37 Stories About 37 Women by Brian Whitney

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book: 37 Stories About 37 Women

Author: Brian Whitney

Type of Book: Fiction, short story collection

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: It’s one of those books that is more or less genre-less, and almost completely unmarketable in the modern book world. To be unmarketable is odd.

Availability: Published by Fanny Press in 2013, you can get a copy here:

Comments: It’s been a while since I’ve read a book so poorly served by its cover design and blurbs. When I received this book from the publisher, I actually cringed when I saw the cover. It looks like the sort of cover one would expect to see on a cheesy “herotica” book aimed at middle-class, middle-aged women who dream of seducing the pool boy and looking 18 again.

The blurbs didn’t really make much of a difference before I read the book but, once I was finished, the blurbs bore no resemblance to the book I read. Almost all the blurbs seem to be from men so perhaps this is a Venus-Mars situation, but I tend to think not. I have no idea what the dudes who called this a “funny, sexy, nasty little book” and “equally erotic and literary” were reading, but it was hard to link those comments to this book.

With the cover and these descriptions, one could come to the conclusion that this collection is traditional erotica.  Or even just sort of hot vignettes. That’s not the case. Susie Bright isn’t going to anthologize any of these stories. I would be surprised (though not shocked) if these stories aroused anyone’s libido. None of the book was particularly erotic to my sensibilities, though it describes sexual relationships. It is reasonably literary, and there are some moments of humor, and some of the stories are a bit nasty, but this collection is not sexy at all, all the stranger since Fanny Press is an erotica publisher. Rather, this is a series of very short stories that describe mostly failed relationships with mostly really fucked-up women who get involved with equally fucked-up men. It’s still very interesting, and a compelling read, but all of this needs to be said in the event any of my readers buy this book. Writers seldom get to choose their cover design or art, so the cover can’t be counted against Whitney even as it completely misdescribes his book.

And it’s a shame that the cover is so awful because this is a book worth reading. It’s a difficult sort of book. It’s not the sort of book wherein you will find some overwhelming truth about the human condition because these 37 stories represent extremity of human experience. If you are like me, you will have a very hard time remembering which story went with which name, a danger when one writes such short stories. Some of the stories are little more than character sketches. You’re not interacting with the stories or the characters long enough for them to really register with you deeply the first time you read it. This is a book you can tackle in less than two hours and, if you read it, I recommend reading it a second time a week or so later so that the stories can settle in a bit more.

However, that is not to say that these stories lack depth. Each one is a peephole, a narrow view into a larger story. You only see a small, distorted glimpse. It’s also strange to call this book a peephole into relationships because a peephole is what you use to make sure you have no unwelcome intrusions into your own privacy. This book’s narrow view at male-female interactions sometimes feels like an intrusion, a voyeuristic peeking through a keyhole.

The stories – the titles are all women’s names – are told in first, second and third person and from the perspective of the women, the men and some unknown outsiders.  As I said, because these stories are so short and because there are almost 40 of them in a 103 page book, I would be very surprised if anyone can remember a specific girl’s story without referring to the book.  Still, there are elements of some of these stories that will stay with you.  Caddish men, crazy women, the tolls of drug abuse, uneasy one-night-stands, strange relationships.  Even though the format doesn’t lend itself well to remembering specifics, these slices of other people’s lives are entertaining to read.

Whitney’s got a style that reminds me a bit of what would happen if you combined Raymond Carver with Charles Bukowski, with a healthy dash of Tucker Max. Creepy sexual couplings and emotional pain filtered through a distant, near-minimalism.  Though this collection did not set me on fire, Whitney has a wonderful style that is distinctive, clean and extremely readable. Given the extraordinarily liberal approach many small presses have regarding editing, this was a near-pristine read, if I overlook the strange substitution of “or” for “of” that happens periodically throughout the book.

Whitney’s stories offer little in the way of hope or redemption, focusing on the behaviors one expects from the worst of assholes.  Here’s a snippet from “Caitlin:”

…Bill always tries to get me to fuck the women he hangs out with.  Except for Joanne, of course.  But he’s always trying to get me to come to his rat trap apartment and screw whatever fairly disgusting chick is around.  Caitlin is doable, but there is this one heinous chick named Robin who Bill is constantly trying to get me to have sex with.

Like my ultimate fantasy is beating off in the face of a middle-aged chick with a bad haircut while my pillhead buddy beats off watching me.

He also tries to get me to do this around five p.m.  The classic “blowing your load too early” kind of dudeal.

This story begins frat-boyishly enough.  Bill is a scumbag sociopath and wants the narrator to screw Caitlin while he and another man named Seth watch.  Caitlin is far more attractive than Robin, but the narrator deals with the moral dimension of this offer thusly:

…I was supposed to be going to meet my girlfriend right at that very moment and even though Caitlin is attractive, my girlfriend is actually much more so and it didn’t really seem worth it to risk losing everything just to bang Caitlin.  In Biddeford.  With Seth.  At six p.m.  When I would be stuck there all night.  In a fucking ranch house.  With Bill watching me.

He bows out and Caitlin seems relieved.  But Bill is a sociopath and this story ends with a punch in the gut.

This went on for fifteen minutes.

