Unsurprisingly, we at Bookkake believe there’s too little sex in literature. But we still have a soft spot for the Literary Review’s annual Bad Sex in Fiction Award, established by Auberon Waugh in 1993 to “gently dissuade” authors from including “unconvincing, perfunctory, embarrassing or redundant passages of a sexual nature in otherwise sound literary novels”. This year’s winner was Rachel Johnson (sister of London mayor Boris), for a passage including such gems as these:
“I find myself gripping his ears and tugging at the locks curling over them, beside myself, and a strange animal noise escapes from me as the mounting, Wagnerian crescendo overtakes me.
“I really do hope at this point that all the Spodders are, as requested, attending the meeting about slug clearance…”
Her novel Shire Hell was singled out by the judges for its superlative “mixture of cliche and euphemism” and “a couple of really bad animal metaphors”. But we were also pleased to see the don of Bad Sex writing, John Updike, honoured with a lifetime achievement award.
How beautiful to think
that each of these clean secretaries
at night, to please her lover, takes
a fountain into her mouth
and lets her insides, drenched with seed,
flower into her landscapes:
meadows sprinkled with baby’s breath,
hoarse twiggy woods, birds dipping, a multitude
of skies containing clouds, plowed earth stinking
of its upturned humus, and small farms each
with a silver silo.
Taking the piss out of bad literature is an easy – and dangerous – game, but we’re all for the war on cliche and, particularly, euphemism. “Plowed earth stinking” indeed.
Continuing our series of dirty poems for a Monday morning. I used to work on a vineyard, and can tell you that Neruda captures perfectly the sensuality of wine, the physicality of the ripening vine, and the pure, thrusting fecundity of the grape itself. It’s not even one of his dirtiest, by a long way, but I’ll save those for later.
wine with purple feet
or wine with topaz blood,
as a golden sword,
as lascivious velvet,
and full of wonder,
never has one goblet contained you,
one song, one man,
you are choral, gregarious,
at the least, you must be shared.
you feed on mortal
your wave carries us
from tomb to tomb,
stonecutter of icy sepulchers,
and we weep
blood rises through the shoots,
wind incites the day,
nothing is left
of your immutable soul.
stirs the spring, happiness
bursts through the earth like a plant,
and rocky cliffs,
as song is born.
A jug of wine, and thou beside me
in the wilderness,
sang the ancient poet.
Let the wine pitcher
add to the kiss of love its own.
My darling, suddenly
the line of your hip
becomes the brimming curve
of the wine goblet,
your breast is the grape cluster,
your nipples are the grapes,
the gleam of spirits lights your hair,
and your navel is a chaste seal
stamped on the vessel of your belly,
your love an inexhaustible
cascade of wine,
light that illuminates my senses,
the earthly splendor of life.
But you are more than love,
the fiery kiss,
the heat of fire,
more than the wine of life;
the community of man,
chorus of discipline,
abundance of flowers.
I like on the table,
when we’re speaking,
the light of a bottle
of intelligent wine.
and remember in every
drop of gold,
in every topaz glass,
in every purple ladle,
that autumn labored
to fill the vessel with wine;
and in the ritual of his office,
let the simple man remember
to think of the soil and of his duty,
to propagate the canticle of the wine.
If you’ve got a suggestion for Monday’s dirty poem, don’t hesitate to get in touch…
Yesterday I got this in the post: Farrar Strauss Giroux’s beautiful new box set edition of Roberto Bolano’s acclaimed 2666, which I’m very much looking forward to reading.
Isn’t it great? I wish more publishers would consider this format for new books, as I’m afraid I’m not a fan of weighty hardbacks unless I know it’s a keeper already, and usually have to wait for the paperback. It got me thinking about book design – which I do a lot anyway – and thought I’d share some recent beauties I’d chanced upon.
I recently received an email from Kristina Lloyd over at the excellent Erotica Cover Watch blog, where she asks the very pertinent question “Why only women on the covers of erotic books?” As authors of erotica themselves, she and her co-host Mathilde Madden have become a little fed up with the way their books are packaged, so they started BICEPS, their bid to Banish Inequality on Covers in Erotica, Porn & Smut.
It’s a pretty good point, as I think the covers below, highlighted by Kristina and Mathilde, demonstrate:
Publishers’ justifications for this obvious double-standard are well summed up in the discussion that kicked off the ECW blog, which rely mostly on “the reality of publishing” argument, and straight men’s fear of seeing male flesh and nudity – ignoring the basic point that women are by some margin the best writers and biggest readers of contemporary erotica.
