The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘erotica’

Flying Saucers Over the Art Department!

September 13, 2016 | by

How the book designers of the fifties and sixties tackled alien invasions. 

A still from Forbidden Planet, 1956.

It’s impossible to know what sort of cover design will make a book fly off the shelves. Through timidity, this often leads to a certain monotony in covers, especially when they’re genre specific—“If it worked before, it’ll have to work again, eventually.” At times the uniformity is comical: it’s hard for book people of a certain age not to remember, say, the gothic romance subgenre without bringing to mind the same cover that was on every one by the end of the sixties—a woman, at night, dashing (often in a white nightgown) from a darkened mansion in sinister woods. Familiarity bred contentment; every reader knew what to expect when they saw the lady running.

Flying saucers as a phrase entered the modern English vocabulary at the end of June 1947, immediately after the initial sightings by Kenneth Arnold in Washington State—which, as it happened, turned out to be the first of thousands of such sightings. The subject was becoming more popular by the week, and publishing houses such as Henry Holt, Fawcett, and Citadel were quick to recognize the need for books on it. But what kind of a cover should go on a book about flying saucers? At the outset, there was no consensus as to what the saucers even actually looked like: they were described as blinking lights, purple blobs, flying wings, boomerangs, shiny metal balls, floating kerosene lamps, pie plates, hubcaps from an old Terraplane; in photos, during the first ten years, the most popular model resembled either the top of a chicken incubator, or part of the casing of a 1937 Electrolux vacuum cleaner. Read More »

Never Forget Houellebecq’s Corgi, and Other News

September 6, 2016 | by

A photo of Clément from Houellebecq’s show at Palais de Tokyo.

  • If you’re in Paris, you have only a few more days to catch Michel Houellebecq’s exhibition at Palais de Tokyo. Hot insider tip: bring a pack of cigarettes—you can smoke them on the premises. True, much of his art is devoted to his beloved pet corgi, Clément, who is no longer with us. (Miss you always, Clem!) But there’s also, as Chinnie Ding writes, plenty of art that wouldn’t feel out of place in the pages of The Map and the Territory: “Vaguely oceanic sounds and slowly throbbing lighting carry us through some corridors where Houellebecq’s photographs of anonymous terrain glow and dim to the steady soporific rhythm of a fogged-out distress signal or a drowsy peep show. An all-female island-themed soft-core short, La rivière (The River), 2001, directed by the author, plays in a carpeted baisodrome In the next room, eyes adjust to blindingly glossy souvenir place mats advertising scenic French regions, such as Guadeloupe and Bretagne, which tile the floor and rebrand the nation as one turquoise-skied terroir. [Robert] Combas has contributed several glinting, convulsive paintings that look like religious icons becoming unhinged. All this nervous enjoyment, culminating in a functioning smoking room, seems convinced of an unusable past and a fait accompli.”

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Porn Poetry

August 16, 2016 | by

Raja Ravi Varma, painting of a scene from Kālidāsa’s play Abhijñānaśākuntalam.

Raja Ravi Varma, painting of a scene from Kālidāsa’s play Abhijñānaśākuntalam.

If “porn poetry” is defined as poetry that’s supposed to turn people on, then we have no tradition of porn poetry in English. What we have instead is a bunch of what might be called “exhilarating nastiness”: poetry that’s basically a revenge against sex, a way of processing anxiety.

Don’t get me wrong. The material I seem to be dismissing is my favorite stuff in the world. Rochester, Swift, Seidel: they are disgusting and great. I have no real complaints about these guys. They speak to my concerns.

Still, these days, I’ve become interested in expanding my borders beyond what I call “therapeutic art.” My anxieties ain’t going nowhere; they’ll be here when I get back. How about some poetry that comes straight out of delight and high spirits? Poetry that never heard of revenge or consolation. Read More »

Doing Hard Time

August 12, 2016 | by


Tom of Finland, 1984, graphite on paper. All images courtesy of Taschen. © 2016 Tom of Finland Foundation.

“He only knew a drawing was good if it got him hard,” writes Dian Hanson of Touko Laaksonen, better known as Tom of Finland (1920–1991). I’ve been spending my evenings drooling over “Tom’s men,” as they’ve come to be called—famously erotic, fabulously gay, and achingly virile. Tom’s is a métier that worships the male form. Sculpted, brawny bods dress up in archetypically masculine uniforms—men in uniform were a fetish of Tom’s—and frolic across the page to bone.

Since the late fifties, when a (comparatively tame) drawing of his was featured on the cover of the muscle mag Physique Pictorial, Tom and his drawings have risen to an iconic status—and there’s a whole cottage industry of ToF merch, from fire blankets to anal beads, to prove it. But I, bashfully, have only just found him. I owe much of that to Taschen, who have, to mark the quarter century since the artist’s death, published a handful of books comprising much of his delicious oeuvre—a retrospective culminating in the reissue of the Holy Writ of all ToF books, Tom of Finland XXL. Among the collection is The Little Book of Tom of Finland: Cops and Robbers, one of three in the Little Book series, and my favorite of the bunch. Read More »

Sexy Santa, and Other News

November 23, 2015 | by

Aurel Schmidt, Shiva (detail), 2015. Courtesy of the artist and Half Gallery. Photo: Martin Parsekian

