. In my re-draft I am upping the superpowers. This is not a genre I am used to. The comics I enjoy are more Chris Ware than Marvel or DC. Perhaps I should introduce a costume for her at some point. Oh dear. What have I done?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Not the best

I hang on to the things that are worst. The criticisms, the negative comments the bad reviews. All the rest slides off me like water and only the gritty stuff is rescued like stones in a sieve. I delete the text, burn the letter, practice forgetting. Anything that will help me unwind this bitter ball of hate that I am gestating. Why is it that this self hate does not turn to cancer. It seems unfair that I go on when others fall. My grandmother who always told me that at second best I was not good enough, is still alive into her 90s. She is limping along on hate and anger I suspect. I lie in the bath and close my eyes and feel the same energetic throbbing behind my lids. I am held up by all the terrible things that have ever been aimed at me. I collect them like severed limbs kept in jars. I am nothing but a medical curiosity. Her words to me, his words to her, his words to me, my words to him, all of this niggling criticism fueling a life that has stomped off the rails and is rampaging out in a more self destructive direction.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


I remember him eating pizza. The problem was the swallowing of it. By this time his muscles were not working in any kind of automatic way. He chewed, deliberately, but when it came to swallowing, the whole thing became a nightmare of muscles working against breath, breath working against saliva, Coordinating the march of food from lips to throat to stomach seemed to overwhelm him. He choked, coughed, the sound of vomiting but without vomit. Just chunks of pizza spilled in his lap and the look on his face, the shame, the sense of loss.

He apologised and I told him it was unnecessary. I looked at his lips all smeared with red sauce, those fat sensual lips that had been the first to touch my cunt. The twist of a tongue and what it felt to have that tongue inside me. He was the first and the last lover who actually enjoyed lapping at my clitoris. I wasn't to know this at the time. I thought that all men after him would go down joyfully without all the cajoling that one has to do. Now, here in the last years of his life, his chest heaves, his lips twitch.

'I am sorry' he says and he is almost crying. He is ashamed for me to see him because he still wants me to think of him there between my spread thighs. I am not embarrassed to see him like this because I have long since stopped thinking of him in this way. His eyes are welling with tears and for a moment I do remember. He was the first lover who liked giving head. I was not to know he would be the last.

Five years later he would be dead.

real things

that need to be dragged out from under the bed. Or from within it. Real things that frighten me. That won't be trapped on a page like the petals of a dead flower. That avoid words, hiding in dreams. All the play things on the page are too easy. Real things resist because I am frightened of them. But they are there. I hear them moving around down there like crabs. One day I will kneel down and lift the corner of the blanket.

Sunday, July 29, 2012


It is hard to watch you there without interacting.


I would say hi or you would. A conversation, mostly ending in distress. Now I wear my cloak of invisibility like I did as a child playing role play games, like I did as a teenager hiding behind my hair. As I haven't for all the years we have been. I want to bound up to you and start a conversation but it all goes bad all the time and so I am learning to hide again. Under the bed. In the cupboard. Behind my work.

Veneer. I am putting on a thin crust but with time it will be less thin. It will look like skin, only thicker than my own. It will be falsely skin coloured and cold to the touch. You are there and it hurts my heart to see you. Sooner or later I will be in the habit of not looking at all.


I don't know if I have talked about honesty. I have a terrible habit of opening my mouth and letting the truth spill out unchecked. It is how I wrote Affection, carelessly and with an open heart and open mouth. It is how I live my life in general. If you are secretive then you become vulnerable so I just try to be honest most of the time.

Lately I have been censoring myself. It is facebook that is the problem. I'll say my day is less than great and suddenly I will be buried under well wishes. I will admit that something I am working on is terrible and people will leap in to assure my it isn't so.  Well, actually, sometimes what I create is terrible. Most of what I write is unmemorable, some days are awful, almost all of the time I don't look beautiful and I am not just saying this to get a wash of positive affirmations back. I am being honest. These are the truths. I don't need people to reassure me otherwise.

If I am less than beautiful then that is ok. That is a good place to start creating art from. Who needs the beautiful amongst us to write all the stories. If some of my days are bleak then that is fine too. One day it will turn around and I will be content for a brief period.  Sometimes (often) my writing is less than poetic. That is as it should be. I should be strong enough to admit when something I have created has little worth. This is part of the practice.

I don't know what to do about this. I could leave facebook. It is a place that supports all my bad work and my ugliness and urges me to be a happy shiny person.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Maybe one day I will be ready to write a book about sadness. There will be some sex in it because even in the fog of it there is still a reaching out. Sarah Manguso in The Guardians writes "I've been insulated from my own death since I began taking this new medicine. I am no longer moved to write poetry, but I traded poetry for a longer life. I knew I was doing it."

This is the conundrum. If I go back on medication I will not be able to write the book on sadness. When I am sad I feel like my own sadness is big enough to be responsible for all the ills in the world. I am afloat right now but I am always aware of the drowning. Which time? Next time? The time after? Some time  I will sink down too far and the tiny fluttering bird of my breath will take in water before I have time to reach the line where the ocean meets the sky.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

writing sex

She asked me if I minded that everyone just saw me as a sex writer. I shrugged. It is impossible to control how others see me. I write other things, not just sex but sex is at the heart of every interaction and it is the glue that binds us as people.

I have been struggling with the big questions, the meaning of life, the pointlessness of existence. Pointless questions really because the answers are so obvious. There is no meaning of life. Things just are and we happen to exist along with the rest of it. I am beset by the same worries that the philosophers have grappled with since words could be scribbled on stone. Surely by now we would have learned that there is no point to the endless questioning and yet we humans can't seem to stop feeling like there should be something more.