“Fucking say it!  ‘I want to fuck Brian and his Jew friend Seth.'”

For fifteen minutes.  I was in the front of the car with Caitlin, touching her leg.  Seth was in the back laughing his ass off. After fifteen minutes Bill grabbed the back of her neck.

“Say it.  ‘I want to fuck Brian and his Jew friend Seth.'”

She said it.  She said it over and over and over.

Most Outrageous by Bob Levin

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book: Most Outrageous: The Trials and Trespasses of Dwaine Tinsley and Chester the Molester

Author: Bob Levin

Type of Book: Non-fiction, biography, pornography, constitutional issues

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: It may not be full-bore odd in the way that many of the books I discuss here often are, but it’s unsettling and at the end of the book I had more questions than I did at the beginning. This book also dovetailed neatly with some of the work I am doing preparing for upcoming Jim Goad/”Rape Me” discussion, so discussing this is a warm up for what is to come. So the book may not be odd, per se, but it’s worth discussing here because I say so.

Availability: Published by 2008 by Fantagraphics Books, you can get a copy here:

Comments: Pornography as a whole doesn’t bother me. I’ve read every argument for and against it and ,all in all, the Red in me says all work is exploitation. Some of us get exploited more than others. Pornography is an ugly business, uglier than most, but it serves a purpose and I can’t look at anyone who makes or performs in pornography as being a victim. At least not in every circumstance. I sure know a few hundred dollars a scene or for a set of photographs, on the victim-scale, sure beats the hell out of working for minimum wage in retail or scrubbing toilets. People may say the latter work permits workers to have more pride but sentimental ideals like that are worth very little when you cannot pay your bills.

Whether or not opponents of pornography like it, pornography that involves consenting adults (within the legal limits of federal and state law) is protected under the First Amendment. Pornographic depictions in the form of drawings are far more lenient, as in the USA it is still legal to draw children in pornographic situations. Even if we loathe it, we have to tolerate it if we want to live in a free society. But it’s important to note that a free society is not always a healthy society. That’s where Dwaine Tinsley comes in.

If you aren’t familiar with the “Chester the Molester” cartoons that used to appear in Hustler, I tend to think you are a lucky person. I admit that my truly negative opinion of the cartoons are probably coloring this discussion, but I also am struggling to approach this with an even hand. That struggle is helped greatly by Levin’s book, because though I knew of “Chester the Molester,” I knew nothing of the man who had created the cartoons.

Dwaine Tinsley was born poor white trash and had an upbringing that was less Dickensian than straight out of an Erskine Caldwell novel. Throughout his life, he had an affection for plump women, marrying a couple of them, and eventually he made a decent life for himself as a cartoonist. His daughter from one of his earlier relationships moved to live with him and his new family when she began to have problems at home with her mother and, from all accounts, Dwaine and his wife did their best to give his daughter, called “Veronica” in the book, a nice life with some basic household rules.

But when “Veronica” began dating a man whom her father and stepmother disliked, a man who apparently got her hooked on cocaine, she began to make allegations that Tinsley had molested her. Her accusations came during the time when incestuous abuse of children was becoming a very big topic in mainstream society, from movies like Something About Amelia to talk shows with an array of people who had increasingly unbelievable stories about abuse. Tinsley went to trial for molesting his daughter and was convicted, supposedly, on the merits of some taped phone calls he had with “Veronica.” The transcription of those phone calls, when read dispassionately, are devastating to Tinsley’s denial that he did not molest his daughter. Those calls can also be open to interpretation, as a man who knows his daughter is troubled and is refusing to enter into another tiresome, interminable discussion about something that never happened.

But it’s also very much a possibility that Dwaine Tinsley went to prison because his daughter was urged by a boyfriend to blackmail her father. But mostly he went to prison because he was the creator of “Chester the Molester.”

Seriously, if you found out that the artist behind a cartoon wherein disgusting old men stalk and sexually interfere with children, mostly little girls, was accused of raping his daughter, would you even be surprised? Would you shrug and think, “Stands to reason that a man who would draw such cartoons might actually harbor salacious feelings toward children?” Is it even possible that a man who drew such a cartoon could get a fair trial if his work was invoked as proof of his overall degeneracy?

That’s why I am discussing this book here, even though it’s not so odd. It’s because it’s a hard book. Tinsley comes across as a sympathetic man. Levin does an excellent job of showing Tinsley as a man with a good work ethic, a sort of working class hero who made good after a crappy childhood, overcoming the limitations that are often part and parcel of being a “son of the soil.” But he’s also a man who drew some of the most vile cartoons, cartoons that in most cases were utterly devoid of irony (and often humor) because he claimed he was satirizing and lampooning the behaviors of pedophiles. That made me uneasy. And that sucks on my part because a man’s crappy attempts to create valid social satire is not proof positive that he has the urge to rape a child.

To make matters worse is the picture that Levin chose to lead off the book. In this picture, a pretty young woman is sitting on a low wall of some sort. She has her legs spread and Tinsley is leaning back against her, his ass level with her crotch. He is smoking a cigarette and she has her arms wrapped around his neck. I assumed it was a picture of Tinsley with one of his wives or a girlfriend. Of course, later I learned that the “Veronica” in the picture was Tinsley’s daughter. Without any signifiers of who the girl was when I first looked at the picture, I would never have thought the picture was of a father and his daughter. It was creepy and unsettling when I realized the relationship between the two people in the picture.

