intense sensations

Posts Tagged ‘sex

Thrill SeekerThrill Seeker by Kristina Lloyd
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The publisher has called this novel controversial. I’m not going to argue with that.

Not everyone is going to like it. Some people will hate it. Probably for the very reasons that make it so good.

I first came across Kristina Lloyd in the Mammoth Book of Erotica 2009. Her story in that collection was exceptional and ever since then I’ve rated her as one of the very best writers in the genre. Thrill Seeker does nothing to change my view but I have to admit that it presents a few challenges.

One of the things Kristina does very well is to stimulate your physical senses. This alone would make her worth reading but Kristina goes further, teasing those elusive other senses of imagination, anticipation and lust. This is where she excels, in my view, for she does it very simply and subtly and with consummate skill.

Here’s an example. Disturbed by the sounds of an intruder while giving her boyfriend a blowjob, Natalie goes downstairs to investigate…

My fingers inched over the wall’s rough stone as I descended to the kitchen. I heard nothing, saw no shadows shifting. I crept down the final few steps then switched on the light. Scanning the room, I tried to make sense of the mess. Shards of glass sparkled on the drainer of the sink. The windows were intact. No one was here. One window was open, its drooping metal handle scraping against the outside wall, hinges banging in the clattering rain. The damp gingham curtains fluttered in the breeze, ditsy flags of surrender. A vase. My glass vase on the windowsill had smashed. A wine glass too by the looks of it. The back door was ajar. My heart was thumping, my throat parched.

Liam’s feet banged on the first flight of stairs. ‘I’m coming, you OK?’

On the kitchen table, as if waiting to be filed, was a sheet of A4 paper in a clear, plastic poly pocket. It wasn’t mine. I snatched it up. Across the page, in glued lettering cut from newspapers, were the words: CLOSER THAN YOU KNOW.

It’s because she works on your senses with all those succinctly provocative physical descriptions that the psychological impact, when it comes, is so powerful. The first time I read those paragraphs, my skin tingled.

Film makers would kill for that kind of reaction. The scene could in fact work very well on film. It has another ingredient that screen writers like to sprinkle into their work, which is foreshadowing. Those ditsy gingham curtains are not just damp and fluttering because they are exposed to the hidden dangers of the darkness outside. They are flags of surrender.

Surrender is one of the novel’s key themes. In this respect it has a lot in common with Kristina’s earlier novel, Asking For Trouble, which was hugely popular and sold very well. But Thrill Seeker goes deeper and hits harder than the earlier book. In some respects it is more serious. I think it really stretches the limits of the genre. It’s about surrender but it’s also about being honest with yourself and finding what you want. And for this you need to be tough enough not to give in to another kind of constraint – the constraint of public opinion.

Natalie has the courage not to surrender to the censures of society but to surrender instead to her sexual cravings. She is a strong woman who likes to be dominated and abused. Like her predecessor in Asking For Trouble, she does not believe in compromise. There are no safe words for her. Where is the thrill in danger if you know it’s not real? She likes to go to the very knife-edge of consensual sex. She doesn’t so much flirt with danger as issue an open invitation to the worst possible kind of sexual pervert to seize her and do his worst.

This is probably not every woman’s idea of a romantic story. “Plenty of people out there think that what I’m doing is ridiculous or wrong,” moans Natalie. And I must admit that I am not, like Natalie, turned on by “arrogance, ingratitude and disdain.” I do not enjoy being sexually degraded. For me, therefore, there was a distance between the pleasures I seek and some of the the sexual activities depicted in the story.

Then I started to wonder, Do we really want men reading this stuff? Do we want them to think women really have these kind of fantasies? When there are real sexually-motivated horrors emerging every other day in the newspapers, do we really want to give men this kind of licence to do their worst under the misguided impression that they are giving us what we really want?

But that is partly the subject matter of this book, that very serious social issue. It is not an irresponsible book. It’s a very serious one.

And as a writer, everything Kristina does is spot on. The writing is so taut and controlled that I was fixated on it, unable to look away. The sex, of course, is sometimes gratuitous. The descriptions are long, lingering and detailed. All well and good, you might think, but what about the characters? Well, the characters are true to themselves. The dangers escalate and the climax has a dizzy inevitability. This is not a how-to manual for BDSM neophytes. Natalie is no role model for the internet dating generation. But this is an important, exciting and provocative book that really throws down the gauntlet for anyone wanting to take up the challenge of writing a BDSM thriller and says, “Top that!”

And, in her next book, if rumours are to be believed, Kristina will do exactly that.

I can’t wait!


House of Night #1 (House of Night: The Graphic Novel, #1)House of Night #1 by P.C. Cast
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had mixed feelings about this comic, which is based on a series of novels I haven’t read.

At first I hated the teenage stereotyping of the main characters. Do American teenage girls really squabble like this about boys? Are they really this shallow and feckless?

Then I hated the misappropriation of some of the world’s great mythic stories – Nyx, Persephone, Freya, et cetera.