Sex is the reason we commune. It is all back to procreation I suppose but now in a new time, we practice sex as a ritual. Sex as a means of communication. Sex to prove to us that we are loved. There is sex in my work and certainly Triptych was written as a pure exploration of sexual boundaries, but I will always be looking for more than just the surface of us as sexual beings.

My family have removed themselves from a position where they need to commune with others. They have created a sexless existence, a pond of existence so isolated that there will never be a single ripple in the surface of their lives. From this position they wind down, unchallenged.

So I suppose it is fine that everyone sees me as a sex writer. At least I am making ripples if not waves. The water is constantly churned. Within this turbulence I can still seek to find something beautiful to capture and bring to the world.

There have been stories I have written that are not really about sex. There are whole books too although sex is simmering somewhere beneath the surface calm. But I suppose if people only see me as a sex writer that is okay too. At least they see me. Most days I just feel invisible after all.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Pillow Book: The End of Draft 1

So I have come to the end of the first draft. I have no perspective on it. Could be terrible, might have a glimmer of hope at it's core. I struggled for a while at the end there to figure out what I was trying to say.

The problem with this book was that it came from elsewhere. My publisher pitched the idea and it was indeed a good one. I could see the potential in it. I was excited by the idea of reading the cannon of sex classics. I wanted to expand my knowledge of erotic fiction by immersing myself in the form. I did it for the fun of it and was surprised half-way through by the excitement I felt when I discovered the work of Wilhelm Reich. This book has, in fact, been endlessly exciting. The discoveries were many. The ones that strike me most at this point are James Salter, Angela Carter, Peter Reich, Pauline Regae. I am interested in the fact that certain books confounded me. I didn't finish Ador or Adore by Nabakov. I wonder if one day I will go back to it and find it suddenly makes sense. I know I will reread A Sport and A Pasttime one day because the first half of the book confused me so much on the first reading, but by the end I was in love. There is more Carter to visit and de Sade was wonderful but I didn't get to the end of either of his books that I attempted. There is more work to do.

I want to stop for a moment and talk about the ending. I don't want to spoil it for a reader but I need to mention that I found the point I was making only after weeks of searching within myself. It is too easy to make the book about love. All we need is love. It is an old adage but a useful one. When we are 'in love' it seems that this must be the answer to every question. Love will win out. Love is all we need. The thing is this feeling that we call 'love' is such a transient thing. A lovely transient thing. It is a feeling we do not bestow on just one person. It is something to be passed around from lover to lover, friend to friend. I needed to know what I was saying about sex. It is a book about sex after all and therefore I must know what my position is. Sex is a powerful transformative force. Sex can change our views, our morality, our ethics. Sex can shake governments and change the social structure of the wold. This then my answer. Sex. The most powerful, dangerous, wonderful transformative force.

I need to go away and think about this for a while before I start revising. I need to write this on an index card and hang it on my wall. Abstinence is stasis. Sex is change.

This is what I have learned so far from all this reading and all this writing.

I have picked up Susan Sontag's journals and there is something wonderful about her short thoughts, her little trains of ideas that link each day of her life. A pillow book of ideas. I think I need to start one of these, perhaps on this blog. I need to track my thoughts as I move towards a redrafting of the book. I also need to continue with my reading. I have read a heap of classic and modern sex books this year but there are so many more to forrage through. I started Fanny Hill but never Finished it. I started the Felix Saltern and I feel a little sad that it was never used for the book itself. I need to read another Carter to see if I can have my mind opened and changed yet again. And so begins my pillow book, with questions, an idea about the nature of sex, and a plan.

The Books: The Story of O by Pauline Regae.

Well, well, well. Here is a book that is very very sexy indeed and yet also challenges all your assumptions. There was perhaps a bit more 'fashion' in this book than I remember from y furtive reading of it all those years ago. I think, like with American Psycho, I skipped through the descriptions of clothing that first time around. On this reading I skipped nothing, and enjoyed everything. The descriptive passages are beautiful, there is no distinction made between the descriptions of sex and the description of a gown. BDSM has always challenged my feminist nature, particularly when a woman is the bottom and a man is the top. In O, surprisingly, power comes from her submission. Regae has deftly made it clear that submissiveness is one thing on the surface, but another at its core. O becomes more powerful with each act of submission. What a challenging and culturally interesting move on the part of the author. I now must elevate Regae to a similar position to Angela Carter in my writer's hall of fame. Here is a woman who can play with cultural assumptions and throw the world on its head. The thing with Regae is that she does this whilst also titillating the reader with some of the sexiest sex scenes ever translated into English.

My hat is off to you Ms Regae and, if you command it off me, so is the rest of my clothing. I will be forever your slave.


Something you should all support.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Books: My Hundred Lovers by Susan Johnson

What makes a book erotic? For some people it is the presence of flesh, for some it is the descriptions of sex, and if you are one of these readers, then My Hundred Lovers will not disappoint. But for me a truly erotic book is one which can seduce you with language, and Susan Johnson is the queen of literary seduction. This is a book which tracks one very rich and full life. A woman who is turning 50 looks back on the years she has lived and the ‘lovers’ she has had. She does this in extremely short poetic chapters that show us that a ‘lover’ does not necessarily mean a sexual partner. From the love of a parent, to the touch of the wind, from a woman who falls in love with objects to a full blown physical love between people, the ‘lovers’ in her life receive equal treatment whether they are human, animal or intangible. Each one is beautifully described and the small individual moments add up to a life that is full, sensual, poignant and wonderful.