And that’s dangerous, isn’t it? Lots of families express themselves in ways that I may find odd but are not engaging in incestuous or even unhealthy behaviors. What can one really tell from one photograph? What can one tell from a photograph when the father inks “Chester the Molester?” And why would any man want to ink a cartoon like “Chester the Molester?”  

King of the Perverts by Steve Lowe

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book: King of the Perverts

Author: Steve Lowe

Type of Book: Bizarro, novella, (borders on) pornographic (but not in a particularly sexy way)

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd:  Lowe created the “sexcathlon” and what I hoped were made-up sexual acts but weren’t, god help me.

Availability:  Published in 2012 by Grindhouse Press, you can get a copy here:

Comments:  I was expecting something far different when I received this book in the mail.  The cover, featuring a sleazy flasher with a bouquet of red flowers hiding his crotch, made my mind go to some very gross and demented places.  While this book was quite disgusting in some areas, it wasn’t The Diary of a Rapist made modern and set in a bizarro world.  It wasn’t even as subversively gross as some of R. Crumb’s drawings.  But it’s interesting to note how the absence of a continual onslaught of over-the-top sexual darkness made this book all the odder.  Not that there isn’t some disturbing content.  There is.  It’s just disturbing content mixed with a lot of humor.

Steve Lowe is an odd duck, which seems like a no-brainer because he is a bizarro writer.  Of course he’s a little odd, right?  Sure, but what sets Lowe apart from some of his bizarro brethren is that while he employs odd environments and strange plot details, he also manages to write excellent character-driven fiction.  And he manages to write character-driven fiction as he discusses arcane and/or wholly fictional (one hoped and one’s hopes were completely dashed) sex acts like the “Abe Lincoln” and  the “Alligator Fuckhouse.”   There were points during this novel when Lowe relied on caricatures, like the evil, money-grubbing ex-wife, and the protagonist, Dennis, sometimes was a bit too sad-sack for my tastes, but every step he takes in this book is a perverse step in regaining control of his life.

And yeah, the ending is… sort of rom-com-ish once you get past the horrifying, deeply disturbing section that takes place just before, but who cares when there’s violence, the mob, disgusting sex acts and even more disgusting sex acts.

I was a bit concerned when I realized that Lowe was mining a familiar vein – man down on his luck auditions for a controversial game show – but sometimes very interesting stories can be told within somewhat hackneyed settings, and Lowe does indeed tell an interesting story.  Hilarious too, but then again I’ve always found the scatological far funnier than the average person.

The story begins in medias res with Dennis contemplating how it is he is going to complete a particular sex act, for he has entered into a reality television contest wherein men compete to see who can complete the most esoteric and perverse sex acts.   Dennis is quickly in over his head, his innate decency at war with his desire to win enough money to take care of all the problems he faces after his financially and sexually profligate wife, Carrie, left him.  Dennis, who is actually a very nice and sexually average guy, is faced with completing a golden shower with an imposingly pretty woman.  Overcome by nerves, he is trying to get it all over with as easily as he can, but nothing really comes easy for Dennis, or without a lot of rumination:

Asking her to pee on me would go over better than asking if I could pee on her.  As far as I understand the rules of the game, a golden shower is a golden shower, regardless of the recipient.  So better me than her.

But I can’t honestly claim chivalry here.  There’s a performance anxiety element to this, like trying to piss at one of those cattle troughs in a football stadium, where you’re shoulder to shoulder with dozens of guys, staring at the wall in front of you, forcing your eyes to remain locked straight ahead and not wonder if you had the guy next to you beat in the meat packing department.  Nothing was worse than holding up the shuffling, drunken queue behind you because you couldn’t make wee-wee when the moment of truth arrived.

So how does his first golden shower work out for Dennis?

Waterboarded by a babe.

Dennis is clearly not into the experience.

I cough and blow urine from my sinuses, gagging on the bitter burning in the back of my throat.  When I can see again, I look up at her.  She’s dry heaving, holding her bucking guts with both hands, preparing to add an appletini chaser to my golden shower.  I scramble, slipping on the soiled slick tile flooring, spinning my tires in the puddle of piss beneath me.  I almost get away in time.


Poor Dennis is clearly not an emetophiliac.  And we can also learn a very good lesson from this – never ask a very drunk woman to piss on your head.  You may end up covered in far more bodily emissions than you bargained for.

Though Lowe handles quite well Dennis’ progression from abandoned schlub to a man who manages his life and has a chance at genuine affection with an honest, decent woman, I think the reason to read this book is for the hilarious and bizarre descriptions of Dennis’ attempt to win the title of King of the Perverts.  To avoid spoiling the plot, I’ll have to restrain myself from going into too much detail but I really want to share some more of Lowe’s demented sense of humor.  He also has an excellent ear for dialogue and a style that is very appealing in its simplicity.  His clean and fluid style enabled me to read the squickiest of details without feeling overwhelmed by the sexually… interesting parts.

