Thursday, March 28, 2013

Notes from a Debauched and Insatiable Reader

by Amanda Earl

To say that I am a voracious reader would be an understatement. I devour the written word, whether physical book, or e-book on my Kindle or my Android; magazine or e-zine, encylopedia or Wikipedia. I am pantextual. Thus the question of what I am currently reading becomes complex because I am always in the midst of numerous texts for various purposes.

I've decided to narrow down the question to what I am currently reading for pleasure. My pleasure reads are divided into multiple parts as well, but in order to avoid leading you down a winding garden path, I'm going to focus on fiction.

Perhaps in a future instalment I shall chat about my other reading motivations, including curiosity [non fiction]; research [for my novel in progress] and lust for form, emotion and language in a condensed space [poetry]. Not that there isn't bleed through from one category into the next, of course. And whatever rules I make, I shall break because there is nothing I love more than breaking rules.

My pleasure fiction reads can themselves be divided into three categories--as you can see, I adore lists--: wankable smut; page-turners and a category I hesitate to refer to as "literary" because the latter sounds snobbish. I ask you to forgive me for such a hoary old and imprecise term. I will use it here to refer to texts which are influenced by the literary canon, and which deal with the human condition. Of course the "literary canon" is another annoying and limiting label, so I'm going to shut up now and discuss the texts I'm reading. Note that what I am always looking for in fiction is a well-spun story with fascinating characters and enthralling, well-chosen language.

1. Wankable Smut

Erotica can fit into all three categories, but I admit that there is some erotica that I read purely for its ability to help me jill off.  I do occasionally watch porn, but text has a way of getting me off in ways that porn cannot because fiction doesn't limit my imagination, but rather expands it. There are no sounds of fake orgasms in erotic fiction. Most effective for masturbatory purposes is when the work is well-written, but if it isn't, and I am desperate for a good wank, I'll rely on a text that is not as well written, but contains the particular type of fantasy that will stir my cockles. It doesn't take long before I put the text down to allow my imagination (and my vibrator) to explore the scene or the image conveyed.

Victorian erotica tends to tingle my clit. I love that period in history, but also because  I am fond of the language, words such as gamahuche (oral sex) and quim (cunt), and the sheer enthusiasm of the characters in their unbridled pursuit of lust. Furthermore, many of the stories include taboos that can't be published today. If I'm going to fantasize, I want to be taken to dark places where I could never go in real life, I want to read transgressive, inappropriate, tawdry writing where characters are degraded and used in unspeakable ways or use others in ways I would like to be used in my fantasies.

With that in mind, I am currently reading "Eroticon Desires: Forbidden Writings from the Classic Texts" by J-P Spencer (Ed), which I discovered via the exhaustive and excellent recommendations prepared by members of the Erotica Readers and Writers Association in the "Books for Sensual Readers" section. The book's varietous debauchery is set in time periods from the Edwardian era to the 50s. I have been titillated so far by Ahmed's excitement over a young prostitute's servicing of four men, and a story about Uncle Jack and some innocent young ladies. I have a filthy mind and an insatiable libido.

I do read contemporary erotica too. For arousal of the mind and genitals, provocation and entertainment. Next on my reading list is Portia Da Costa's "In Too Deep" about a librarian, and I have just finished a wonderful trilogy entitled "The Sinners" by Tiffany Reisz featuring a dominatrix who is also a famous writer. The combination of smut and books tickles my fancy & my quim.

2. Page Turners

I always have one book going that is a fast, easy read for pure escapism. Right now it's Sue Grafton's "Q, R, S, T," several of the alphabet mystery series collected in one volume. I haven't read Grafton's work in years and I felt the need to catch up with one of my favourite detectives, the peanut-butter and pickle sandwich eater, lover of small spaces, fan of the Quarter Pounder and Cheese, Miss Kinsey Milhone. I like Kinsey because she is a misfit, an orphan and a sloppy dresser, a lover of junk food. I don't read mysteries often, but when I do it's for the characters not the plot. To be honest, I've never given a rat's ass about plot, for any type of fiction. It's the characters who fascinate me, their quirky lives, how they handle themselves, their transformation. I write character-driven fiction myself.

3. Literary Fiction

I listen to a lot of interviews on the radio, particularly on the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company). It is through these interviews that I often discover writers I hadn't heard of before. One of my favourite programs is "Writers and Company" with Eleanor Wachtel, who is a fabulous interviewer. Recently she's been speaking with authors who read at the recent Jaipur Literary Festival in India. One of these was Jeet Thayil. Not only is Thayil an excellent poet, but he's also a fine spinner of tales. "Narcopolis," his first novel, is set in the opium dens of Bombay and in China during the Cultural Revolution. The language is gorgeous. The characters are unusual, particularly the character of Dimple. I won't offer a spoiler, but I will say, I enjoy books with characters who transgress  conventional gender boundaries. I have only just begun to read it, but I am already enthralled. I love tales set in India, a country that has always fascinated me. My favourite was Vikhram Seth's "A Suitable Boy," a large tome reminiscent of 19th century works by Dickens. It took me three months to read it, but it was worth it. Next on my list is Andrew Kaufman's "Born Weird."