The Books: Justine and 100 days of Sodom

Two things. I didn't finish these books. Also I enjoyed them more than I expected. I started with Justine and although at first it caused me pain to trawl through the unwieldy sentences, the archaic language, the odd turn of phrase, eventually I fell into the rhythm of it and, surprisingly, began to laugh. Who was to know that de Sade is funny? I certainly didn't expect this. I really enjoyed the hilarity of silly Justine making the same mistake over and over. I want to be virtuous, and the universe slapping her down again and again.

It was kind of an anti Ayn Rand, or perhaps it was satirising all that Ayn Rand holds dear. Her serious love of capitalism was held up and shaken in de Sade. His rich and powerful people win, of course they do, because life is ridiculous. But the winners are not painted as you would expect. The winners are ugly, and, when, listening to my more learned friends, I switched to 100 Days of Sodom, they are painted as a crazed and ugly crew. Priests have penises that are deformed and fail to become erect, noblemen delight in defecating on small children. I love his extremities, how he takes everything so far that it becomes ridiculous in its excess. de Sade is not being serious. He is taking the piss. He is thumbing his nose at the rich and slashing at the very fabric of society.

Probably better in small doses. In a big chunk it loses it's startling obscenity, the extreme seems mild - perhaps that is the point, but I like de Sade, just in small doses. I must finish Justine for bookclub or at least I will try, this weekend of dedication to the debauched. Lets see if I emerge with my sense of humour still intact after that.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Books: Vox by Nicholson Baker

Vox is an extended flirtation. A sexy telephone call that lasts a whole book. As a flirtation, there is an exploration of how people relate, a sussing out of what one or the other of the characters finds sexy. This is sometimes surprising, but our protagonists are careful to respect and run with each other's fantasies. There is a particularly sexy scene in the book where we hear a scene where a couple watch a porno together. They hide their genitals under a shared blanket and the man becomes increasingly aroused by the small movements of the blanket and the slight changes to the woman's breath and the flush of her skin. This is perhaps one of the sexiest passages I have ever encountered and the lessons it teaches us are about hiding instead of revealing. It also does not fulfill our expectations. Neither of the characters leaps over modesty to ravage the other. After a moment of orgasmic abandon the couple return to being relative workplace strangers. This book is worth reading even if it is just for that passage, but it also shows us how we can cleverly use dialogue. There is almost nothing in this book that isn't dialogue. An amazing feat from a very clever author.

The Books: The House of Holes by Nicholson Baker

Rarely have we been treated to such a romp. This book is a gaffaw. Baker is taking he piss out of the porn industry whilst celebrating all the trapping of this genre in a book about good clean pornographic fun. Everyone is ready for sex all of the time, just the mere suggestion of anal and the girl is kneeling and spreading her cheeks wide before we can grab a hold of our pecker. Pecker, Peeny Wanger, Blood Pumping Truncheon - Baker grabs every euphemism he can find and then rolls around in the lot of them. Even when transgressing, a married woman calls her husband on the phone to find out if it is ok for this strange man to stuff her full of dick meat given that he has such an awfully pretty penis. There is just no malice in this book. It is terribly inventive and celebrates sex in all it's good honest heterosexuality.

My only slight issue with Holes is how terribly Hetero it is. Girl on girl is fine, but the girls only begin to touch each other when a man is watching. If there are two girls alone (and naked) in a room together they will be lamenting the lack of good hard dick. Holes is a heterosexul man's fantasy. In reality, if the girls and guys were this horny all the time they wouldn't be waiting for a person of the opposite sex to enter the room, they would be falling wildly into a tangle of her 'frilly doilies' rubbing against her 'carry on luggage' and he would certainly be putting his 'Malcolm Gladwell' into the other fellow's house of holes.

What Baker does for my own work is to encourage me to invent a new language for sex. I share his belief that sex is indeed funny and I, like Baker allow my characters to indulge without a sense of shame, but I tend to hide behind niceties when I come to naming things. With a nudge and a wink Baker has encouraged me to be a little more playful in the expression of sex itself.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Song of Solomon

Ok I have been told that this is where it starts, the original erotica. Biblical, sensual, sexy as the garden of Eden. On the first read through I am a little confused. The voice changes, the setting changes too, but really this is exactly what happens in A Sport and A Past Time by James Salter and that turned out to be one of my favourite erotic texts. I think this needs another read through. The part that speaks to me most are the descriptions of her and him. The fanciful analogies. The idea of a naval as a cup that wants not for wine.

I have backtracked in my own book. I have written her and him just as the song would have it. Just a sketch for now, but I can go back on a second reading. I suppose this is a beginning of sorts, not that anything is ordered about this book. The song is short enough to read it several times. I have an introduction by A S Bayatt to get through too. Perhaps my relationship to this piece has a way to go.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Books: 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James

Really? Really? Millions of American housewives? Really? Can't you all do better than this? This 'book' is so badly written that it barely deserves to be mentioned. I would not mention it if it hadn't wasted two days of my life in the reading. I have purposely refrained from writing new material in the hope that this terrible piece of writing will not influence my style.

As Twilight fan fiction it perhaps has limited appeal. It is kind of funny to think that the chaste main character of Twilight is deeply involved in BDSM. Funny perhaps as the punchline of a short anecdote. The fact that this has fueled not one but three terribly penned books is a tragedy. It makes me sad to think that millions of people have bought this book and sadder to know that some of them may have actually read the thing. If they also enjoyed it I might despair. A book that is littered with 'holy heck!' 'holy hell' 'holy crap' 'holy fuck'. Seriously? This isn't Batman is it?

The whole thing about BDSM is that it is a choice. The fact that the protagonist of this book goes into it because she is so in love with this man is problematic. If you love someone you should submit to whatever they want even if you don't want to? Again, I think - what are we teaching the children?

