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hux

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  1. This is a very famous erotic novella. Written in 1928 and detailing the narrator (a young male) and his sexual escapades with a girl called Simone. 

     

    They begin having a sexual relationship but don't engage in full intercourse, only masturbation and exhibitionism. Eventually, they manipulate a local girl called Marcelle to join them in their games. This leads to an orgy which in turn leads to Marcelle having a mental breakdown and going to a sanitorium. Eventually, she commits suicide and the narrator and Simone go on the run to Spain with the help of an Englishman called Sir Edmund. In Seville, Simone seduces a priest and with the two men helping, rapes and murders him.

     

    This book has a lot of gratuitous language and sexual imagery. There's milk and eggs and bull's testicles and eye balls involved. 

     

    When I first read it, I assumed it was supposed to be a true story. Very quickly I concluded it was too fantastical to be true. Everything about it was the classic male fantasy that I'd seen a million time before. Then I realised (because Bataille confirms it) that it was indeed 'mostly' manufactured. There's no question it's a wish fantasy about women being as dirty as us and having sex at the drop of a hat. They have all that sexual capital yet never seem to exploit it. Hence Simone is always the instigator in the sexual acts.

     

    I also think Bataille was equating semen with urine because that's what orgasm is to men. It's not something we build up to like women. It's something we relieve ourselves of. Truth be told, we're relieving ourselves inside women when we ejaculate. It's no different to urinating. Sex will always have a connection to the basic -- eating, defecating, breathing, sleeping and screwing. They exist on a spectrum.

     

    I actually laughed out loud at the final chapter with the priest. It was so utterly unreal that it has a comedic element.

     

    I would definitely recommend this. Unless you're squeamish. 

     

    Quote

    "Sir Edmund," she said, rubbing her cheek gently on his shoulder, "I want you to do something."

    "I shall do anything you like," he replied.

    She made me come over to the corpse: she knelt down and completely opened the eye that the fly had perched on.

    "Do you see the eye?" she asked me.

    "Well?"

    "It's an egg," she concluded in all simplicity.

    "All right," I urged her, extremely disturbed, "what are you getting at?"

    "I want to play with this eye."

    "What do you mean."

    "Listen, Sir Edmund," she finally let it out, "you must give me this at once, tear it out at once, I want it!"

     

  2. An example of what makes the book great.

     

    "No pain, no death is more terrible to a wild creature than its fear of man. A red-throated diver, sodden and obscene with oil, able to move only its head, will push itself out from the sea wall with its bill if you reach down to it as it floats like a log in the tide. A poisoned crow, gaping and helplessly floundering in the grass, bright yellow foam bubbling from its throat, will dash itself up again and again on to the descending wall of air, if you try to catch it. A rabbit, inflated and foul with myxomatosis, just a twitching pulse beating in a bladder of bones and fur, will feel the vibrations of your footstep and will look for you with bulging, sightless eyes. Then it will drag itself away into a bush, trembling with fear.

     

    We are the killers. We stink of death. We carry it with us. It sticks to us like frost. We cannot tear it away."

  3. Since there's no bird watching section, I guess this is the place to post this. 

     

    This is a book about a man (A.J. Baker) who develops an interest in bird watching and specifically takes an interest in peregrines. He details his fascination over the course of several months in the early sixties and follows the birds around the South of England. 

     

    read it based on several excellent reviews. It's generally considered one of the best nature books. 

     

    The first two chapters detailing his interest in bird watching were indeed exquisite. The prose is gorgeous and sets up a passion which borders on obsession. His use of metaphor and simile are amazing. But I have to say, I found the diary portion to be hugely repetitive with endless descriptions of the same colours, the same landscapes, the same north easterly winds, the same list of birds (woodpigeon, lapwing, plover on and on). He occasionally returns to the wonderful language seen in the opening chapters, usually when he tangents onto a separate, more personal subject. There's one where he details the way animals fear humans and he describes humans as stinking of death; and another when he describes his encounter with a fox. But other than that, it just repeats, repeats, repeats.

     

    Reading those opening chapters got me very excited about what was to come but the following diary section was a rather dull and turgid experience. I got the impression it was one of those books that one reviewer loved, then another, then another, until eventually, it developed an unwarranted reputation for excellence based on the poetic beauty of those opening two chapters. The fact is, the diary stuff doesn't match up to that. None the less, I definitely embraced Baker's passion for the subject matter. And I recognised his obvious gift for language. I just wish he would have more eagerly applied it to the latter half of the book. Or perhaps some fiction. The diary section only came to life for me when he expressed his opinion rather than when he described the same identical actions and events over and over. 

     

    I highly recommend the opening chapters. Some of the most beautiful prose I've ever come across.

     

    After that... not so much.

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