Until we meet again, I remain your devoted purveyor of decadence and debauchery.

Amanda Earl

Post Scriptum - Comment and you'll be entered into a contest. The winner will receive  a prize package of e-books by some of my dear blog colleagues. Not me, alas, but there's some fine writing available for you from the others. 


  1. "Victorian erotica tends to tingle my clit." Priceless! ;-)

  2. Hey, Amanda!

    What a great post!

    "And whatever rules I make, I shall break because there is nothing I love more than breaking rules."

    You'll fit right in here, my dear.

    I've heard about Narcopolis - thanks for the reminder.

    I love Portia da Costa's imagination; I wouldn't be publishing erotica if I hadn't run into her book GEMINI HEAT on a swap shelf! However, I think, given your predilections as outlined here, you might find IN TOO DEEP a bit tame.

    One of her best books that has a definite transgressive feel, as well as great, unconventional characters, is ENTERTAINING MR. STONE. Highly recommended.

  3. Glad you liked my lingo, Harper. & Lisabet thank you for the warm welcome. I loved Entertaining Mr Stone. It is a book I return to often for wanking.

  4. I learned a new word today: gamahuche. ot sure how useful I'll find it in everyday convesation though.

    I read about 10 books a week in just about every genre. I also listen to audio books in the car and at work. J.D. Robb's books on audio are my favorite because the narrator does the greatest voices especially Roarke (and she's a woman) and Peabody.

  5. Hi Amanda-
    Gee- It's like we're from the ol' 'hood. Like ERWA homies, so to speak.
    You mention a particular brand of wankable fantasy the gets the juices flowin'. Like anything by N.T. Morley, for instance. I can never get past a few pages of that dude. I know he also writes under a different pseudonym, but I won't mention it here. I also remember those Victorian (or pseudo-vic) deals like Man With A Maid, Autobiography of a Flea. Amazing what they got away with re: the age things. Of course it was all illegal back then, but I'm sure at least some of them were written in more modern times.

    Good to see you here, Amanda- Good to see I won't be the filthiest writer here after all. :>)

    Be well-
    Daddy X

  6. Anne, i hope you'll find a way to slip the g. word into a casual conversation. i haven't listened to many audio books, but that's a good point.

    Daddy X,
    oh i think all the writers here will win or have won filthy awards in their time.

    my fav Victorian erotica is the Pearl, collected journals that appeared in the V. era. the good news is that it's now online:

    my fav N.T. Morley book is one he edited entitled Master/slave & then you flip the book & it's from the slave POV. love it. one of my fav stories in there is Patrick Califia's "Flannel Nightgown and White Cotton Panties," a story I return to for its wankability over & over again. i think you'd like it...

  7. I tried to play quim in Word Fired the other day but it's not in their dictionary. What's up with that?

  8. Quim has such a lovely pursed-lip feel to it! (Speculating on pursing those other lips--well, not exactly, I guess.)

    Thanks for the link to The Pearl! I had a copy long ago but haven't been able to find it for years. I found it fascinating, although the female POV character(s) weren't at all convincing.

  9. Jen, i know. it saddens me no end that quim is not permitted in standard scrabble. i blame lexicographers.

    Sacchi, exactly...pursed lips ;)

    i have two copies of the Pearl for some reason. that's how much i go back to it. you're welcome for the link :)

  10. ps. Jen, my husband points out that it is in British dictionaries, so i guess it just depends which you use.

  11. I've always been partial to quim myself!

    Daddy X

  12. it sounds like a ripe & juicy fruit. kinda like quince...which might have actually been the apple that was referred to in the Song of Songs...or maybe the quim was the real apple. or the pomegranate...

  13. Welcome to this blog, Amanda. I'm always interested to know what other writers read. Years ago, there was at least one thread in one of the lists of the Erotic Readers & writers Ass'n on Victorian sex words such as "gamahuche" (or "gamahouche," which looks French to me), "quim" and "frig" (not a synonym for fuck - frigging is done with fingers -- and "figging" is a whole other activity, not done with figs). We could have a Victorian topic theme here.

  14. Thanks kindly Jean. A Victorian theme would be great.

  15. also Jean, i am fascinated by this earlier meaning of "frig," which has become more general to mean to fuck. it sounds onomatopoeically like it meant in the V. era.

    gamahuche/gamahouche does go back to the French apparently. there's a ref book i've been wanting to get my hands on, but haven't yet entitled: The Lover's Tongue: A Merry Romp Through the Language of Love and Sex, Mark Morton, Insomniac Press, 2003


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