Why am I even trying to analyse this? If the author of this book can't respect that I am an intelligent reader by writing prose that is not labored, littered with adjective after adjective, prose that shows me without telling me everything, and prose that does not say Holy Hell! every paragraph, then why should I bother discussing it. In fact why should I bother reading it all the way through.

Please do not buy into the water-cooler driven frenzy to buy this book, just look up some excerpts of it on the net, realise how bad the writing is, and save your cash for something that is not, as a friend put it 'mindnumbingly mindnumbing'.

The Books: The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman

I longed for Wilhelm Reich. This happened about a third of the way through this book and continued till the end. It made me think about Orgone energy and all the mad and wonderful references to it. It made me want to wear a Devo flowerpot on my head. I am positive that Carter was referencing Reich when she referred to Hoffman. A contemporary of Freud, crazy and wonderful all at the same time.

The first few chapters of this book were totally disorienting. That was the point I suppose, but I struggled to stick with it. I am sometimes a lazy reader. I find myself distracted. Books like this one throw you into a whole new world and a whole new way of thinking. I came away from it transformed. I could almost hear the machinery turning over in my head. I felt this way after reading Jimmy Corrigan by Chris Ware, a change in my thought process that lead me to experience the real world differently. So it is with Angela Carter.

This is a book about sex in so many ways and yet perhaps it doesn't fit with the other sex books I have been reading. There are sex scenes, a few of them, odd transgressive moments with centaurs and children and the mothers of child brides, but it isn't the sex scenes that make it a book about sex. The whole world she has created describes a persons sexual psyche. She cracks the world apart and reinvents it.

Hoffman has changed my relationship to the book too. I am done with part one and its traditional narrative arc. Part two is a place to crack my own world apart. I invite Reich into the world of my novel. I seek him. My charachter, Holly will be seeking him. All this because Angela Carter opened my skull and forcibly inserted Wilhelm Reich inside it. I am gathering my Orgone Energy even now to begin the challenge that is now Book 2.

The Books: Sadopaideia by Anonymous.

BDSM. This is a world that I have only brushed up against in passing. Here are the things I like about it: Texture. I like the feel of leather and rubber against the skin. I like the clothing that adorns the pages of Bizarre, Corsets, laced up boots. I like the danger of bondage, the idea that you can be held in place, the freedom of relinquishing free will and accepting pleasures that are out of the ordinary. I like the idea of being the dominant, forcing someone gently to comply to my sexual will. All of these fantasies move me occasionally. Still, in Sadopaideia there is too much spanking for my tastes. Page after page of rosy bums and red welts. A little is fine, but I tired by page 50. By page 100 I was merely skimming, looking past the spankings and the crucifictions and the begging, reading only the sex and finding even this repetative. This says more about my taste than about the book. If this is your thing, this endless punishment and spanking, then I would say this book would be perfect. It is not badly written. Read side by side with 50 Shades of Grey it seems like Shakespeare. Some of the fantasies depicted run counter to the tastes of today. The two young children who are taken into the S&M lifestyle without, however being deflowered, would cause a modern reader to feel a sense of rage. It was published in 1907 and, like My Secret Life by Walter (1888) children are just another transgressive fantasy.

Cecil, the protagonist, is equally aroused by domination and submission. I find this interesting. There does not seem to be a need for a division between Subs and Doms. The variety is the key, although I have to admit I was less than aroused by the scenes in this book. I always see spanking as a very English past time. Perhaps because I was not disciplined by spanking as a child it does not particularly arouse me. Or maybe I have never been spanked properly...

The Books: Le Livre Blanc by Jean Cocteau

The think I will take away from this work of gay male erotica is an image of boys so sunburned and with their chests so white in comparison that they look like chestnuts roasted and split. That edible image, so evocative of heat and scent is the one clear moment of this book for me. The translation is terrible. There are words that are out of place and make no sense. I am certain it could be a smoother read if the English translation were handled more delicately. Still, the prose is clearly penned by a deft hand. A fondness for detail whilst also maintaining a certain minimalist touch to description. This is a slim volume that moves from love to despair to promiscuity to the burlesque. I love that the narrator is aware of the social pressures for him to turn straight and marry, and yet he firmly understands his own inflexible sexual nature. He loves men and boys, unashamedly. There is a strength in the telling. Anonymously published and yet Jean Cocteau allowed it to be listed amongst his works. This edition wears Cocteau's name proudly.

I am not sure if this work will have any influence on the book I am writing. But I am glad I have read it.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Books: A Sport and A Pastime by James Salter 3

"As for Anne-Marie, she lives in Troyes now, or did. She is married, I suppose there are children. They walk together on Sundays, the sunlight falling upon them. They visit friends, talk, go home in the evenings, deep in the life we all agree is so greatly to be desired."

Yes. This is it. Not how it is done, the positions, the fact that she is taken from behind, the anal sex, the descriptions of fucking. None of that matters when it is all eclipsed by the final line. Her marriage is a kind of defeat when placed here like a quickly scrawled shopping list. All that has gone before is now lost and we feel the regret of its passing.

Holly, my holly has this in her future if we are to believe the stories of great loves. Cinderella, Romeo and Juliet, Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. All destined for some compromise that involves day after day of what is called love. How can I be so cynical? Sometimes it is ok. Sometimes it is the best of things. I lie every night in the same bed on the same side and, in that moment before sleep, I stretch my hand out and touch skin that it is so familiar that it might be my own. In that nightly touch I hold all my fears of loss, memories of night terrors, memories of sex and sensuality and love. So much in just one stroke of a finger, but most times it is enough. I do agree that this life is desired. I don't take it for granted. Still I struggle to find the flight across france, the night after night of new adventures, the love that drowns us both. That is a more short term proposition, that kind of relentless passion. It is another side of my life, a challenge that I can rise to if I am cut loose. In that nightly caress I carry my regret as well as my gratefulness. I carry all of the Salter, the middle and the ending. I am at the end I suppose. Which is why, perhaps, I am always so sad.

