Tag: Naked Lunch

The Adventures into Krissy Kneen and Incredible Erotic Literature

Posted July 25, 2016 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 4 Comments

The Adventures of Holly White and the Incredible Sex MachineSometimes you come across a novel that sounds so weird that you cannot help but consider reading it. For me, while browsing the shelves of Avid Reader, a delightful indie bookstore in Brisbane, I came across Krissy Kneen’s novel The Adventures of Holly White and the Incredible Sex Machine. The premise was simple, a young woman who wears a True Love Waits ring finds herself joining a sex book club. They dedicate themselves to exploring the so called classics of erotic literature. Upon reading this novel, I found this to be a delicious romp of genre blending and surreal sex. In the vain of Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure but with a blue glow emanating from her vulva. This fact I discovered early in the novel with the line “She wondered what Jack would think on their wedding night when he lifted her skirt to find her glow-in-the-dark vulva providing subtle illumination of their final act of love”.

One of the joys of this weirdly surreal novel was the way Kneen managed to explore the journey of sexual awakening while also recommending some good erotica to the reader. I compare this book with Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (or shall I call it Fanny Hill) simply because it explore this journey into sexual pleasure in a similar way. While one book feels more about the empowering nature of desire and the other a perverted fantasy written by someone stuck in prison.

I will admit my experience into erotica is very limited, from a perverted start into the website literotica to a mild curiosity in this genre. One key difference I have found between modern erotica and the classics is intention. For popular authors like Tiffany Reisz, Sylvia Day and E.L. James, their books intend to explore a fantasy, hoping to titillate the reader in one way or another. While in the case of the classics, it was more about exploring something much deeper. Whether it be a sexual awaking (Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure), the pleasures of the flesh (A Sport and a Pastime) to just using sex for symbolism.

I still have gaps in my reading for this genre, for example Anaïs Nin or Marquis de Sade. Though I am curious to explore it in greater detail. Thanks to Krissy Kneen and her novel, I now have a list to work from. I was pleased to see James Salter kicking off this wonderful novel and I was eager to write down a list books to read…only to find them listed in the back of the novel as well. In my never ending efforts to be well read, I now have some direction when it comes to Erotica.Erotic literature

While I adore the voyeuristic nature of A Sport and a Pastime, I was pleased to see some transgressive erotica gracing the pages of The Adventures of Holly White and the Incredible Sex Machine. One could argue whether these picks should be considered erotic in nature but they do explore sex in an interesting way. Take for example Lolita, there are some beautifully written erotica writing in the novel but this is countered by the disturbing nature of Humbert Humbert. Dolores’ own sexual awakening will be forever tainted by the predatorily nature of Humbert. This can also be explored in Me and Mr. Booker by Cory Taylor and Alissa Nutting’s novel Tampa which takes on the idea of the fantasy of sleeping with the teacher. However for further exploration into this I would recommend a memoir; Excavation by Wendy C. Ortiz.

Then you have something far more disturbing in nature with Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille, which takes sex to a far more depraved level. While this novel will indeed shock and sicken you, the symbolism to be found is what I found undeniably appealing. With the help of some essays combined with this novel called “The Pornographic Imagination” by Susan Sontag and “The Metaphor of the Eye” by Roland Barthes, Story of the Eye transforms into more than a surreal erotic. As I read it, I was disturbed by the mind of Bataille but now I feel sympathetic to his pain.

I was not surprised to see Henry Miller (Tropic of Cancer) or Joseph Kessel (Belle de Jour) was neglected from the pages, I was expecting Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs to make an appearance. Sex in Burroughs represents power and could have added an interesting dynamic, though this could be just a projection of my love for surrealism. It is pleasing to read a novel that mirrors fragments from the classics. Kneen not only recommends books to Holly White and the reader, she was able to pay homage to the greats.

While my journey into erotica seems to be focused on the classics, I am all too aware that I have not considered literary erotica. I would like to think that a more literary erotic novel would closely resemble what I am interested in rather than just a fantasy aimed to arouse. I know I need to read Affection and Triptych by Krissy Kneen but I do need to try other authors. More research is needed for me and recommendations as well as I continue down this rabbit hole, who knows I may write more about erotica in the future.


Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

Posted August 24, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic, Erotica / 0 Comments

Tropic of Cancer by Henry MillerTitle: Tropic of Cancer (Goodreads)
Author: Henry Miller
Published: Harper Collins, 1934
Pages: 336
Genres: Classic, Erotica
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Tropic of Cancer is probably best known for being about sex, a book that was banned for over thirty years. An autobiographical novel of a struggling writer living in Paris in a community of bohemians. A fictionalised account of Miller’s life living underground, with prostitutes, painters and other writers.

This is an odd novel, not necessarily good but a literary landmark. Without Henry Miller we may never have books like Lolita, Naked Lunch, A Sport and a Pastime and even Tampa. On the plus side, we may never have Fifty Shades of Grey. This novel pushed the boundaries of literature in the 1930’s and found itself being banned, which developed a cult following that helped influence the future of literature. I tend to think, much like Lady’s Chatterley’s Lover, if it wasn’t for the banning of the book, this novel wouldn’t be a classic; it would have just faded away into obscurity.

