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Sexual Life of Catherine M. Hardcover – Jun 1 2002

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic (June 1 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1852428112
  • ISBN-13: 978-1852428112
  • ASIN: 0802117163
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14.7 x 2.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 390 g
  • Average Customer Review: 2.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #907,105 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Amazon

A publishing sensation upon its original publication in France, Catherine Millet’s The Sexual Life of Catherine M is one of the most sexually explicit books ever written by a woman. Ostensibly a semi-autobiographical account of the sexual life of the author, the editor of an influential Parisian art magazine, the book is a frank and detailed account of Millet’s development from an awkward, guilt-ridden Catholic teenager to sophisticated Parisian intellectual and enthusiastic member of the singles bars, orgies and public sex spaces of Paris.

The book has no sequential narrative. Instead, it offers a frank and extremely graphic celebration of the pursuit and gratification of sex. Millet praises the virtues of anonymous sex, admitting that "I can account for forty-nine men whose sexual organs have penetrated mine and to whom I can attribute a name or, at least, in a few cases, an identity. But I cannot put a number on those that blur into anonymity". Nevertheless, she proceeds to offer page after page of exhausting descriptions of sexual couplings in groups in houses, car parks, offices, toilets, museums--the list and the permutations are endless, as are Millet’s descriptions of her own sexual organs and her ability to perform oral sex. Millet wants to celebrate the personal freedom and physical pleasure that casual, anonymous sex offers a woman, but this is never fully explored beyond her assertion that "the certainty that I could have sexual relations in any situation with any willing party" was "the lungfuls of fresh air you inhale as you walk to the end of the pier". Much of the book’s language is equally prosaic. Ultimately, this is a book about sexual fantasy, but as Millet herself admits, "sexual fantasies are far too personal for them ever really to be shared". Millet is too busy describing the literal nuts and bolts, the grunts and bumps of (resolutely heterosexual) sex to produce eroticism on a par with her obvious models, Pauline Reage’s Story of O and Georges Bataille’s Story of the Eye, which leaves The Sexual Life of Catherine M feeling rather naughty, but strangely dated.--Jerry Brotton --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Millet, art critic and editor of Art Press, has become a literary sensation in France with the publication of this graphic memoir of some 30 years of her sexual adventures. Millet's "gift for observation" and her "solid superego" are as useful in her career as an art critic as they are in her erotic explorations: her ability to concentrate and observe puts her inside "other people's skins." Comparisons have been made to The Story Of O, but Millet is more in the tradition of Jean Genet and Violette Leduc, whose descriptions of their sexual encounters were not meant to titillate so much as to explore the meaning of the erotic. Millet's "quest for the sexual grail" takes her to group orgies, gang bangs in French parks and other serial sex escapades. Before long, the sex begins to seem utterly routine, in spite of the elaborate staging. Millet and her readers are then free to consider more closely some questions she raises: how oral sex compares to vaginal intercourse; why sex in disgusting circumstances is not about "self-abasement," but raising oneself "above all prejudice"; or why solitary sex is more pleasurable for her than sex with a partner. Toward the end of this curiously graceful memoir, Millet comes close to explaining her need for all this sex: only by sloughing off the "mechanical body" she'd been born with could she experience actual sexual pleasure. While women readers will find much of interest, male readers may have to overcome a certain emperor's new clothes-type discomfort, as they realize that Millet may know more about the male body than they do.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