Friday, February 17, 2012


Words on the page are resisting my advances. I only want to look at her, describe her. Let me do it here, while you are watching. Perhaps that will make it easier.

She raises herself up in front of the mirror. The pillows are arranged as Salter has described, a mountain of them piled one on top of the other, white, unblemished. Perhaps the oils from her skin will ruin them when she settles her stomach on top of the unseemly pile. They smell of her cheek already. They smell of her hair, the faint sweetness of shampoo, the mushroomy smell of sleep. In this position she can see the globes of her rump, fruit, perfectly pale and round. The surface of the skin is unbroken, but when she parts her legs a little there is a little glimpse of the core. One cunt of course, not two. Her dreams are still with her, making her lift her arse a little, pull the thighs a little wider apart. There is hair there, dark curls of it and in the little thicket a fissure, the comparative size and shape of a peach pit. It almost looks edible. She strains her neck to look. Her head is pointing downward, the blood rushing to her eyes making her a bit dizzy. She reaches back to touch it, this seed, this core and finds of course that it is nothing but an illusion. Not a seed at all, but the space where a seed might go, an almond of space, warm, but not yet damp.

She traces the lips, full circle. If she were a man she would be able to step up to the foot of the bed and press her cock against it. She would need to aim it with her hands, but surely it would just slip in as cocks do in Anais Nin, and yes, eventually, after great descriptions of a train journey, a country stroll, a party, as Salter's cock slips in or, perhaps the cock of the narrater's friend. Now there is some life. Now a little glisten. She dips her finger into the almond hole and finds the moisture, draws the circle around the lips, painting them with it as one might paint gloss on a mouth. Above the lips is the cleft, and in this cleft - she glances at the locked door - another seed, a tiny seed like the embryo of an apple, something so small and yet a repetition of that larger space. A little tight shut hole. She touches this too with her finger. Still damp. She bounces it against the tightest resistance.

Holly rolls off the mountain of pillow and watches the shy curl of her body, the breasts protected by the prick of elbows, no nipples visible for the greedy gaze of the mirror. The girls of the Delta of Venus would touch themselves. They would rub their fingers against their flesh. Heat spreads like a fire. Resolutions burn like cloth.

Not yet. She will not touch. Not yet, at least. She presses her fist against her heart and feels that it is quickly beating.

Downstairs the sound of a door. The sound of voices. Her parents home at last. She pulls the sheet up over her flesh and a mummy fresh from a sarcophagus stares back at her in the mirror with large, startled eyes.

The Books: in general

When I was a child I learned to copy. The great artists first, Magritte, da Vinci, Turner. Each brush stroke, a sense of symmetry. There was none of myself in it and yet, in the end, the things I chose to copy were all me. Things crawling out of darkness. Light from a single source, a vague expression as if the subject were momentarily distracted, caught out at a transition between one state and the next. This repositioning of the great erotic texts reminds me of that room, smelling of oil pain and turps, my board spread with crimson, my brushes face down, clotted with paint. It is a thing that must be done carefully. The choice must reflect me in some way. Kawabata, Batailles and Salter are the best of it because, like the paintings they all climb gently into the light from some place darker than the real world.

Reading is a part of this writing process. I read, distracted, sad, furious. If it weren't for this book I would sink into the oblivion of happiness dispensed day by day until I am content. I dream of bridges. I speak of them at breakfast and the others stop, warily, watching me like an unexploded bomb from a different time.

I will walk to the bridge again. I will take my book, the Salter. I am afraid of what I will have to read next. The Cleland may make me take the plummet. The Gemmel will send me out under a bus.

I am too tired of it. I want the shock of obliteration which might wake me from the darkness, a sudden single source of light. My nose is full of linseed oil. I open my mouth to the acid sting of turps. My mouth is full of ulcers. My gums receed. I can't stop till Irene's Cunt but I am tired now. And there is nothing to be done about it.

The Books: A Sport and A Pastime by James Salter 2

"Some things, as I say, I saw, some discovered, and some dreamed, and I can no longer differentiate between them. But my dreams are as important as anything I acquired by stealth. More important, because they are the intuitive in its purest state. Without them, facts are no more than a kind of debris, unstrung, like beads. The dreams are as true and manifest as the iron fences of France flashing black in the rain. More true perhaps. They are the skeleton of all reality."

James Salter.You describe that place between our life, the world, our literature. Somewhere there is the sweet spot where something experienced meets dream and a fuller truth is born because of it. I wrote a story once about a sister. Somehow it speaks more of the truth of that relationship than any memoir. It is the dream mixed with the facts that flush me out, the real me, the me that you might train a gun on and kill more easily than flesh and blood. Perhaps this is what is missing from my story, that heady mix.

I stop the bus. She exits. I walk with her up towards the bridge. She tugs my arm and I stop beside her. My story isn't done. She tells me and I nod. You are nothing. You are smoke. You are pretty glints on the river that disappear as soon as you take a step and change the refraction of the light. I could be you. She says this. I could be part of you, your skeleton.

I turn back towards the bus stop. I feel the sights, all those French country guns trained on us. The curvature of my spine, the pain in my hip, the crack in my back. She steps me surely away from the surety of death and into the line of fire. She slips my hand into Salter's and together we smell the sweet hint of gas.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Books: A Sport and A Pastime by James Salter

Ah Mr Salter. We have you to remind us of foreplay. I sink into the first chapter and you are whispering in my ear. Now you slip your tongue in and I flinch but it is gone again as quickly. Your words make my eyelids heavy. Your light scattered like confetti after a parade is a knee in between mine, slowly parting my legs sentence by sentence. We are barely at page fifty and the women are all gorgeous in their plainness, little socks, aging skin, thin with agitation of big and generous. I ease into the beauty of normalcy in your hands. Nothing is extraordinary and yet under your touch it becomes so.