There are some advantages to reading this book, there are the autobiographical elements but then Miller focuses on his friends and colleagues. Almost off topic, like he is commentating on what is happening in their lives. Then it gets a little more complex because there is a stream of consciousness reflecting on the occasional epiphany. The whole narrative gets really confusing with its non-linear approach, the tangents and reflections. It makes the whole book hard to read and in the end not really enjoyable.

I can’t help but compare this novel to The Dud Avocado, the sexual adventures in Paris is similar but Tropic of Cancer wasn’t as interesting and a female lead makes for a less sex obsessed narrative and tends to focus on life abroad as well. I can’t help thinking just how narcissistic Henry Miller must have been with all those autobiographical novels of his life; do people still do that? Or is this just a thing of the past, pushing the boundaries.

I have to give Henry Miller one thing; he doesn’t hold back, he will expose the good, the bad and the disturbing parts of his life. If I ever wrote a book like this (which I have no interest in doing anyway) I would be more inclined to hold back, to paint myself in a more favourable light; Miller doesn’t do that at all. There isn’t much I can say about this book, it’s about sex and that is about it. The stream of consciousness part was interesting but I still find that difficult to read. I would probably tell people to skip this and read The Dud Avocado or something similar but for the book snobs (like myself) if you do read this book I hope you get something out of it apart from the historical significance of a book like Tropic of Cancer.


Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs

Posted June 14, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic / 5 Comments

Naked Lunch by William S. BurroughsTitle: Naked Lunch (Goodreads)
Author: William S. Burroughs
Published: Grove Press, 1959
Pages: 289
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

In a complex and disturbing string of events, William Lee finds himself fleeing from the police. While on the run, this drug addict finds himself journeying across the United States and into Mexico. His travels lead him into the underground world of both drug and homosexual culture. The coun
ter story revolves around the use of mind control by the government and psychiatrists to manipulate and direct the public.

Considered one of the most important novels of the twentieth century, William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch is a bizarre cut up narrative protesting the death penalty. You got that the book was trying to do that from the synopsis right? Naked Lunch is a non-linear narrative that does make it really difficult to summarise the plot. Burroughs is famously known for his cut-up narrative; which is a literary technique that can be traced back to the Dadaists in the 1920s. For more information about Burroughs and cut-up check out my post called William S. Burroughs & Surrealist Writing Methods.

The book looks into two key groups; the drug and homosexual subcultures. The two unite early in the novel by the narrator but are never mutually exclusive. At the start of the book William Lee believes he will be punished more harshly for his involvement in homosexual activities than using and selling illegal drugs, which is really sad to think that people are being still victimised over their sexuality and drugs have just become socially acceptable.

Then the subplot largely focuses on the way in which psychotherapy combines with the government to institute mind control. Dr Benway experiments on ways to manipulate the minds of his patients in order to further his research. With no ethical consideration, he often changes his patient’s sexual identity and then tries to cure them. He also creates a mental controlling device for the towns as a way to use the population for his sadistic experiments and put them through psychological torture. Many of these experimental towns are based on the utopian idea and Burroughs like to explore the problems with the idea in a rather sinister way.

So how is this novel a protest to the death penalty? Well that would be in the same way Jonathan Swift’s Modest Proposal ideals with economics. William S. Burroughs uses Juvenalian satire to highlight the barbaric, disgusting and anachronism of capital punishment. While the sex in Naked Lunch can be considered as mutual satisfaction sometimes, it is also used as a metaphor (especially in the more violent sexual acts) for defeating an enemy, self serving idol worshipping and capital punishment. The results of these metaphors are often confusing, shocking, taboo and sickening. Sex is a powerful tool with this novel and while it does look at sex and relationships in a positive way (rarely), the majority is used to symbolise the dark and cynical themes within the book.

William Lee is obviously William S. Burroughs alter ego and the book can be read as a semi-autobiographical novel through a serious drug addiction but like Infinite Jest there is so much more going on. This book did remind me a lot of Infinite Jest; not just with how it dealt with drug addiction but the way it used very dark themes to look at other social issues. William S. Burroughs had a similar experience to the narrator, taking trips around the world in order to avoid being arrested. Even the addition and sexual experimentation is similar to the authors own experiences, as part of his attempts to separate himself from mainstream culture. William S. Burroughs is a fascinating man and I’m interested to learn/blog more about him.

I’m not sure what the difference between the original and restored text but I did read the restored edition. While this was a really weird and somewhat difficult book to get though there is so many interesting themes to explore that I feel very satisfied by completing this novel. It is disturbing and some of it will make you feel sick to your stomach and I can understand why people hate this book. This is a really intense novel that will drain you emotionally and mentally. The book is full of violent and graphic sex, so it will never be for everyone but I can see why it is an important novel, not just because of the obscenity trial but also for all the themes.