And there were many sexually interesting (and gross and hilarious) parts, a couple of which I swore had to be the result of Lowe’s fevered imagination.  Alas, a Google proved me wrong.  An “Alligator Fuckhouse” is a thing, people, though the online descriptions varied, as they so often do in such matters.  The “Abe Lincoln?”  Totally not made up and, interestingly, a source of great guilt for Dennis once he finishes the act.  So in a way, this book was an education of sorts.  A deeply gross education.  I’ll give a little context for the quotes but not too much.

Here’s a funny scene, when the game show organizer is giving Dennis a critique on his performance:

Peter’s voice kicks up an octave with excitement as he explains,  “We had to tweak the order of the challenges a little bit, but you managed to pull off two of them tonight in one spectacular performance.”

“I did?”

“Yes, you did!  First, you hung in like a trooper and went the distance to finish off that donkey punch but then you went the extra mile and snuck in an angry pirate.

“An angry wha-wha?”

“Technically, there were a couple of things not quite right with your angry pirate.  You nailed the cumshot to the eyes to produce a squint, but for a proper AP, you were supposed to follow with a kick to the shin to get her hopping around like she has a ‘peg leg’.”  He makes air quotes when he says peg leg.

“Your little bunny did that to herself tonight by running into the dresser, but the result ended up being the same – one pissed off bunny hopping around on one leg, squinting.  The angry pirate!”

It’s indeed a perverse world wherein one can find out one has completed an angry pirate without even knowing such a thing exists.  It was hard not to pity Dennis.  He feels very uncomfortable involving unsuspecting women in the perversions he is asked to perform, but his situation in real life is so dire (his ex has left him in horrible debt and gave birth to another man’s child while married to him, putting him on the hook for child support so he really needs the money from winning the contest) that he forces himself to continue.  And when he feels he wants to stop, he has a lunatic handler named Mongo who forces him onward in his perverse quest.

It’s also a perverse quest of the damned.  Poor Dennis.  His dirty sanchez does not end well and he wakes in the ER with no memory of the night before and a nurse named Sarah mocking his plight.

Was there a bar fight?  Did I get hit with a bottle?   That doesn’t seem familiar at all.

I can see stairs.

Did I fall down stairs?

And why do I still smell ass?  Something in here definitely smells like a butt.  I wonder if another patient in the ER has shit themselves, but Sarah sees me sniffing the air like I’m tracking foxes on a morning hunt.  She solves the mystery for me by pointing at the  tiny sink set in the wall next to the tiny desk.

“That smell is you,” she says.  “Wash your hands and face really well with that antibacterial soap.  Wouldn’t want anybody getting E. coli because of you, Señor.”

Oh, Dennis…  But perhaps this was his instant karmic-payback for involving unsuspecting women in his quest for the title of King of the Perverts.

This is novella-length book, coming in at 111 pages, and Lowe manages to cram a lot into those pages.  There are moments when it feels rushed but I also think that Dennis’ mess and desperation of his life had to be handled in a rushed manner.  What is remarkable about this book is how full a character Dennis is.  Lowe has a gift for creating believable characters with depth even in the middle of a ludicrous or extreme plot line.  I remember the body-switched husband and father in Muscle Memory, a man who is having to deal with horrible realities as the world around him is going mad in a comedic way.  This is not something you see a lot of in bizarro – excellent character development and growth are at times thin on the ground in the genre.  You can lose track of his excellent characterization in the midst of his extreme plot, but it’s there.

All in all, this was a very good follow-up to Muscle Memory.  Lowe’s humor, ear for dialogue, love of the nasty, fine characterization and willingness to plumb the depths of absurdity make King of the Perverts an excellent book.  It has its problems – like the rom-com sort of ending I alluded to earlier – but that which works in this book far outweighs that which doesn’t.  I recommend this book and would love to hear from anyone who managed to complete an Alligator Fuckhouse without going to jail afterward.

Perversity Think Tank by Supervert

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book: Perversity Think Tank

Author: Supervert

Type of Book: Non-fiction, human sexuality, pornography, psychology, philosophy

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: This tiny book’s arrangement is in itself odd, with a scholarly discussion running across the top of the pages, a more personal narration running across the bottom, and large, black squares over all the pictures. Then there’s the content…

Availability: Published by Supervert in 2010, you can get a copy here:

Comments: I have a pretty serious book crush on Supervert. Every now and then you come across an author who seems very much like he or she is on your wavelength, whose words seem like they could have come out of your own brain. Supervert is one of those authors for me. I felt a great amount of kinship reading a few of the stories in Necrophilia Variations (and yeah, when you say that, when you admit a book with this particular title spoke to you directly, you are making a certain statement about yourself and now that I am officially a harmless, middle-aged woman, I feel I am safe making any sort of admission I want). I found myself nodding a lot when reading Perversity Think Tank as the book tried to answer the question of “What is Perversity?”

If I didn’t know this before reading the book, I now understand that defining perversity can be very much akin to holding mercury but Supervert manages to nail down some interesting perspectives on the topic. Mostly, I walked away knowing what perversity isn’t, while marveling that there is another human being on the planet who had thought about the complete narcissism that is involved in reproductive incest, which I will discuss in a moment.