I have not yet got to the sex. So far it is all about the build up. Page fifty and no sex yet. What if I were to make my sex book in your image? Would my readers shrug and put it down and walk quickly away? You make it difficult for us, clutching at but never quite knowing where we are. Your country slips easily into a city street, your isolation becomes a sudden party. I must have my wits about you to come with you on this journey. I grab for a pen, underline. It is there in each combination of words. I am penetrated by the ideas, the language. Teach me. Salter. Take my hand. Teach me.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Kawabata and self loathing

I am on a roll reading Kawabata. House of the Sleeping Beauties, Beauty and Sadness. I am now simultaneously devouring Snow Country and Thousand Cranes (due only to a handbag/book issue) and each new book is similarly exquisite and I become more and more hideous in my reading of them. In Thousand Cranes - and I am just beginning on this slim but potent journey - a woman has a birthmark that blemishes one breast. The birthmark is the blemish that makes her both monstrous and perhaps more desirable. The single flaw in such a beauty creates a kind of mystique. All other women are exquisite. This is what I have found in Kawabata. The women are so fragile and perfect to view. Perhaps they are misguided, or wicked or even violent, but their physicality is always enough to stop breath.

I have cut my hair. I have cut it short as a boy. It teeters between cute and frumpy, this new cut. It makes me see my mother in the mirror, my mother who kept a wig on her dressing table. The wig was exactly the same cut as her own hair. I never understood why she had that wig. A different style perhaps, a different colour, but when she slipped it on there was no discernible difference. I am afraid that I have had my hair cut in the very same style, the style of my mother when she was my age, the style of that perplexing wig. My hair is not long and lustrous like the women in the Kawabata novels. My skin is not pale porcelain. Men do not leap off cliffs for me. No one takes a second look when I pass through the room.

I have sprained my neck and I hold my head up with difficulty, tilted imperceptibly to the side. I fall into a sudden email driven fight with a really influential author. I try to read something I have written out aloud and burst into tears, unable to continue to the end.

I am addicted to the Kawabata. nothing I read outside of his work can touch me at the moment but I am afraid that I am plunging into him in order to justify how bad I feel about myself. His perfection is the perfect companion to this pit of self loathing I am drowning in. This is how I sometimes am in love, desperate for someone's bad opinion of me to match my own. Someone maybe should wrestle these books out of my hands. I have picked up Vox again, and I love Nicholson Baker and I see the cleverness but cannot respond. I think I need this moment of self derision at this stage. If I am still reading Kawabata in a month, come find me. Rescue me.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Books: Beauty and Sadness by Yasunari Kawabata

I tried to move on to something with more sex. I am supposed to be ploughing through the classic sex books after all. I did download Nabakov's Ada and Ador onto my iPhone, an audio version because reading the print copy was doing my head in. The reader was a little better at the Russian words than I had been , but even an hour in to the reading I still had no idea which character was which.

So, despite the pile of books mounting on my table, I reached for another Kawabata. I am certain that House of the Sleeping Beauties will be the book I turn to in the end, but just to be sure I picked up Beauty and Sadness.

Now, then I feel sad. Very sad. And not particularly beautiful. In fact I am more aware now of my failings. My breasts, my trump card, are not such a picture card after all. I sat with a pretty girl over lunch. Sweet, young, fresh-faced. She is thin. So thin that her breasts sit out on her chest amazingly well defined. In the mirror, at home I look at my own ample chest and here, in the shadow of Kawabata and his idealised Otoko, the young girl of sixteen, I realise that the bulk of my breasts are fat deposits. They sit on my barrel chest in a rather matronly manner.

The blurb on the back of the book says that this book has a 'heart-breaking sensitivity to those things lost forever'. I have now lost my youth. I wrestle with this but I know it is true now. I could say that I have lost my beauty but in truth I never was a great beauty at all. The women in Kawabata's books are all so beautiful to look at. They all have porcelain skin and pretty faces and fragile beauty. I sat beside the young girl at lunch and she was not what I would call a true beauty but she was pretty enough, and thin and young and it seems these things are still important enough to make me sink into a sadness so deep that I cannot struggle out of it to see the world clearly.

Beauty then, and sadness.

I should put this book down now and settle into some bawdy romp. I feel most at home in the glare of unbridled sexuality. But I just can't shake it, the sadness that spills over from my relationship to beauty is overwhelming.

This is seeping into my book. I know I said I would write something uplifting, empowering, sexy, fun. But this is the true thing, the theme of my middle-aged years. This loss of any chance I might have had to rectify my lack of beauty.

Sometimes I long to be horribly scarred, so damaged that it is hard for anyone to look at me. Then with their eyes averted I will be free from this terrible relationship I have with my own skin. Oh Kawabata how did you manage to shake me into this terrible beautyless melancholy and when will I stop, suddenly, erratically bursting into tears?

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Books: The House of the Sleeping Beauties

I am getting older. Even when you are in your twenties every day marches you closer to the grave, but now I am at that actual point when you are aware of your mortality more physically. I have thickened. My skin is less elastic. My metabolism has slowed to a standstill. My hair is limp. My eyes do not shine any more. I worry about my ability to enjoy sex, not that it is waning at the moment, but that the idea that it may one day lesson is troubling to me more and more. I am overlooked. I feel judged. I was asked once if my friend who is a handful of years younger than I am was my daughter. My image of myself does not match up to the body I am living in.

All this is with me every day. So then I read the novella by Yusinari Kawabata and I feel it like a slim plain dagger sliding straight into my heart.

