At least three people over the weekend have asked me: “What are you reading?”
Without a wince, unapologetically and unashamedly I replied: “Porn.”
Or perhaps more accurately I should have said erotica. Because that was what it was.
Anaïs Nin’s Delta of Venus was a journey into the hot and bothered, into the sexual deviances and discoveries of women and men alike. It was a journey into physical poetry.
(This is, unfortunately, not part of The Book List. We’ll delay that project for a while).
Delta of Venus (written 1940s) is a collection of 15 stories featuring numerous sexual encounters. There are three reasons why I think the average person should read this collection:
- It’s historical. Less about the content and more about the novelty — Delta of Venus provides an insight to the social mores which predate colored television and the internet. Some things remain the same: the lack of reconciliation between femaleness and promiscuity, the demand for masculinity, the undervaluing of lesbians and the conflation of all queerness. The patriarchy. Though as a work of erotica, it is difficult to assume anything else in this work as truthful. (If these stories were honest, a prostitute or a well-hung gentleman is in every other corner of Europe.)
- It’s rich. There are some scary (read: different) narratives in this collection, from the unimaginable to the truly visceral. But all of them are told in the perspectives of characters which are well-thought, nuanced and alive. Unlike modern erotica –or in fact, video porn– the characters are given bodies separate from their sexuality (or bodies intrinsically tied to their sexuality)… The point is, it’s not just about the sex. The characters aren’t left behind after each scene (though some of them are, by necessity). And the beauty of this level of complexity is the diversity of cast. Not all are necessarily relatable, but each character is definitely fascinating and compelling to read.
- It’s erotica. I’m not sure where you could go wrong with this. But as a work that is intentionally skewed towards showing the female perspective (which is another plus point; Anaïs Nin is a pioneer in this previously male-infested genre), it might appeal more to readers with a vagina.
I’m looking forward to the sequel, but (un?)fortunately I have found a new book to read: Mark Dunn’s Ella Minnow Pea!
Life Update I go home tired and capable of only doing one out of my infinite to-do list ++ gently cries