Sexual Life of Catherine M. Hardcover – Jun 1 2002
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A publishing sensation upon its original publication in France, Catherine Millets 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 Millets 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 Millets 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 books 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 Reages Story of O and Georges Batailles 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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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Blech. I hardly tolerated this and honestly never finished reading for fear of contracting something that requires medication. Read morePublished on Oct. 25 2012 by M0nica
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... Read morePublished on June 12 2004 by Kerry A. Walsh
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 morePublished on May 24 2004 by blackkit10
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 morePublished on Jan. 11 2004
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 morePublished on Jan. 6 2004
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 morePublished on Dec 16 2003
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 morePublished on Nov. 26 2003 by TJ
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 morePublished on Oct. 19 2003
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 morePublished on July 20 2003
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