I am not yet 67 as his protagonist is. I am not desiring the body of a teenager to hold and touch in my bed, but I do desire men and women in their twenties. I do still feel the sheer physical pleasure of touching an arm that is soft and buttery with youth.

This book has touched me more than most. I have always felt a sympathy for Roth and Marquez as they wrestle with masculine aging and its effects on desire. Where are the stories of women at the same moment in our lives? Our invisibility? Our inability to find desire in the gaze of others, even our own partners turn away from us at some point, showing us with their limp penises and their regretful gaze that they no longer feel a stirring when they touch our tired and inelastic flesh.

I put this book aside, refusing to re-shelve it. I will come back to Kawabata. I have other sex books to pursue but I will come back to you. You still hold a dagger in my heart and I am bleeding.

The Books: Delta of Venus

Firstly I must thank you Ms Nin. You gave my my first hands-free orgasm. It was on a bus to school. The book was borrowed, a secret and guilty pleasure. I know the section that sent me over. It involved Leila and Bijoux and a huge rubber dildo. Then the Basque entered the scene and the image of his erect cock battling agains the rubber one was the moment of my undoing. I speak to other people about it and I find that I am not alone. A friend snuck a copy of this book into his grandfather's study. Even now, years later he remembers the man who played with the little girls, putting his finger up under the sheet and watching them giggle and grab for it. He replaced his finger with his penis with inevitable results.

Yes. You Ms Nin, are sometimes the touchstone for our reading about sex. You were also one of the first women to write it so explicity in the English language. Whatever I read of yours is coloured by this fact. You were the first in so many ways and I have a certain nostalgia for you. I cannot pick up The Delta of Venus without bringing my own relationship to you into the book. In the cold light of a new reading you are perhaps a little repetitive, perhaps too romantic in your approach to sex. Your views on lesbian sex are odd. You do not seem to think that this is the real thing, actual sex, but just a game that mimics sex, and yet your lesbians in bed together are extremely sexy.

Your gender roles are too clearly defined for my more mature tastes, and yet I still long for your pure kind of femininity. I still like to dress up, to paint my face, to feel like I am being adored and cared for. Perhaps I got this trait from you in the beginning, on the bus. That first completely spontaneous erruption. Your words touched me like hands and, mixed with the rumble of the bus, the scent of teenagers sweaty and ripe, the whole illicit juiciness of the moment sent me over. I have tried to repeat that ever since and have managed it only a few times.

I finish your book again and I must admit I did not touch myself once for the duration. I also did not come whilst reading your book this time. Perhaps you are no longer to my taste, but I still admire you. I play a video of you speaking about your diaries. You are old but gorgeous and so careful with your words. I would like to have had sex with you, yes, even as an old lady I would have touched your face and kissed you gently between your parted thighs letting my spit wet you as the juices wet the open cunts of your protagonists. Yes, Ms Nin. I still like you very much.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Lessons of the Project

I have immersed myself in sex. I am reading it, writing it, listening to it on audio book, not the noises of sex (as one might listen to whale songs or the chirrup of dolphins), but the classic books about it. I have read many books about sex in the past, but always for pleasure and never with a view to becoming an expert in classic sex literature, but this year I have a deadline to deliver a novel that references the great works of the genre. The first task then has been to identify the great works. This is no easy task. The list is quite extensive.

I had the basics down. I had read Nin's "Delta of Venus" and "Little Birds" and some novels by Georges Bataille. I had read Reage's "The Story of O" and Nicholson Baker's "Vox" and a pile of sexual memoirs that I dipped into when I was writing my own. But if you begin to lift the lid of the genre then you realise you have discovered a veritable Pandora's Box of terrors and delights. I hadn't, for example continued my initial struggles with de Sade who I found stuffy in his language and a little pointed in his relentless pursuit of transgression. I had opened Fanny Hill and backed quickly away from the pomp and powder of the age in which it was written. We all have our particular tastes. That is what I have been discovering for myself. Some of the classic sex books capture my imagination immediately and some leave me a little cold, and dare I say it, dry.

I am beginning to discover that for me, use of language is more important than the plot. I am aroused by the placement of words, the flow of sentences, the hint of broader themes lying just beyond the bodily delights. Some of the less physical of the classic texts are actually more sensual. James Salter for instance woos us into submission with his relentless longing in "A Sport and a Pastime". "Young Adam" a book by Alexander Trocchi which has an unsettling sexual undercurrent led me to discover his more traditionally sexual works each equally disturbing and arousing. My favourite discovery so far has been Yusinari Kawabata, a Nobel Prize winning Japanese author whose novella "The House of the Sleeping Beauties" is a mesmerising treatise on sex, death and aging and clearly the cornerstone for Julia Leigh's Australian film "Sleeping Beauty". It is a novella about sex and yet there are no actual descriptions of the act itself. Set in a kind of brothel where old men pay to sleep beside the naked drugged and sleeping bodies of young girls, the protagonist struggles with his nostalgia for lost youth, his own encroaching impotence, the idea of death and his memories of sex. There are hints of sexuality in the book, the text is infused with it, and yet the sparse prose leaves the details of it completely up to the reader. It is our job as reader to describe the details of the sex in the theater of our imaginations. The book is perhaps more potent because of what remains unsaid. It is a book that continues to haunt me even as I move on from the reading of it. I am now discovering the lewdness of Felix Salten's "The Memoirs of Josephine Mutzenbacher" and enjoying the fact that Salten was the author of one of my childhood favourites, "Bambi" which was turned into a very wholesome Disney animated film. It is these simple juxtapositionings that bring me the most pleasure in my strange and varied research.