But above all I disliked the way this story tames and domesticates the myth of the evil blood sucking vampire. This a more general trend in modern American teenage fiction so I suppose there’s nothing we can do about it but it saddens me deeply to see a powerful symbolic creature sapped of its life force in this way.

Then I smoothed my wrinkled brow and thought about it objectively. The story is coherent and works well as a metaphor for the journey into womanhood. Blood and lust are forever co-mingled in the adolescent female psyche. Establishing a finishing school in the heart of suburbia where primeval sexual urges can be understood and assimilated through archetypal mythic images is probably not a bad thing. I see nothing wrong with creating the conditions in which sexualised women are not seen as a threat to society, and this story helps to do that quite well.

The drawings are very good, particularly the ones set in mythical Norway, which are by Karl Kerschl.

So, all in all, it’s an intriguing little comic, which I ended up liking more the more I thought about it. I won’t be reading the novels, though, hahahahaha!

Cocaine NightsCocaine Nights by J.G. Ballard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book started out with tremendous promise. That sounds more patronising than I would like. It blew my mind. Is that better? I couldn’t believe I had avoided this author for so long. If you are an avid reader, not reading J.G. Ballard is like depriving yourself of air. Each sentence glitters with intelligence. The rhythm, the poise, the vocabulary, the imagery are all perfect. He has a fine sense of character and there is passion beneath his hard, cynical edge.

But as the book goes along it degenerates. Not because of the language, which continues to be perfect: perfectly judged and perfectly paced. The similes come just as thick and fast as before. The words still glitter. The images still haunt your brain.

But something happens to the credibility. J.G. Ballard is not like other men. He is aloof from ordinary human motivation. His psychology is not quite sane. He has a pathological empathy with weird conditions. He imagines humanity differently from the rest of us.

So I stopped enjoying it. He lays the groundwork for his plot very thoroughly. He is like an advertising man. He is very persuasive and very plausible. But his words are a veneer laid over a corrupt underbelly that failed to convince. The twist at the end also didn’t ring true.

I was disappointed. I was bitterly disappointed. Because when he is good he is breathtakingly good.

A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for LoversA Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My boyfriend (who is English and reads the Guardian) gave me this book. My flatmate (who is Chinese and reads Grazia) borrowed it without asking. That’s the trouble with talking to your flatmate about books. This week she’s gone off to Austria with my copy of Candy (by Mian Mian) because I made the mistake of telling her how much I was enjoying it.

Back to this one by Xiaolu Guo. I avoided it for a while because it’s written in bad English. My boyfriend found this cute but it’s not good for me. I am very imitative and when I read bad English I start writing it. When I did start reading it, I read a chapter aloud to my flatmate and we were both in hysterics. When I looked for it next it was gone.

In my flatmate’s absence, I raided her room and retrieved it so now I have finished it and can write a review.

It’s about a Chinese woman (called Z) who comes to England and has a romance with an English man (who reads the Guardian). As their relationship develops, her English improves, she learns how to be naked, have sex all day, use a condom, and, most importantly, because of the nature of an English man’s love, to masturbate. She also learns that love means different things in Chinese and English, which is true. English people say they love each other when they mean they are fond of each other. Chinese people would rather not say it but instead demonstrate it through a lifetime of devotion.

The narrative is a bit disjointed but original. It takes the form of a notebook containing entries on words Z is learning. The bad English (which improves) is not always quite how we Chinese write English but it is often close. Some of the notes on language are very insightful. I disagreed with some of them and sometimes Z’s innocence struck a false note, becoming merely a rhetorical device.

The ending is moving. Maybe it will make you cry.

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Fear of FlyingFear of Flying by Erica Jong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s best not to get all heavy about this book. It’s light, outspoken and racy, like a long rambling monologue from your best friend when she’s very hyper and just needs to talk. Sometimes you have to just sit there and take it and let it wash over you and sometimes you nod with recognition, sometimes it’s sexy in a “I remember that feeling” sort of way and sometimes you say “Really?” in an intense sort of way and are desperate to know more. Sometimes it makes you laugh out loud (LOL). As a Chinese I was very curious to know how western women think about sex but I discovered even before I read this book that a lot of western women have much dirtier minds than this, LOL. Erica Jong. Uptight. LOL! People sometimes call me uptight. And I say, what about Erica Jong? Anyway it gets the conversation off me for a while.

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Granta 110: SexGranta 110: Sex by Granta
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The picture on the front cover is the best thing about this edition of Granta. It was a cynical attempt to woo new subscribers. They still use this edition in adverts, even though it’s quite old now. Oh, and there was a recent twist on this idea called The F Word. Disappointingly, the F stands for feminisim.

There is a nice story by Marie Darrieusecq in this sex edition. Perhaps calling it a story is too kind, although she calls it a story. It’s more of an anecdote. There are some drawings of animals by Dave Eggers. The tenuous connection with the sex theme is that they are ‘contemplating sex.’

That’s indicative of the way this sex theme has been implemented. It’s all a trick to get your interest. It’s a cheap tease. It doesn’t deliver.

I have bought many Grantas. But I don’t subscribe.

That’s my way of teasing them back.

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Books by Vanessa Wu

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