2.4 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Martin Hulme on Dec 6 2003
Format: Paperback
I read this entire book over the course of a transatlantic airline flight. From cover to cover, with interuptions in order to choose between "chicken or beef" and watch The Hulk two times running.
If I said I'd bought it to be titillated, I'd probably be missing the point. Which is a good job, really, because I found it about as erotic as an episode of Antiques Roadshow.
If I said I'd bought it for it's literary merits, and the enthusiastic praise on the back of the book, I'd be closer to the mark. The promised sex was just a bonus.
But, sadly, I was disappointed on both counts.
This is a book detailing, in explicit, but not remotely arousing detail, the prodigious sexual exploits of Catherine Millet. From the first time she had group sex, not long after she lost her virginity, to anonymous orgies in carparks in Bois de Boulogne, all of the details are written down in cold, clinical detail which makes them about as erotic as a pathology report.
Catherine M is thusly hailed as a pioneer, breaking apart gender stereotypes. She makes it very clear throughout the book that she's in the driving seat of her sexual life. Saying that, however, I really disagree with this idea.
One of the most obvious things one notices reading the book is the cold, clinical nature of Catherine's adventures. She really doesn't seem to gain any pleasure from any of these adventures. The results of her promiscuity, such as an STD and, later, an abortion, are described in throwaway detail as if they were as mundane an event as brushing her teeth.
I'm not sure if this is because of lacklustre translation (I wouldn't mind getting a copy of the original next time I'm in Paris)or simply because Catherine M is a cold, clinical woman.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 2 2003
Format: Paperback
This is one of the most tedious books I have ever read. I like vulgarity and a healthy appetite for lots of sex as much as the next man. I looked forward to reading an intelligent woman writing about her extraordinary appetite for group sex in public and private places.
However , this book is muddled , vague, unfocused and downright dull.Maybe it's the translation but I suspect it was pretentious in French and has not changed much in translation.
How someone who is(was?) the editor of a French art magazine could write such dreary stuff I do not know.
It has no colour, no humour, no pace, no joie de vivre, nothing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Eileen G. on Aug. 2 2002
Format: Hardcover
Catherine Millet is a successful French art critic. She remembers her Catholic childhood. She had a lively inner life, kept scrapbooks, and as an adult has led an unusual and enthusiastic sexual life. She has been in favor of men of all shapes, nationalities, classes, colors, ages, and sizes occupying her body (if not her mind) for a few moments, an evening, or an entire relationship. But this book is not about "relationships." Think of these four essays ("Numbers," "Space," "Confined Space," and "Details") as theory and criticism - not of art, but of desire and pleasure -rather than confession or apology. She's very smart, and she is not showing off. The images are vivid. She observes and describes an enormous variety of remembered sexual acts and subjective inner states. She deconstructs pleasure most satisfyingly. She explores the "why" of her pursuit, too. Millet lets readers in, but only if they are wise enough to read between the lines.
Millet the enthusiastic participant was appreciative of bodies, desire, and earthly pleasure. She wanted connection and intensity, and clearly she craved company. Male bodies and male desire - along with her own - were the way to get it. She explains right off that she is submissive. This is key to understanding her story. She underwent some pain in the service of her desires, too. There's no shame here; in fact, she is refreshingly accepting. She is calmly reflective regarding "dirty words," asserting that their use during anonymous sex serves " to fuse us all together and to accelerate the annihilation of the senses that we are all trying to achieve in those moments.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ted W. on July 14 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Please do not think this is solely a sex book. It is a serious story from a woman who gives thought about her sexual expression. You may not appreciate the thought, but I guarantee you will come away with a different opinion about sexual expression. Her artistic sensitivity aside, the thought pattern which allows (pushes ... forces ... obligates) her actions is fascinating in and of itself. If you wish to understand a little of your own personal libidinous motivations, well then, this book may be an excellent place to begin. However it will require you to ponder and ask and answer deep personal questions. Self knowledge is important and enjoyable.
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Format: Paperback
Ms. Millet is a very gifted writer, whose brilliance is matched by the careful translation by Ms. Hunter. That said, one wonders why Millet exposes the details of her boundaryless depravity to the world. Perhaps the very act of disclosure is a component in her voracious sexuality, which must certainly exhaust her often as it seeks new outlets for expression. Millet benefits from being French--an American woman writing so boldly would have stirred a firestorm in America's current patriarchal climate. One cannot imagine Laura Bush curled up in bed in Crawford, reading selected passages to George W. In such a context, Millet would be viewed as a creature from another planet, one populated by genital-centric intellectuals without a care in their world. I only wish Millet had speculated more on why she is the way she is. Such wanton acts of masochism and self-abnegation call for more postulation and less simple reportage. Nonetheless, this is a remarkable book, probing the corners of a female mind darker than most would imagine exists outside the confines of mental institutions, much less in rarefied Parisian art circles.
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