Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Strange but true...

How can bookshelves be erotic, or pornographic?

Is it the promise or suggestion of what might be lurking on the shelves? The nature of the space, with many hidden alcoves? The comfortable, worn furniture on and against which sexual conquests and deeds might be accomplished? The semi-public location, perhaps a large room with high ceilings and large windows? The transgression of fucking loudly somewhere that's supposed to be library-quiet? Is it the same erotic impulse in each case, or a different type of desire that's called up by different kinds of bookshelves?

Or is it just me and my imagination?

I feel a story coming on...


  1. If you do write that story, I want to read it! I find libraries and bookstores very sexy. Maybe for the reason you mention, that public/private mix. I dream of having a set of those library stairs, so I can dust the top of my bookshelves in a short swingy skirt.

  2. I have a few ideas - torn between setting it in a second-hand bookshop or in a large library with massive rooms and vaulted ceilings. Or I could set it in Blackwells in Oxford, which looks tiny and old from the outside but when you go down the stairs to the main shop, it's a huge underground cavern excavated out under half the centre of the city. But it's one to add to the 'queue' of stuff waiting to get written so it'll be a few months down the line!

    I couldn't possibly comment on what the idea of you in a short swingy skirt at the top of library steps does to my imagination...

  3. Does a French maid outfit help? Swishing a feather duster?

    One of the stories in Transported takes place in a second-hand bookstore. I think it's still posted online somewhere, if you want me to find it for you.

    I've been to Blakcwell's in Oxford! Please set it there!

  4. Actually I've never been that much of a fan of the French maid style. Something more goth. perhaps?

    The other place I could set it would be a place about an hour's drive from me, in the Peak District - Scarthins, in Cromford. Three, possibly four, floors of secondhand books crammed into a big old Victorian(ish) house with many hidden treasures on the shelves, many nooks and crannies, a macrobiotic cafe (or something like it) and staff who all seem to be New Age hippies, pagans, deviants or all three.

    There's a history there, because the area round Cromford is wonderful countryside, at one time was quite cheap, and about 20-30 years ago a lot of New Age types moved into the area. If I remember rightly there's a Wiccan supplies shop quite close to Scarthins (someone who lives round there will probably correct me!), and it's the kind of place where solstices and equinoxes are as important as public holidays...

    The only story I've seen from Transported was the Schiphol one, so if you're prepared to part with another I'd be pleased to read it...

  5. Eh... no, I can't do Goth. I could easily do hippie, though! What I like about the French maid thing is the contrast--because I never clean. ;) I like the description of that second bookstore too! I had Powell's in Portland, Oregon in mind when I wrote my story, although I changed it to be a small store, whereas Powell's is massive.

    I looked around on the bettersex site, and I couldn't find my story there anymore, where it used to be. But if you have a Facebook account, perhaps you can access this link? I had no idea it was even there, till I googled the story.

    Or you can buy the whole book, you know. *smiles sweetly*

  6. Found it, read it... very nice!

    I would buy the book, but I'm in the same position you were in a month or so ago - corporate client taking an age to pay big invoices.

    Incidentally I came across this today: has the text of about 1600 erotic novels from the 1950s/60s/70s from defunct publishers. I started poking about to see what they had and think it'll be worth a bit of discussion on here when I get a chance to think through some of the issues the storylines of that era raise for me!

  7. Interesting! Gloria Brame has on her blog site today a look at Fanny Hill--you might have to look around a bit, but there's an excerpt from the novel. Supposedly the first pornographic novel published in English?

  8. Thanks for this - I'll have a look at it (but not today as I'm trying to finish off a story!). You're right that Fanny Hill - 1748 - was probably the first published in English. At least we don't know of earlier ones, though French language material was available in England before this.

    That said, the Canterbury Tales - first printed in 1478 though written decades earlier - has some pretty bawdy parts.

    I was poking about in the history of pornography and came across, in particular a little article at - this reminded me that part of the point of pornography, historically speaking, was as a form of political and social critique. It would be interesting to see that happening again, because I can only think of a handful of erotic/porn novels that seem to take this on board. Some of M Christian's work... can't offhand think of much else...