Supervert has a unique insight into perversion. He ran the site PervScan, wherein he scoured news for anything with a hint of sexual deviance to it. While this book was inspired by the musings that the PervScan articles inspired, this is not a compilation of the site’s “greatest hits” though a couple of cases are referenced in the book. Rather, the book uses a couple of cases to ponder what comprises perversion and what does not. Interestingly, compiling all those stories of strange acts showed Supervert that most of the acts he cataloged were not true perversion.

Many of the acts I covered on PervScan – like the three middle-aged brothers who sexually assaulted their bedridden mother while she lay suffering amid lice, roaches, and fecal matter – struck me less as perverse than as ignorant, heedless, cruel. There were days when I thought my compendium of deviant doings was nothing more than a catalogue of errors in judgement and lapses in common sense.

This was an incredibly important point to me because despite my own self-admitted sympathy for the devil as well as an abiding interest in the bizarre and perverted, even I find myself defining any deviation from the norm, up to and including the worst sexual crimes, as perversion when really what was at work was psychopathy or a sub-normal intellect.

Moreover, as Supervert read more and more examples of sexual oddity, that which had seemed somewhat perverted before now seemed somewhat tame.

After you’ve read about a guy who wants to eat his own penis, you feel like you’ve pretty much heard it all. How could mere exhibitionism seem perverted in comparison to a man who wants to fry his genitalia in a pan?

I know, this isn’t the most profound of statements, but it struck me that I don’t know another single person in real life who speculates on such things, who has, in fact, heard it all to the point that little shocks them and the outre seems positively normal and comforting. I often feel as if my interest in perversion is a perversion in and of itself. I wish I knew more people who know the ins and outs of the Armin Meiwes case or all the details about Sharon Lopatka because it would make me happy to know other suburbanites with gray hair and festive glasses and a love of kittens wouldn’t throw me out of their houses if they knew what goes into and on in my head.

Supervert discusses all the various meanings of perversion. He discusses one of the first philosophical interpretations of perversion, an easy conclusion that many have reached before – that sexual perversion is any act that thwarts reproduction. Easy enough but it means that a married couple who have sex after the wife has experienced menopause are therefore perverts and so that really doesn’t fit. Additionally, Supervert brings up Sade, who wrote in The 120 Days of Sodom about a libertine who wanted to masturbate and ejaculate on the crowning head of an infant as it was born. This perversion can only happen because of human reproduction so really, in a sense, this shows the complete creativity involved in true perversion and how useless most definitions of perversion can be. Freud defined perversity as any sex act that diverted the focus of sex from the sex organs. Sort of limiting and pretty much results in everyone who has ever done anything sexual with their hands or mouths in the bedroom in being labeled a pervert and the more the merrier, right? But sweeping generalizations like these do no one any good in understanding the true nature of perversion.

The book brings up all the usual suspects like Sade but then it also discusses those whose opinions on sex are suspect at best and therefore were hilarious to me. The sad, misogynistic, sexually inept Schopenhauer makes an appearance, to my delight. Evidently, he had a foot in a pre-Freud camp that indicated that perversion was anything not involving sex organs because it ensured that those who had bad genes that made them perverts could not reproduce and pass on their defects. Which makes my lack of children somewhat interesting but then again, as Supervert reminds us, Sade had three children. Oh lord, I hate Schopenhauer. His ideas of failsex can only inspire derision in me, his very name makes me groan, and mileage, of course, always varies, but I rather enjoyed the times in this book when I felt provoked.

It was during the discussion on incest that my book crush on Supervert was confirmed. The first part was obvious, but nothing that I had ever really considered. Supervert discusses the perversion in incest and comes to an interesting conclusion. The inbred yokel who has sex with his daughter is likely not doing it in order to violate the taboo of inter-familial sex. Rather, he is doing it because she is likely the only available girl. It is an act of availability that while repellent, is not all that perverse. It is a far different thing for a father to desire his daughter because she is his daughter, or a mother to desire her son because he is her son. A key part of perversion, as far as Supervert is concerned, is consideration for the act itself and not just the easy, sloppy depravity that makes a person simply have sex with whomever or whatever is closest.

But here’s the thing that surprised me anyone else had considered (and secretly thrilled me because when one entertains dark and perverted thoughts, one never thinks anyone else would even in a million years think the same thing): the narcissism present in deliberate incest.

A libertine doesn’t molest his daughter because she just happens to be there. A libertine molests his daughter because he consciously wants to create a being who is both his child and his grandchild – and still a future sex object itself. Then he molests that daughter/granddaughter hybrid to obtain another new being who is child, grandchild, great grandchild – and still sex object.

Once you get to a certain point in this process, the end result is an appalling creation that is more or less masturbation by proxy.

The incestuous libertine approaches ever closer to a reproductive act whose result is a child 100% himself, and yet that ultimate point is always deferred by increasingly small percentages. The libertine can never quite dispense with the shred of genetic material that belongs to the maternal line, and yet the fact remains that, by fucking the offspring of his own offspring, he is inevitably fucking more and more of himself.

It is this awareness of the act and the results that is quite important when considering perversion:

And that, as Sade recognized, is one of the most striking characteristics of perversity: it is deliberate, self-conscious, pellucid. Its hallmark is… its intentionality… The libertine is able to reflect on his unwholesome activities. Self-awareness makes his pleasures all the greater.

