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.
Maybe I missed something but this won the Pulitzer prize and was cited as an influence in Hemmingway receiving the Nobel Prize? Why?
I mean, it's a perfectly nice short story about a man battling with a fish then watching as his prize is devoured by sharks, but it's really not much more than that. I enjoyed it but at no point was I thinking... this is epic literature. Truth be told, it's essentially a short version of Moby Dick, a story that looks at a man's obsession taking over him and resulting in no reward. It had all the classic Hemmingway characteristics of being cold and detached and to the point which I disliked in his first person narratives (The Sun Also Rises) but don't mind too much here.
Ultimately, it's all rather forgettable stuff though.
Lisa is waiting to pay her vehicle tax at her local motor revenue office, thermoprinted number in hand, trying to find the least bad plastic seat. As she begins her interminable wait, she looks around and observes her fellow man. Fellow man doesn't come out looking good. Then Lisa notices that someone is reading a magazine article written by her friend Olivia about nanoparticles.
This is a short story that looks at ordinary people and how they look based on a single occasion in a mundane setting. The situation is familiar to all of us, is closely structured based on the serial calling of numbers; and there are clear social protocols against interacting with one another. People may watch one another but they don't interact. It's a story about constraint and boredom, with Olivia representing a bright, glamorous alternative existence. With just a bit more application, Lisa could have been Dr Lisa, being in magazines instead of the motor revenue office queue.
In the end, Lisa discovers that, like nanoparticles, small things, small gestures can make a big difference.
This is a delicate story and the simplicity of the language shines. Lisa and the people in the queue are so believable. The setting rings perfectly true. But by observing and recording, Charlotte Wood gives them depth and meaning. This story is only a short half hour's read but well worth it. ****0
Austin North is an English teacher, determined to make poetry relevant to his pupils. He is under no illusions that he could have been a poet himself – he knows he could have had the same experiences as the great WWI poets and written nothing more profound than a postcard home. But he still loves his subject and wants to share that love with the kids.
Blackberries is a strange story about cultural values and expectations. Austin is well used to resisting improper relationships; he is happy at home and seems to be competent at work. Yet there’s something missing. Maybe it’s not composing poetry or the bombs or the pathos – but Austin still seems to want something more, some kind of adventure. To an extent, he seems to have found this in his friendship with David Malwai, a South Sudanese migrant. He also finds himself captivated by a new student, a teenage South Sudanese girl who seems to have a gift for distance running. After years of following the straight and narrow, Austin seems to open his eyes to new possibilities.
There is an underlying theme of cultural differences. Austin represents old Australia and the South Sudanese represent new Australia. How far should the new go to assimilate with the old? At the same time, Austin raises the issue of the young Aboriginal people, many of whom have issues with crime and substance abuse. Of course, the European migrants to Australia did not look to assimilate with the Aborigines. Now there is a debate about whether Aboriginal people should be expected to assimilate with the European migrants. Why should they, they ask, given that they were there first and so are not the problem.
It’s a complex little story that doesn’t present easy answers or glib truisms. Instead, it leaves us considering their own attitudes and, in all probability, recognising some of the contradictions in our own minds. *****
Vincent Duncan is a novelist. He was first published at the age of 23; he has never had a rejection; he has a cushy job teaching creating writing at the local university and an annual tour of the US to look forward to. Duncan likes fast cars and fast women. He’s a success.
Ithica In My Mind is a short story of a lazy man who has not noticed that the world has changed around him. People (both punters and publishers) are no longer queuing up to buy his books. He is no longer the star draw in his university department. His poor choices in wives and investments have left him in a precarious place. There is some insight into the life and mindset of the famous.
This story is a well told moment of realisation. All Duncan’s chickens come home to roost and, as they do, the reader discovers what stuff he is made of – whether he has the inner resilience and agility to adapt to the new situation.
This is a very brief work and, unlike Peter Temple’s longer works, is not in the crime genre. It is quite stylised and there’s not much development or depth of characterisation. It’s a bit of a one trick pony. But as a bit of fun, the story works well, the pacing is right and there is pay-off at the end. ****0