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The Sexual Life of Catherine M Paperback – 6 Jun 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
I thought it was the most honest book I had ever read on the subject of sex -- Rowan Pelling, The Daily Telegraph
Keeps crudeness at bay through an aloof, gracefully crystalline style as elegant as any French pornography since de Sade -- Vogue(USA)
Millet is a woman who writes plainly; who tells the truth about desire -- The Guardian
Millet writes extremely well, describing her recollections vividly, and investing her physical largesse with a queenly magnanimity -- Lisa Hilton, Times Literary Supplement
Millets achievement is that she curates or, more accurately, catalogues her sexual adventures with no sense of shame or remorse -- Deborah Levy, Independent
Readers may find this book disturbing or repellent, but they are unlikely to find it dull -- Rowan Pelling, Daily Telegraph
She proves again that Catholicism and filthy sex go together like salt beef and rye -- The Independent on Sunday
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
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.
The book portrays, in a seemingly random sequence, the author's uninhibited experiences of group sex; where no man, woman or sexual practise was taboo. Surprisingly, given the potential gold-mine of salacious stories, the resultant book managed to make orgies as exciting as going to the toilet. There rarely seems to be any attempt to provide anything more than the shallowest description of the mechanics. Ms Millet maintains that her sexual pursuits do not revolve about pleasure, something I find easy to believe as enjoyment, excitement and emotion of claringly missing from the book. Where she does occassionally discuss her pleasure, it just becomes another cold facet of intercourse; an orgasm without feeling.
I also suspect that Ms Millet is trying to provide some philosophical underpinning to her experiences; an attempt to provide some insight into how people relate. However, her style is so jumbled and opaque - with some of the most ridiculous metaphors - that it would be impossible to identify anything of value.
Overall, do not buy this book! The most jaded bodice-ripper would be a better buy than "The Sexual Life of Catherine M"; at least it would have some excitement.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a somewhat confusing book,the sexual adventures of someone liberated and very open minded related in a manner that makes the proverbial ditch water seem positively... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Oldbiker
Lets you see things from at least one woman's perspective.Published 13 months ago by david ross brewster
I bought this book for 'The Mad Woman' to read, hoping it would remind her what certain parts of her anatomy are for. Unfortunately it had no effect.
All is not lost though. Read more
Reviews of music or any other form of art are futile. I like this; you might hate it.Published 18 months ago by A W Jones