Though Supervert discusses much, much more than these conclusions in the book, I think this is quite important and possibly the greatest revelation in this book for me. Too often people with dire sexual compulsions are labeled perverts, people with little control over their acts or those governed by a need that is innate and defies any sort of consciousness. Perversion, as a philosophical approach to depravity, requires far more than a compulsive need or a thoughtless action.

The only part of this book that I found the least bit disagreeable was Supervert’s passage about how rape could possibly be a part of the evolutionary process.

Evolutionary biologists have pointed out that natural selection provides an obvious impetus for it, insofar as rape improves the rapist’s chances for reproductive success. That my friend was raped in Central Park was symbolic: in the greatest swath of grass and trees in New York, she was subject to the Darwinism of her attackers.

Back when I first heard this particular line of thinking many years ago in an anthropology class in college, I was skeptical. Even 100,000 years ago, didn’t women understand the causality between sex and pregnancy even if they did not understand the exact mechanism? Raped women often don’t look kindly on the offspring of rape. If they couldn’t abort, those children were likely abandoned or exposed, or were raised less kindly. The men in societies where their spouses were subject to rape would also have reacted poorly. The rapists were likely subject to physical violence that made them rethink any impulse for rape, if they survived the violence. Or they would get kicked out of the tribe they lived in and would have had a far harder time at surviving at all. If there was ever a genetic code for rape to ensure one’s genetic material lived on, it likely got killed off when the offspring of such unions were subject to abortion, abandonment or resentful care and the men themselves violently neutralized before they could spread very much seed at all. Even if women only became aware of how pregnancy happened during recorded history, I would think that societal reactions to rape would still be enough to wipe out any gene that causes rape within a dozen or so generations. Or that was my knee jerk reaction. It seems there are some who know quite a bit of evolutionary psychology who agree. But regardless of which side is correct, is interesting to me, analyzing what about our sexual natures, dark and not-so-dark, can be seen as innate or learned, or just the result of a bad brain.

Supervert’s book is full of enlightened explanations of the philosophy and reasoning behind some sex acts even I can look at and call bizarre, or perverted, and at times, the best parts of the book were his discourses on the blacked-out images. These images were varied and covered a lot of ground. Like men who like to ejaculate into a woman’s eye. Like a pornographer who wanted to make a skin flick out of a woman giving birth. Like an almost touching picture of a couple on a bed, the man smoking, the woman lying on her side, staring at the man. Like the solipsistic nature of POV porn. Like his reaction to a simple painting and how this painting shows clearly how alone the pervert is in his or her own mind. Like a piece of art that provokes thoughts as to whether or not autoerotic asphyxiation is a perveme (he discusses pervemes in the book – perversion memes). Like a bestiality film clip that proved there is indeed a noise that can inspire disgust. Yeah, I think I most enjoyed Supervert’s reactions to the art he deliberately blocks out of the book.

This book isn’t for everyone but if you are a fellow traveler on certain roads, you will want to get this book. If you do read it or have already read it, I’d love to know how you read it. I read the “top half” from beginning to end, then read the “bottom half.” I paused during the bottom half to read the descriptions that accompanied the blacked-out pictures. I read the book in this manner twice, then looked up the pictures (or as many as were available online) and reread the descriptions. For a small, straightforward book, it requires a lot of attention. While definitely salacious enough to inspire prurient thoughts in those who are simply in this for the titillation, the book is not technically pornography, because the goal is to inspire interaction and thought rather than sexual arousal. In fact, the way the book is set up demands interaction and close attention and is a book I will probably reread again soon. And though I am unsure if the book available on Amazon has the same brown dust jacket as the copy I have, even without it this book is quite lovely. Books as small works of art are rare these days.

(And in the name of all that is sane, of course I don’t advocate incest, pedophilia, bestiality or any non-consensual sex act. It horrifies me that in the course of merely reviewing a philosophical discussion of perversity I have to make this point clear, but perverse thoughts do not equal advocacy nor do they indicate an unsound mind. Any comment along the line of OMG GROCE or a juvenile assertion that exploring these issues is a de facto advocacy of harmful acts will not get deleted because I will be forced to mock such comments because I am weary, oh lord am I weary. )

Selfish, Little: The Annotated Lesley Ann Downey by Peter Sotos

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book: Selfish, Little: The Annotated Lesley Ann Downey

Author: Peter Sotos

Type of Book: Non-fiction, pornography, indescribable

Why I Consider This Book Odd: Peter Sotos wrote it. If that is not enough, just Google his name and it will all become clear.

Availability: I have one of the 1000 copies Void Books released, but it looks like Void has since rereleased the book (at a much more reasonable price, as well). You can get a copy here:

Comments: This is not going to be a coherent review. There is no way it can be.

