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The Sexual Life of Catherine M. Hardcover – Jun 2002

34 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press (Jun. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1852428112
  • ISBN-13: 978-1852428112
  • ASIN: 0802117163
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14.7 x 2.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 540,583 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

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.

Review

'A brilliant testimony of a life spent at the sexual front line' -- Independent on Sunday

'One of the most explicit books about sex ever written by a woman' -- Edmund White

‘I thought it was the most honest book I had ever read on the subject of sex’ -- Daily Telegraph

‘Millet writes extremely well…it is neither pornography nor her coy younger sister, erotica, but a work of libertine philosophy’ -- The Times Literary Supplement

‘Unabashed erotica...a straight-talking romp catalogued with savage wit by a Parisian intellectual' -- The Scotsman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

2.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By blackeyedsoosan on 17 Dec. 2003
Format: Paperback
Readers familiar with Fanny Hill by John Cleland may experience a sense of deja-vu on reading The Sexual Life of Catherine M. When not gracing the reader with intellectual insights on the relationship between space, sex and the natural environment, the author is variously being 'rammed' or 'filled' with a variety of 'members' 'rods' or 'organs'. The author herself is constantly 'taken' by 'insistent' men, and even ends up being pounced upon 'from behind' when she has a stomach upset - not the first thing which would occur to me to ease a case of Dehli belly.
For a memoir touted as a narrative of sexual liberation, I found this book not so much shocking as tedious, mundane, even flaccid. The descriptions of sexual liaisons are phallocentric and repetitive, and the tone is more prudish than provocative in its use of stock pornographic vocabularly. I'd recommend that readers stick to Anais Nin who writes with a truly female voice, and leaves out all the intellectual navel-gazing in which Catherine M indulges.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Londonist on 12 Jan. 2004
Format: Paperback
An astonishingly dull, tedious and mechanistic book about a life spent in the pursuit of clockwork sex. This woman humps her way through dozens, possibly hundreds, of faceless men rather like the Duracell bunny - with considerably less excitement, pleasure and imagination than a trainspotter recording serial numbers from railway engines. All the characters including the author remain resolutely two-dimensional and bloodless throughout. A deadening book which summons up rather more vivid images of the psychiatrist's office than the bedroom.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 11 July 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I don't know - when you've decided to write a book about sex, it's bound to be a bit of a chore after a while, especially as she's chosen such an clinical style. Yes, the repitition of the sexual act so many times does drag, but there's quite a lot to interest too. Ultimately, I did find it rather interesting following the tireless Catherine going about her daily grind (no apologies for the pun). But as another reader has guessed, it all seems a bit more serious in French (I've only glanced at the translation).
But I have to say that if you've not enjoyed this book - and even if you have - "One Hundred Strokes of the Hairbrush before Bed", by Melissa P. is a sight more dull, and rather less convincing. And if the Italian's that bad, God alone knows what the English translation will be like.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 11 July 2002
Format: Paperback
For those of you who know "My Secret Life". Not a great comparison, perhaps, but not a totally wrong one either.
I found this book very erotic in places, and yet, terribly monotonous in others. Catherine Millet is an art critic who has had countless lovers, 45 of whom she can put a name and face together. She has indulged in orgies, group sex, outdoors and indoors with many, many men, often offeriung herslef to large groups in the Bois De Boulogne and other public spaces. And this is the problem with the book. Eventually the encounters blur into one long orgy, with Catherine the only fixed point in sight. She has obviously enjoyed her life, and her encounters, and has relished telling us all about them, but there is, for me, a sense of emptiness that creeps in early on, and only grows.
At times Catherine is a sophisticated woman who decides what , and who, she wants and gets it. At others she seems like an innocent, and others like a child reveling in being rude in front of her parents.
All that said, a book well worth reading, but don't expect porn, it is much more like "Story of O" than that.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By D L on 4 Jun. 2004
Format: Paperback
This autobiography begins how it ends. Millet delivers detailed illustrations of her varied accounts of sex, whether it be intimate or mass.
In covering such a diverse aspect of her life, she talks to the reader bluntly, yet is able to speak deeply about sex. Her tone is consistent throughout the book, which can prove it to be a complex read, as the monotonous passages create people, space and situations which are hard for the reader to recall. "En Contraire", the language is beautifully adorned with artistic description.
The strength about this book is that Millet is able to narrate without inhibitions, conviction, remorse, shame or regret about her achievements and experiences, a narrative and explicit autobiography which is truly rare, the reader feels a great sense achievement by the end of the autobiography, having persevered through a unique but difficult perspective on sex.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 21 Sept. 2003
Format: Hardcover
What a complete and utter waste of money this book has proved to be. Like other reviewers the blurb on the sleeve seemed to suggest some intelligent reflections from a Parisian woman who was able to openly reflect on her numerous sexual experiences. What followed was a badly written, disjointed and unfeeling monologue on her various escapades. Found myself skipping huge chunks of this book and ending up feeling curiously sorry for this woman who seemed to know everything about the mechanics of sex and nothing about tenderness or love - it read like some sort of bizarre therapy session - detached and totally failing to engage the reader. One can only wonder why she thought it worthwhile writing the book in the first place.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Jason Parkes #1 HALL OF FAME on 31 Dec. 2003
Format: Paperback
I've read conflicting reviews of this book- JG Ballard liked it, as did some broadsheets- it hasn't fared so well on Amazon; like the majority of the human species, I'm interested in sex...so was hoping to find something of interest here. Sadly, I did not!
What would Millet write next?- a reminiscence of every bowel movement?- something that has a chance of being more interesting and illuminating than this boring 'memoir'. If you read it in the original French, it probably sounds very meaningful...but translated it has the aura of a story in a downmarket porn mag- except we don't get pictures to compenstate! This is almost as bad as Alistair Campbell's porn- imagine if Millet's first name was Christopher- imagine the uproar! Look how Dennis Potter was chastised following Blackeyes, which flaws apart, did attempt to do something with the world of sex...
Sex is an interesting subject- everyone does it & thinks about it- & I can see it's purpose even in extreme sexual works like American Psycho, Crash, The Passion of New Eve,The Piano Teacher, The 120 Days of Sodom & Tropic of Cancer. Or films like Irrerversible, Sex & Lucia, Crash (Cronenberg), The Piano Teacher (again), Last Tango in Paris, Salo, In the Realm of the Senses, Querelle etc. It's a valid topic, though poor writing can reduce it to unintentional hysteria- though I bet my SOUL that Alan Titchmarsh's sexual writings have superior qualities to this boredom. The Pillow Book & Showgirls are postively appealing after reading this...
Millet's book is simply boring- we get little insight- apart from a repeated thing about nakedness being a skin (or something)& an over-use of the word 'vulva'.
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