It’s been 31 years since the publication of Riders, Jilly Cooper’s first novel in the infamous Rutshire Chronicles and one which, before the age of backed-up hard drives, was very nearly lost forever. It was 1970, and the number 22 bus was about to become the final resting place of the bestselling novel’s first draft and only copy. Mount!, published earlier this month, gives the occasional flirty nod to new millennial readers: Rupert Campbell-Black (a sort of sex-crazed Uncle Matthew from The Pursuit of Love) is back, he’s 59 and he has an iPhone. There’s a website called Skypegoat, a gorilla onesie and a horse called Trans Jennifer in this latest offering, but don’t be fooled: the throbbing heart of Cooper’s earlier works beats as lustily as the wagging tail of Banquo the black lab.
If, as filmmaker Nick Zebb comments, today’s smut is indeed tomorrow’s fine art, then Toby Mott’s soon-to-be-released celebration of punk and sex is set to fly off shelves (and, more to the point, it means we really are onto something here at Erotic Review, where we’ve been peddling both for 21 steamy years). Showboat is published later this month and brings to the market a visually led smorgasbord of punk culture from 1972 onwards, examining the historical relationship between punk and sex.
Amongst the myriad layers of theatre, comedy, performance and pure madness that fills the streets of Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival every year, it can be hard to find productions that resonate. Spill Your Guts Here, written and performed by Sophie Lakely, is one such show that not only captures the filthy, embarrassing parts of being an intelligent young woman in 2016, but the desolation of heartbreak and the dangers of allowing yourself to fall into a void.
How do you tell a story in just one frame? Do it the way Helmut Newton did. I saw his big retrospective in Rome in 2013 and again last weekend in Amsterdam’s Foam. The major exhibition features more than 200 photographs, ranging from the monumental, life-size nudes to some of his early prints that are rarely shown.
Wendy Jones’s recently published work, The Sex Lives of English Women, showcases a collection of 24 interviews that aim to transcend age, class, upbringing and religion, and focus on what women actually want. It’s an incredibly ambitious project, the initial script of which ran to half a million words.
Within moments of arriving outside the closed shutters on a quiet Borough backstreet we’re approached by men – they want the password, and once we’ve given it we’re in. It’s an old carpet factory, perfect for the sense of claustrophobia and dark dealings that CROOKS aims to create. The atmosphere is charged; the old lift creaks and clanks as we go down. There’s door upon door leading who knows where (if we go snooping, we’re told, they’ll f*cking kill us, so I resist the urge). We’re split into teams and throughout the next 90 minutes we’re tasked with extracting information from a bent rozzer, swapping two heavy, powdery briefcases over, playing a hand of Blackjack with the Don, scheming with his fur-coated wife and then slipping a vial of poison into a lurking glass of whiskey. It’s great entertainment, even if the pauses between each “scene” are a little drawn out in the dark, thumping downstairs saloon.
We know Beardsley as the poster boy for Naughty Ninety’s decadence: he was by far the most controversial exponent of Art Nouveau; apart from Henry Fuseli, virtually the only nineteenth century British erotic artist of any real importance (his Lysistrata was privately published); he lost his job as art editor at The Yellow Book essentially because of his association with Oscar Wilde.
The guide asked me if I was into "Shibari". What? Japanese fabric dying? For a moment I envisioned a W.I. instructor coming showing us how to make a beautiful table-cloths on the cheap. No, no, that's shibori. Shibari or, kinbaku if you're caught out by vowels as I so often am, is a Japanese erotic art form which involves tying girls up in rope. Well yes, actually, that sounds like just my sort of thing.
Robert Mapplethorpe and I have something in common: as children we both loved chewing our toenails. Fortunately, Mapplethorpe also loved drawing. He became an artistic sensation, turning photography into an art form as it had never been before. I doubt I’ll ever make a career out of chewing my toenails.