Luckily, it seems Bookkake comes off fairly well – “although,” Kristina says, “I’d be happier still to see even more images of men hinted at but, hey, kudos to you for doing it on The Torture Garden.” Well, we can’t argue with that, and we’ll certainly try harder. And we’re very pleased that ECW have given us the ultimate honour of including a Bookkake pastiche among their frankly somewhat disturbing LolTits collection. Do I even need to say NSFW here?
Posted November 20, 2008 | Comments Off on Erotica Cover Watch, or I Can Haz Sexist. Tags: blogsdesignerotica
Bokkake’s publisher, James Bridle (me), was on BBC Radio’s Pods and Blogs last week, for a books special. We talked about publishing, ebooks and the future, alongside a number of other interesting parties including The Mousehunter Alex Milway, Joshua Rothass of 140Story and Stephen Ely, editor of The Escape Pod. The best bit, for me, was hearing Jamillah say “bookkake” on national radio, but I’m easily pleased.
If you’re interested in the business of books, and their future, it’s definitely worth a listen. You can download it here, or listen, right here:
I think we might do this dirty poem thing once a week, on Monday. But don’t count on it. Here’s number two in the series, and isn’t it lovely?
If I were a cinnamon peeler
I would ride your bed
and leave the yellow bark dust
on your pillow.
Your breasts and shoulders would reek
you could never walk through markets
without the profession of my fingers
floating over you. The blind would
stumble certain of whom they approached
though you might bathe
under rain gutters, monsoon.
Here on the upper thigh
at this smooth pasture
neighbor to your hair
or the crease
that cuts your back. This ankle.
You will be known among strangers
as the cinnamon peeler’s wife.
I could hardly glance at you
never touch you
— your keen nosed mother, your rough brothers.
I buried my hands
in saffron, disguised them
over smoking tar,
helped the honey gatherers…
When we swam once
I touched you in water
and our bodies remained free,
you could hold me and be blind of smell.
You climbed the bank and said
this is how you touch other women
the grasscutter’s wife, the lime burner’s daughter.
And you searched your arms
for the missing perfume.
what good is it
to be the lime burner’s daughter
left with no trace
as if not spoken to in an act of love
as if wounded without the pleasure of scar.
your belly to my hands
in the dry air and said
I am the cinnamon
peeler’s wife. Smell me.
Posted November 17, 2008 | Comments Off on The Cinnamon Peeler by Michael Ondaatje. Tags: mondayspoetry
I completely missed the film Chemical Wedding when it came out earlier this year, which is a shame, because it’s about one of my all-time heroes (and I use that work in the loosest, most advisable manner), Aleister Crowley, it’s written by the mighty Bruce Dickinson, and it stars Simon Callow. I can’t imagine three people I’d more like to have to dinner. Anyone see it? Was it any good?
The Bookkake connection is that, in the initial planning stages, I approached the Ordo Templi Orientis with a request to republish some of Crowley’s early poetry, notably the volumes White Stains and Snowdrops from a Curates Garden, which I’ve read in the University of London library and are really rather excellent. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the blessing of the OTO, who retain (after a series of legal battles) full rights to Crowley’s work, and that particular adventure is currently on hold.
Anyway, here’s a great interview from Julian Doyle, director of Chemical Wedding, as well as the editor of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil and Time Bandits, with John Doyle, son of Gerald Yorke, a friend and disciple of Crowley who amassed quite a collection of Crowley relics after the magician’s death in 1947. It’ll have to do for now.
Let’s start the week with a poem, shall we? I’ve been asked to read at a friend’s wedding next month, and I’ve been trying to choose something. I’ve been digging through Rilke, one of my favourite poets, who writes wonderfully on love, but less well on marriage, and I haven’t found the right piece yet. If anyone has any suggestions, Rilke or otherwise, I’d love to har them.
One selection I certainly won’t be reading from, but I do want to reproduce here, are the seven phallic poems from 1915, one of the most perfect meldings of eroticism and art in all literature. Here’s the fourth, translated by John J. L. Mood:
You don’t know towers, with your diffidence
Yet now you’ll become aware
of a tower in that wonderful rare
space in you. Hide your countenance.
You’ve erected it unsuspectingly,
by turn and glance and indirection,
and I, blissful one, am allowed entry.
Ah, how in there I am so tight.
Coax me to the summit:
so as to fling into your soft night,
with the soaring of a womb-dazzling rocket,
more feeling that I am quite.
Posted November 10, 2008 | Comments Off on Rilke’s phallus. Tags: poetryRilke
I’m very pleased to announce that Bookkake titles are now being stocked at the wonderful The Bookseller Crow on the Hill in South London (photo above courtesy of Jonathan the manager). We hope they do very well indeed.
If you’re an independent bookstore interested in stocking our titles, we’d love to hear from you. We offer excellent discounts.
Posted November 5, 2008 | Comments Off on Bookkake: In Stores Now. Tags: bookshops