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Unmastered: A Book on Desire, Most Difficult to Tell Hardcover – 6 Sep 2012
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Provocative and profoundly personal ... it's hard to overestimate the riskiness of these passages, their courage and their exquisite sensuality ... Unmastered is a giddily joyful book ... days after reading its images linger in the mind ... an elegant and uplifting journey (Olivia Laing Observer)
Unmastered is written with an honesty so defiantly pure it amounts to an act of cultural resistance (Adam Foulds, author of the Booker Prize-shortlisted, 'The Quickening Maze')
I am completely, utterly, overwhelmingly in love with Unmastered .... Beautiful, ferocious, acute, exceptional (Olivia Laing, author of 'To The River')
I think the highest compliment you can pay any book is that it is unafraid. Angel's fiercely intelligent and moving memoir of sexuality and desire is a challenging, vital work (Sam Byers, Best Books of 2012 Book Keeping)
A moving and memorable read (Huffington Post Books of 2013)
About the Author
Katherine Angel is a writer and academic. A Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre for the History of Medicine at Warwick University, her current research explores the history of female sexual problems in the UK and US, from the 1960s to the present. She has written on sexuality, pornography, and the relationship between culture and desire, for The Independent and Prospect.
Top customer reviews
And it's a shame if that's the beginning and the end of anyone's attempt to look into what sometimes seems to me the only real dilemma we can really look at or do anything about - the balance between men and women, not just sexually but in the world. Because we can do something about it, while we can only look on and hope as billionaires coat the homes of low-income families with inflammable substances or the leader of the free world masquerades as a cartoon villain. This is one of those rare books that opens up a discussion - and it totally changed the way I see my own functioning within a relationship, not least in the sparky early section where she looks at how the man needs to be king and how the woman for her own protection and gratification but also to her disadvantage supports this need. Katherine Angel puts it more subtly than that, and expresses it not as an opinion but as something she has experienced, as a way of looking. And it seems to me almost a lost skill, the ability she has to present these integral questions not as opinions that can immediately be refuted but as observations and challenges based on something profound, these days when opinions based on air and lies are inescapable.
With almost every page, there's a sense of a door opening onto a female experience - and it's a privilege, actually, to feel on the inside of something that strong, intense and real. There's something beautiful and passionate about it, but also something very useful. It's very moving towards the end when with great poetic conciseness she describes how she felt after her abortion and the effect it had on her relationship, an account which will displease anyone with an agenda on either side of the argument. But that is the point - yes, there are political agendas, and lost inside those agendas is our personal experience. And all this is done not with academic detachment or any claim to be special or unique, which is often the default tone with life-writing, but with a sparkle in her eye, with wit, with Morrissey and Kate Bush references. No one needs to feel threatened by any of this stuff, really. Nobody's going to get hurt. This is just someone trying to talk to you - communicate. You just have to listen and respond.
It is brilliantly, if at times pretentiously, written, with very erotic passages - together with some hilarious ones.
Verdict: it won't be to everyones's taste, but it's a very good book for dipping into.
The prose is elegant, intimate, sensuous, exhilarating, and whilst the author carries us through a realm of sensation, light, fluid, yet intense, there is darkness here, as indeed there must be, since this is nothing if not a searching look at the roots of desire, it's peaks and troughs, the evanescent presentiments of the occulted Id, and yes the ire of the dragons in Eden, the rivening, aching pain of loss. It is too about that apogee of feeling that takes us to the very edge of identity, where gender dissolves in the search for oneself in the Other, to become one with the Other, to become the Other, to plunge into the abyss that is the sum of all fears, all doubts that we may encounter within ourselves, about ourselves, both within a relationship and perhaps beyond. As such it is also about the struggle for open-ness, to transcend all boundaries, to give voice to and communicate our darkest, most erotic visions with the Other, calling for a level of trust beyond all travelled abandonments. Anyone who has truly loved will find themselves here regardless of gender and will I think, marvel at the level of courage and insight that the author brings to her brief. There is poetry here too and much, much more, since this is beyond the merely poetic.
I say 'almost' because in 'Unmastered' Katherine Angel comes breathtakingly close. These aphorisms somehow add up to far more than the sum of their parts; lewd in places, funny, at times romantic, at times deeply sensual, they play off one another, slowly building into a picture of desire that is both unique and personal (and very brave on Angel's part), and at the same time common, I suspect, to heterosexual women in general.
I raced through this book, spellbound, smiling in recognition again and again. Parts of it have made an enormous impact. I plan to revisit it again and again.
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