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Sexual Life of Catherine M. [Hardcover]

Catherine Millet
2.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 1 2002
Called "a fantastic breakthrough into the dark content of female desire" (France-Soir), The Sexual Life of Catherine M. was the literary success of the year in France, selling over 300,000 copies and becoming the most controversial book on sexuality since The Story of O. Catherine Millet, the prominent editor of Art Press, has led an extraordinarily active and free sexual life -- from alfresco encounters in Italy to a gang bang on the edge of the Bois du Boulogne to a high-class orgy at a chichi Parisian restaurant. A graphic account of a life of physical gratification, the book is also a relentlessly honest look at the consequences of sex stripped of sentiment -- including the joys and sorrows of her open marriage -- and a completely fearless unmasking of the fallacies we cling to and the often shocking, sometimes disturbing truths of female sexuality. The French press was equally admiring and appalled by Millet's daring, but Le Nouvel Observateur certainly spoke for them all when it wrote, "Sex is this woman's continent, which she explores tirelessly. No one has ever described it like this." Now American audiences will have the opportunity to take home Catherine M. "This is the most explicit book about sex ever written by a woman." -- Edmund White "[Her] aloof, gracefully crystalline style is as elegant as any French pornography since Sade." -- Francine du Plessix Gray, Vogue "[A] stylistic tour de force recounting three decades of sexual exploits ... This book's pleasures are first and foremost literary." -- Saul Anton, Bookforum "[Millet] relates her sexual life without trembling, and allows us to share her pleasures." -- Daniel Bougnoux, Le Monde

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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

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring and un-erotic June 12 2004
Format:Paperback
This book was talked up so much by so many people that I decided to pick it up.. much to my dismay. The writing is trite, the stories repetitive and not terribly interesting and the sexual encounters are completely overdone to the point of draining all of their eroticism. Reading and re-reading stories about orgies and illicit sex acts with no explanation, insight or (at least) craft of writing is just boring. Not worth your time. If you're looking for interesting erotica, try some Anais Nin.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The unapologetic pursuit of pleasure 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."
There emotion in her story, but it is screened at times, and it is unsoftened by love or romance, and free of guilt.
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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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1.0 out of 5 stars Make it stop Oct. 25 2012
By M0nica TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Blech. I hardly tolerated this and honestly never finished reading for fear of contracting something that requires medication.
I think Fifty Shades of Grey has burned me from reading this type of book.

Or perhaps I honestly don't care about someone else's sexual exploits and I can't really figure out why anyone else would be either. Now that's not to say I preach waiting until marriage or anything of the sort - I just felt like the book was bragging instead of explaining, although maybe there was further explanation after the first thirty pages about who decided this would make a reasonable story. Feel free to explore your sexuality, but please remit yourself to censoring it to you and your closest friends - or maybe a bar on a Saturday night.

However, I give this book one star to Catherine being a brave lady. I feel compelled now to write a story about my adventures and see if it makes millions. If it doesn't, maybe I can just become the editor of something fancy too and pretend nobody knows where (see: everyone) my lady bits have been (around).
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1.0 out of 5 stars Sex-less Sex June 30 2003
Format:Hardcover
I like a good work of erotica as much as the next red-blooded American boy, and, believe me, this ain't one of them. One is tempted to compare this piece of tripe with classics such as "My Life and Loves" by Frank Harris or "Fanny Hill" by John Cleland, but there is no basis to do so: those long-desceased gentlemen knew how to write with grace and style, to say nothing of a fair smattering of wit. Ms. "M" simply knows various names for body parts and how to describe, and not very well, the ways in which they may be conjoined and juxtaposed. That's it, folks. No context, no personality, and in the long run, no interest whatever. Anyone who (presumably) spends this much time putting pen to paper deserves one star, if only for effort. Save your money; I wish I had.
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3.0 out of 5 stars The Sexual Life of Cathrine M. June 20 2003
Format:Hardcover
This is one of those books that you either love or hate. I love it, probably because I see myself in some of her descriptions. But not because of this, I suggest to all the female readers to read it, just to get a rough idea of their sexual life compering it to Cathrine Mellet's. And a little bit about the autor: I definately look up to her, not because of her, as some may say, promiscuous sex life; but because she found that strenght in her to write this revealing and very personal book. For many women this type of hings may be hard to write even in thier diaries, however to share it the world...a great courage is needed to do that.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars The BORING Life of Catherine M.
This book was so monotonous I couldnt even finish it. So what, she let a lot of guys f*** her, you can go to your local swingers club and see that. ZZZZZZZZZZZ, put me to sleep. Read more
Published on May 24 2004 by blackkit10
1.0 out of 5 stars Prepare to hit the "Snore" button
Many great authors in history have described the joys, pains, and amusement of certain culinary delights, from grand discussions of the skills of master chefs to the discomfort... Read more
Published on Jan. 11 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars Numbingly dreary
Millet's sexual life is just a rambling catalogue of sexual acts. She is fooling herself if she thinks she is revolutionary or shocking. Read more
Published on Jan. 7 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't buy it.
I quit reading at fifty pages. I was bored. She blips from one story to the next and none of it has a point. Read more
Published on Dec 16 2003
3.0 out of 5 stars The Exceptionally Dull Sexual Life of Catherine M
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... Read more
Published on Dec 6 2003 by Martin Hulme
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't waste your money and time!
I was so bored that I couldn't be bothered to read more than one third of this book. I expected much more - liberating female writing, passion, pleasure. Read more
Published on Nov. 26 2003 by TJ
1.0 out of 5 stars Do something else with your time
I was very disappointed by this book. It lacks inspiration or any sort of structure or organization. It sounds more like fever-induced random ramblings which often refer to orgies. Read more
Published on Oct. 19 2003
1.0 out of 5 stars I don't see why she wrote this at all
In the afterword, which I flipped to after about the first chapter, Catherine M attempts to answer the question, "Why would you want to write a book about this? Read more
Published on July 20 2003
1.0 out of 5 stars Just as dull as they said it would be.
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. Read more
Published on July 2 2003
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