I’ve not read many Beat novels in my life, I think On the Road was the only other one but I do like the gritty and surreal approach both books take. I’m not sure if this is a major theme for all beat novels but if so, I will have to read more. I doubt I’ll ever return to Naked Lunch simply because of how disturbing some of the scenes are but I know I can be completely satisfied with having read this one and judging by this review, I can also take comfort in the fact I was able to pick it apart and understand some of the themes.


Monthly Review – May 2013

Posted May 31, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

As May comes to a close, like all months, I want to have a quick look at what happened. First of all I managed to get fully up to date with my reviews; a few months ago I was about 20 reviews behind, waiting to be posted. Now when I finish a book the review will go up within a few days (sometimes more) and this frees me up to do other bookish posts. This is so exciting because I really like to write my thoughts about the world of literature without being confined to reviews. Also as you can see we are smack in the middle of being green with envy of everyone attending the Book Expo of America (BEA). I’m participating in Armchair BEA again and this will hopefully mean new blogs and new people to talk to. I’m also currently overseas so I’ve scheduled all these posts, I still have access to internet but I wanted to be free to comment and read instead of writing blog posts.

As for this month, the book club theme was Supernatural and we got to read the classic Victorian Gothic novella Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. My review went up yesterday and there have been some interesting discussions about the book and its influences in modern pop culture over at Goodreads if you’ve missed it. Next month’s book is going to be a little obscure, something I’ve not heard of; I’m really looking forward to diving into The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy.

Last month I was in the middle of a reading slump so I was worried that May would be a terrible month for me but I’m pleased to say the slump didn’t last long. I was able to read heaps of great books including Invitation to a Beheading, Main Street and The People of Forever Are Not Afraid. Interesting enough the highlight of the month was none of those books, but a reread of The Great Gatsby; I just enjoyed returning to that novel and then picking it apart trying to understand it. I would love to know what your highlights of the month were or even what you read this month.

My Monthly Reading


The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Posted August 18, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Young Adult / 0 Comments

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen ChboskyTitle: The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Goodreads)
Author: Stephen Chbosky
Published: MTV Books, 1999
Pages: 224
Genres: Young Adult
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

I’ve wanted to read The Perks of Being a Wallflower for the simple reason that the synopsis reminded me of John Green’s Looking for Alaska, and let’s face it, John Green writes some great books. Stephen Chbosky’s debut novel is a real knock out; I’m not sure if he will write another one but judging by this book, I hope he does. Charlie is a wallflower, who is writing letters to an unknown friend as a therapeutical way to express his feelings about his life. His only friend is his High School English teacher who keeps giving Charlie great books to read. Charlie’s life changes when he becomes friends with some seniors; Patrick and Sam.

This book is third on the American Library Association’s list of the top ten most frequently challenged books as of 2009 for a few different reasons which I will look into one at a time.

Drugs: Alcohol and Drug experimentation is an issue teenagers have to deal with. While I don’t agree with the use of drugs, banning a book because of drug use is just avoiding the issue at hand.
Homosexuality: This should never be an issue, why do we want to hide the fact that some people have a same sex attraction? I kind of feel like avoiding this issue is a primary cause for the hurt and mistreatment of homosexuals. We should be accepting of everyone.
Sex: If a young adult book isn’t dealing with the issue of sex then you are just saying that teenagers shouldn’t have hormones.
Suicide: This book is not promoting suicide, it is exploring the hurt and the effect of a suicide has on the people closest to the victim.

It is true that I’m opposed to censor and banning books, if we don’t talk about the issues and just avoid them, who will teenagers turn to if they have an issue? We need to allow people to express their feelings and create a world where it is acceptable to have a dialogue about the issues they are facing. Banning a book like this would never have a positive effect except for maybe make teenagers want to read it more.

Now that I’ve had a vent about challenging a book like this, I want to talk about what I love about this book. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a series of letters and I felt like I was having a sneak peek into the life of a struggling teenager that reminds me a lot of myself when I was in High School. The novel covers so many interesting aspects involved with being a teenager from depression, loneliness, sexuality, friendships, relationships and even music and literature.

Charlie is such a great character and I loved peeking into his life. Sam is adorable but I never fell in love with her like I did with Alaska but she still really helped the story. But my favourite character was the English teacher. I like that he encouraged Charlie to read books like The Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Stranger and even Naked Lunch!

When I think of YA novels, these are the types of novels I really enjoy. John Green is a master at this realistic contemporary young adult novels; The Perks of Being a Wallflower is definitely another highly recommended one. I’m yet to read a David Levithan novel, but I’m looking forward to experiencing more books that are similar to this style.

While the writing did feel very basic, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is driven by the quirky life of Charlie and his letters. I never wanted to stop reading, I felt myself always wanting to know what will happen next. I really enjoyed this book and I’m excited about the coming film adaptation. Author Stephen Chbosky wrote the screenplay and is directing the adaptation so I think that it will be faithful to the novel, I just hope doesn’t lose the charm found in the book.