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. Millet was, she claims frankly, not a seductress; she was simply available. It seems, too, that she was kind. Men were, too. There is frequently tenderness. Millet describes the feeling she loves: that she is literally disappearing into pleasure.
At least one Renault and a Citroen Deux-Cheveux are in this book, too, along with YSL and other good French clothing. The French are loyal to their cars and their designers.
Why did Millet write this book? Certainly not for any of the reasons that American readers might prefer, such as "healing," "recovery," or some plea for social or religious absolution. She does not recant. Millet's lack of apology or contrition and her frank self-revelation might inflame readers who are confused by her stance and her presentation. This book is neither "erotica" nor anguished memoir. Instead, it's four essays on an unconventional life. Millet as tour guide tells all, shows all, and, finally, asks a variety of good questions. I found myself thinking quite a lot, and greatly enjoying Millet's approach to her account of an astonishingly unconventional sexual life.