Sometimes, reading sex book after sex book, I become immune to the descriptions of genitals. What is left is the sensuality of language, the rythm of it, the blowsy beauty of a string of words slipped together by a skilled craftsperson. Kawabata is a master of it. Anais Nin has flashes of brilliance. Salter leaves you breathless. Nicholson Barker manages it with a playful wink and I am facing Nabokov's longest and most complex work, "Ador and Ardor", with trepidation. It is a sex epic that has been likened to Ulysses and hefting it around in my handbag and struggling with the clever but incredibly complex wordplay I can see why. I am just at the beginning of my year of reading and there is still so much to discover, but even at this early stage I feel inspired to put some of these books in your hands, fellow readers. Stick with me and I will hand you some rare gems indeed.

Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan

Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan - my first thoughts.

I don't read fantasy. I need to start by getting this straight. Some people love the genre, and when I was a teenager I did too, overindulging to the point of not ever wanting to read another fantasy novel again. With this in mind, I came to Sea Hearts a little reluctantly. I knew Margo Lanagan could write. I had been surprised by her last novel Tender Morsels, startled, mainly by her play with language which seemed to eclipse some of the fantasy elements of the story.

Sea Hearts is even more engaging that Tender Morsels. There is a fantasy of sorts underpinning the book, but Sea Hearts plants its footprint firmly in the realm of Myth and therefore in the real hopes and fears of humankind. It draws on the legend of the Selkie, gentle sea women who step out of their seal skins to raise families with fishermen, spending their lives longing for a world they have left behind. In Margo's skillful hands we are woven a tale that resonates with so much in our real lives, that feeling that we often have that we do not belong in this world, a longing for something that is missing from our hearts, a certain melancholy that we all experience at one time or another, the idea that love is temporary and that no matter how strong a relationship can be there is always a longing for something more.

Lanagan presents her story with all the linguistic beauty of a Michael Ondaatje novel. The story is divided between the characters who narrate it. Her characters take this simple myth and each of them presents a different facet of the story. Told side by side the perspectives illuminate each other providing a richness to the tale that would not be there if the story were told from only one perspective. Sea Hearts is an assured novel told by a writer at the top of her game. She is a multi award winning author and her use of language is startlingly original.

If you are a lover of fantasy, think more "The Secret of Rowan Innish" or perhaps "Let the Right One In". If you, like me, are unlikely to pick up a fantasy novel, then think Ondaatje, or perhaps Marquez. Whatever it is that brings you to Lanagan's work, when you have found her, pass her on to others. Lanagan deserves a wider readership. In terms of the great women of Australian writing, she is too often overlooked. Do yourself a favour and look closer at Sea Hearts.

Friday, January 13, 2012


My boy says there is nothing sexy about hoarding. I was testing out the idea for a character in my sex book. Perhaps secretly she is a hoarder, one of those ones that seems normal until you happen to call at her house. I thought this might make her more human, add to her personality as a real character and not just a cardboard cut out. Hoarding is just not sexy he said to me and I begin to fret.

My family are hoarders. All of them. I am a hoarder in my own way. Before my boy moved in it was obvious from just looking at my flat. Now it is more ordered. My boy takes my things and puts them in their places. Sometimes he orders a clean out and I struggle with each magazine, each pone number, each business card. Throwing anything away is like plunging a blunt implement into my eyeball. Everything has a use and I have not used it. It is enough to make me weep from the waste of opportunity.

So hoarders are not sexy. We no longer have a proper mirror, but I look in the small reflective square that fell off the wall and I know that this is true. My hoarding is just one of the many unattractive qualities. My weight, my height, my anxiousness, my irritation, my hatred of all pop culture, my strident anger at poor taste, my highbrow reading, my insistence on thick rimmed glasses when I know it makes me look like a wanna be hipster, my lethargy, my aggression, my insistence on hanging around people old enough to be my children, my occasional crushes on said young folk. I could go on and on and on.

I throw out half my clothing till my wardrobe is packed but not overflowing. I cull a few of my million books, I clear a space on my desk, but these are not the only things I have to cull. Despite my anger at having to do so I suppose I must shed thirty kilos and find new friends or travel alone. I should begin to dress like a middle aged lady, although that is the hardest thing to imagine. But like any hoarder, even one of these things seems like a giant mountain, looming, waiting for me to climb.


I wake into a sense of something missing. One small, amorphous thing is gone and can never be replaced. It is like a death this little loss of love only unlike with a death there is no funeral, no wake, no fellow mourners. This thing is private and for an audience of one. I sit alone with it, carrying it like a dead baby heavy and low in my body. I drag myself from bed and stumble into a day, knowing there will be more days thrown at me. a barrage. I keep my vision focused on the next step and the next, because to look ahead would be enough to make me crawl back under the covers where I would stay. As long as I am able.

Time Lapse

Those time lapse photographs that show a flower opening, a seed sprouting, a dandelion clock unfolding. I know that Z and Two Noughts is pretentious and dubious but I think I will always love the time lapse photographs of decay. No I say. Stop. Now. Here, in the spring of your life, remember that the shutter keeps on clicking. The body blooms and puffs out and wrinkles up and turns over on itself. Flesh becomes meat, meat becomes refuse, refuse in its time is cleared away.

My time has come and gone. Gone now. Remember gone. At some point the others see you as you do not see yourself, ridiculous, overblown, a cheap drag show parody of your overt sexuality.

Gone now.

Leave them to their young people's dreaming. Remember this. I can't keep repeating it. Leave them to their unrequited longing and their tedious games of 'come here go away'. You are too smart for all that now, too wiley. You are on the turn, you have moved from stop motion joy to stop motion regret. Decay with some semblance of your dignity. Recover what is left of it and uncoil your arthritic frame and just walk on.