What makes a novel erotic? Must it appeal to our lower passions, making our blood boil as it brings seductive themes to the fore of our mind? Or is it, in the classical Platonic sense, something elevating us to a higher realm, consisting of love and divinely oriented desire?
Cats. Don’t you just love ‘em? Well no, actually, I don’t. I don’t mind them and I’m happy to stroke any feline that sidles up to me, affectionately rubbing its head against my calf, purring its head off and arching its back. But I’m not taken in by this love-bombing.
I got my first Rabbit Vibrator in the late 1990s. There was much excitement about a revolution in vibrators that didn’t only penetrate with a buzzing, plastic cylinder but also vibrated against the clitoris for double pleasure. When my boyfriend at the time gave it to me for my birthday, I couldn’t have been more excited. However, when I think about it now, I remember it as strangely infantile. It came in a pink so vibrant that it made you squint and the silicone was soft and sweetly fragranced, more like the rubbers we used to swap in the playground at primary school.
In 1354, a prostitute with a tragic background called Rolandina came before a Venetian court: she had been born a man, Rolandino Ronchaia, but with strong female characteristics.
Since the publication of her first book in 2014, The Victorian Guide to Sex, Fern Riddell has established herself as a cultural historian of gender, sex and suffrage in the 19th century. Her new book, published in June this year, Sex - Lessons from History, is an ambitious attempt to look at sex in history and discover what we can learn from it. It is a historiography that turns, at times, into a fascinating polemic about modern times.
For anyone whose exposure to Arabic literature begins and ends with a child-friendly edition of Alf Layla wa Layla, in English 1000 Nights and a Night or The Arabian Nights, it will come as a surprise to hear that there is an ancient, honourable and celebrated – and just as often decried – tradition of erotic writing in Arabic. Further, while the existence of erotica in Arabic sinks in, we might add at this point the additional fact that many exponents of the art form are women. Surprised?
If you’re after a novel that will reassure you of the predictability of love, Alissa Nutting’s contribution probably isn’t for you. It has been a while since I encountered a story so delightfully bizarre that still has something very important to say: a human’s capacity for love is, quite possibly, boundless.
Gay Bar – Why We Went Out is an extraordinary book; part-homage, part-travelogue, part-personal journey and part-essay. It ranges from the bars in San Francisco, who fought to exist, to the bars in Blackpool, filled with hen parties singing along to YMCA. It’s a book that attempts to understand why the gay bar is in decline. Has its role now been eclipsed in cities where homosexuality has become mainstream and where the fight for existence has moved to other territory? Have apps like Grindr ended the need for a physical space for casual male connections?
Benjamin and Edgar Bowen are packed off on their Grand Tour with a guide book written by their mother, who hopes that they will meet people of Quality. They are, of course, innocents abroad, well versed in the Enlightenment ideals of Voltaire but not in the realities of being from the vulgar mercantile class amongst the unforgiving English nobility of the 18th century.
Bear by Marian Engel was first published in 1976. Despite being rejected by Engel’s first publisher, it went on to win the prestigious Governor General’s Award and, despite the controversy caused by the bestiality in the book, is considered a classic in Canada. Margaret Atwood praises it as “a strange and wonderful book, plausible as kitchens, but shapely as a folktale, and with the same disturbing resonance.” Therefore, Daunt Books are republishing Bear in an effort to bring its curious narrative to a new generation of readers and its off-beat story is sure to pique interest.