The first thing that needs to be said about this book is that it is not an analysis of the murder of Lesley Ann Downey. It is not a biography about the 10-year-old child who died at the hands of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, the trickster and the moron who committed what came to be called the Moors Murders. They took pictures of the little girl, naked and bound, and recorded her as she spoke, begging them to let her go. It was one of the most outrageous murders in the 20th century, the sheer horror of the media remnants of the crime surpassing even the pictures Harvey Glatman took of his victims. It took Manson to top the duo, in terms of shock and fetish value of the murder victim. It shocks me, the number of people online who picked up this book thinking it would be either a fictionalized account of the girl’s life or her biography. Despite the title, there is remarkably little of Lesley in this book, in terms of cold, hard words. But as Sotos makes clear, she permeates every page. She is his muse.

This book grew out of his epilogue to Ian Brady’s load of horseshit, The Gates of Janus: Serial Killing and Its Analysis, which I reviewed on this site. Sotos was the only one, it seems, who had Brady’s number. Somehow, knowing that enabled me to read this book a little easier. Not much. Just a little.

Sotos is hard for me to read. He is relentless. I have to put him down and come back to him. I can never read him in one go. He upsets me. He makes me sick. At times, I do not understand him and when I do, it bothers me because it makes me wonder about the sickness that lurks in my own soul. But I comfort myself that what is happening to me is that Sotos is provoking a reaction, not a realization, which is why I think this book exists.

I expose myself to Peter Sotos for the same reasons I expose myself to any number of artistic darknesses: I have to. It is a compulsion and one I gave up fighting years ago. Sotos leaves me bewildered, unsure about what I just read. Parts of the book are unclear. Was it truth, a remembrance of actual sexual couplings? Fantasy? Is he describing himself or is it a fiction? And would knowing the truth make any difference?

I don’t know.

I flat out do not know.

Sotos is notorious for many reasons, but chief among them is that he once produced a ‘zine called Pure. In issue 2, he used copies of actual child pornography from a magazine and was arrested for obscenity and possession of child pornography. Only the second charge stuck and he received a suspended sentence. Is he a pedophile? There is a common misconception that he is. As in everything else in life, that is subject to definition. I know others violently disagree with this assessment, but in my head, until you behave inappropriately with a child, what exists in your brain is not enough to label you a pedophile. There are those who think that his use of images and his obsession with children like Lesley and Masha Allen (whose story he included in Show Adult and it made some foam at the mouth and boycott a book that had a release of only 113 copies) make him a de facto pedophile. Since his arrest for possessing kiddie porn, and the fact that he continues to write such transgressive fiction, it seems likely he has a huge target on his back and would be arrested very quickly if he did assault a child. But even though I say he is not a pedophile, he exists in a mental realm that will disturb even the most ardent freak. If he doesn’t disturb you, as the kids say, you’re doing it wrong.

Sotos is a transgressive writer, a real transgressive writer in a world where mainstream writers like Douglas Coupland and Bret Easton Ellis are still considered transgressive. Being strange, being quirky, being sick is not enough in my mind to be transgressive. You have to horrify or you have to provoke, and people misunderstand what it really means to provoke, thinking it a cheap shot for short reaction, but I am talking about real provocation here. You may have to hit your reader between the eyes with a sledgehammer and hope they see what you wrote when they recover from the blow. In this, Sotos succeeds. The problem is that when I see what he wrote, I filter it how I see fit and who the hell knows if my thoughts are correct.

In reading Sotos, you must understand that you will read that which cannot be unread. You must have the stomach for it and it is not his fault if you don’t. Morality is not needed here. Just a willingness to see what you will never be able to unsee.

In my brain, even extreme literature has a middle road of experience. You experience the art at the edge of reason, then come to the center to see what it is you experienced. Even mainstream fiction has a middle road, the place where meaning is clear, if banal.

I put reading Selfish, Little into the same cannot unsee category that I put Throbbing Gristle’s song “Hamburger Lady.” I still recall the first time I listened to it, on a loop, appalled, fascinated. Sotos fascinates me in the same, sick vein. There is a horror to it all that enthralls me, makes me read, makes me endure when I want to put the book down and never pick it up again.

But Throbbing Gristle’s middle road, and indeed the middle road for Genesis P-orridge, is far different than Sotos’s middle road. After hearing “Hamburger Lady,” I understood how very terrible it can be to be alive. Furthermore, Throbbing Gristle’s frontperson, P-orridge himself, or herself, as I am not sure which is correct anymore, became another sex, a third sex, and however unsettling it may be seeing him with breasts and plumped lips, he shows us there are many ways of being human. (Throbbing Gristle also performed a song about one of the Moors victims called “Very Friendly.” Just mentioning it so we can come full circle in a way… “Ian Brady and Myra fucking Hindley, very very friendly…”)

But when I look down Sotos’ middle road, the place I must come to digest and make sense out of his words, all I see is Sotos. Sometimes there is a greater truth, but mostly, it is just him. He is less coming to terms with the world around him than coming to terms with himself and it is an intensely personal process that has little universality to it. Sotos is not here to show you transgression, though he is transgressive. He is here to show you himself, however provocative he is. All you see at the end of the middle road of contemplation is Peter Sotos. This is not a fault nor is it a condemnation. It just is what it is. You yourself have to decide if Sotos himself is enough of a transgressive epiphany.

Sotos wrote this book to explain himself, in a way, to make clearer his obsessions:

Every book I’ve ever written begins and ends with Lesley Ann Downey. Every single one. Every thing I’ve ever fucked has been a stab at the idea of her somehow in my pathetically happy hands. Not as flesh and hair and precisely examined childhood but as simple, personally degrading pornography.

Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book: Story of the Eye

Author: Georges Bataille

Why I Consider This Book Odd:
Oh God, where do I start…

Type of work: Pornography, fiction

Originally published in 1928, this book was re-released by City Light Books. You can get a copy here:

Comments:  (ETA on 1/19/14:  I have found myself rethinking Bataille lately.  I’ve read a bit more of his body of work, and while I suspect I will always have a negative and visceral reaction to this work, I also think I need to reconsider this book and write about it when I do.  Specifically I need to look into why I had such a visceral aversion to this book because I think a reasonably considered visceral aversion may actually be what Bataille was going for.  At any rate, I felt I needed to post this disclaimer in the event anyone else reads this old discussion.)

It seems unfair for me to completely dismiss Story of the Eye as an enormous turd polished to a sheen by specious intellectualism. I loathe the inverse of this attitude when applied to the books I love. For example, I frequently get a DIAF feeling when I think of Harold Bloom’s contemptuous and elitist dismissal of Stephen King and J.K. Rowling, the latter whom he seems to dislike simply because of what he considers her overuse of em-dashes. But it is my opinion that only a critic could find much to love in this odd book, because the subject matter is so repellent, the narrative so useless in terms of depth of story-telling, the plot so outrageous and the character development non-existent. Some people call this style of writing surrealism. Good for them, but I call shenanigans. In order to find any connection to the book, one has to downshift into sheer critical analysis, refusing to answer questions of whether or not one considers a book good versus whether or not one simply finds a book relevant to a certain critical way of thinking.

In certain respects, it all boils down to personal taste, even amongst true critics. My personal tastes rebelled against Story of the Eye because it seemed to me to be an exploitative, meaningless look into perverse sexuality that, while it may have explored elements of rebellion, was just a puerile examination of the disgusting, pushing limits just to push them, telling a pointless story in order to shock. After reading a bit about Georges Bataille’s childhood, the whys and wherefores of the book make a bit more sense to me, but just understanding the author’s motivations does not, in any way, ensure the content can connect with a reader.

I felt a bit hypocritical hating this book as much as I did, for the Harold Bloom reason I mentioned above. Moreover, people like Sartre and Susan Sontag have argued for this book’s relevance, as both a text of transgression and an excellent example of pornographic use of eros and thanatos, respectively. The book influenced the interesting and delightful whackaloon Bjork. There are people likely far smarter than me who think Story of the Eye has literary merit or social merit. de Sade, whose works never raised this level of enmity in me, may not seem that different to some readers.

But for me, there is a stark difference between Bataille and de Sade. De Sade’s works sprang from a need to fight against the limitations of cultural norms, religion and law. His tomes of rape, necrophilia, BDSM, sexual servitude and moral degeneracy were an extreme attempt to strike a blow for personal freedom during a time that was both personally stultifying and socially tumultuous, a nihilistic rage against the machine.  Story of the Eye is just a disgusting tale filtered through odd and sad events in Bataille’s life. There is no surge for a greater breath of freedom reading this book, just an unsettling feeling that one is being forced to read a foul practical joke.

The book is quite short – a novella, really – and comes in at 103 pages. I read it twice trying to get a handle on the content, hoping I could find a critical thread that impressed me.  I failed. In short, this is the book:

A young man recalls his sexually disgusting past with a distant relative, the equally perverted Simone, and the mentally fragile Marcelle. He and Simone explore their bizarre sexuality via lots of masturbation, urine and eggs. Yes, eggs. They include Marcelle, who is driven insane at an orgy and ends up institutionalized. They break her out of the booby hatch, only to have her commit suicide. They have sex next to her dead body and Simone urinates into her open eyes, as you do. To avoid an inquest into Marcelle’s death, the two go to Spain with a debauched nobleman. There are disgusting bullfights that involve impaled mare bladders, more weird sexuality involving eggs, eyes, bull testicles, and urine. Then there is the sexually-charged murder of a priest, the removal of his eye and its use in sex (Simone’s love of globular, soft objects and their relation to her nether regions is possibly the unsexiest thing I have ever encountered…). Then they disguise themselves and flee. Fade to black.

On some level, I wanted to read this text as a sort of bizarre coming of age tale, but it doesn’t work that way. There is no commonality of human experience. That’s okay – the thing I like best about odd books is that often, the commonality is lacking. Bizarre books take me to a place I would not ordinarily see. But having read very dark fiction, truly disturbing non-fiction and all sorts of stuff in between, I haven’t in any way felt as alienated by a piece of fiction as I was by Story of the Eye. I know there is all sorts of symbolism with fluid, eggs and eyes, but ultimately it didn’t matter for me. The content was too outre and too specialized for the meanings to matter.

As always, your mileage may vary, and to be honest, this book is worth reading by odd book fans simply because it is so disgusting and insane. But be aware that I say this in the same way my high school teachers often urged us to go to college so we wouldn’t be at a loss at cocktail parties (got the degree, paid off my student loans, and nary a cocktail party has come my way). The main reason to read this book in my opinion is so that you can say you have. You may get nothing more out of it than that.