  • Today in audiobooks: recordings of erotic novels are selling like love muffins. And why not? What better way to spice up a long drive or a boring Saturday night than with a good story and some professionally stylized heavy breathing? But according to two popular vocal talents, Jennifer Mack and Soozi Cheyenne, the work can be taxing: “The explosion of sex-infused books (much of it self-published) and the popularity of MP3 downloads have combined to produce a vast universe of fictional aural sex. The books range from fantasy romance with rose petals on the bed to raunchier fare with lots of rough sex … Reading the raunchy stuff requires stamina. ‘After your fifteenth sex scene, it becomes exhausting,’ Mack said. ‘You can only do so many.’ ‘Sometimes I go, This is too early in the day for this,’  Cheyenne chimed in. ‘Sometimes the descriptions of the genitalia, like love muffin and throbbing manhood, send me into fits of giggles. So you take a break. You have a cigarette. You buy a salad.’ ”
  • In the fifties, a cultural anthropologist named Bert Kaplan undertook a massive effort to capture and store people’s dreams on Microcards: “This vast catalogue of intimate details was assembled in the service and spirit of early twentieth-century social science, with its aspirations to produce a comprehensive account of the human mind, both within and across cultures … With the aid of the most advanced technologies for extraction and storage, they aimed to gather together testimonies of subjectivity from as many parts of the world as they could and largely leave to others the work of drawing conclusions about the whole. This was not a digest of confessional poetry or a narrow selection of case studies or personal histories.”
  • The artist Aurel Schmidt’s new show, “The Blast Furnace of Civilization,” features ceramic geese with candles shoved down their throats (Foie Gras Candelabra), a pair of Converse sneakers outfitted with the Campbell’s Soup logo, and a Santa with the body of a yoga-toned young woman. “I am interested in the strange, mutant, man-made objects we buy, we touch, we orbit our identities around,” Schmidt says. “How they are presented to us, the way they are sold, the images of the objects online—flat and bright—or in stores, pretending to be things they are not … I am just fascinated by the process, it’s very dark but very interesting and it touches us every day—we interact with it every minute.”
  • Being a crate-digging, record-collecting jazz aficionado is all well and good if you’re a guy. But if you’re not … “Record collecting, as the foremost practice through which relics of jazz history circulate and accrue value, reinforces in material culture the gender-based misrepresentations of the culture at large … Only by confining his collection within limits can the collector achieve the mastery he seeks. Logistical constraints, necessarily producing exclusions, make the collector’s mission possible … Women are pressured to inhabit male practices of appreciation, only to regularly be doubted and shamed for trying to impress men.”
  • Today in trolls: hats off to jeremy1122, a Redditor who spent the better part of a year perfecting the style of a prolix, snobby David Foster Wallace fan, leaving a spoor of pretension and lit-bro entitlement wherever he went. “David Foster Wallace, I think, wrote sex scenes better than any other author,” jeremy1122 wrote once. “Everything in Infinite Jest tends toward infinity, like a great cosmic orgasm, and in the end, reading the text itself is the real sex. A coital bond between Wallace’s mind and ours.”

Where Science Meets Superstition, and Other News

November 19, 2015 | by

Trustworthy enough.

  • With the National Book Awards over and done with, we can turn our attention to a more pressing matter: the annual Literary Review’s Bad Sex in Fiction Award. As a close follower of this prize, I can assure you that this year’s nominees have written some of the best worst sex in its illustrious history. The competition is stiff. E.g.: “Gwennie shoved him in though she was dry. He shut his eyes and thought of mangoes, split papayas, fruits tart and sweet and dripping with juice, and then it was off, and he groaned and his whole body turned sweet.” Or: “She stroked my pole and took off my briefs, and I got between her and spread her muscular thighs with my knees and rubbed myself against her until she was wet as a waterslide, and then I split her.”
  • Wyatt Mason thinks you should read War Music, Christopher Logue’s version of the Iliad. If you’ve always found Homer boring, then Logue’s is the Iliad for you—he translated it even though he couldn’t read Greek. “His Homer sounds like no version of that ancient story you’ve ever heard … This is not Homer: it’s Logue’s Homer. Like all translations, it departs fundamentally from the language of the original. Unlike many translations, it arrives at a version that, because of its radical departures, gets us closer to the original than many more defensibly ‘faithful’ translations have ever managed … He died before he could conclude much more than half of a full account of those ancient sounds. But, oh, what he managed to leave us: a vision of Homer as intimate and alive as a breath.”
  • Look alive, people. These are the days of the winner-take-all economy, the days when only a handful of novels each year attain “must-read” status—the days of the seven-figure advance for debut novels. “The lack of a sales track record is one of the factors that makes debut authors most appealing, publishers say, because there is no hard data to dampen expectations … Some worry that large payouts for debut novels could do more harm than good. They put pressure on first-time authors and consume resources that otherwise might go to authors who have posted moderate sales, some agents and publishing executives said … Moreover, if the book doesn’t turn a profit, the relationship between the author and publisher can sour. And those disappointing sales figures are available for any other publisher to peruse when the author tries to sell her next novel.”
  • Delete your weather app, turn off your GPS, and purge from your bookmarks—all you really need is The Old Farmer’s Almanac, which has been hailed for its accuracy since 1792. It remains, in its stubborn way, a forerunner of the Information Age: “The Old Farmer’s Almanac has long had a reputation for getting the forecast right, and doing so on an outlandish timescale. In the 1930s and 1940s, people would write to the Almanac to ask about weather conditions for specific days, months in advance. Brides wanted sunshine for their wedding days; rabbis would ask for the exact time of sunset in a certain city, so they could plan the lighting of altar candles … The Old Farmer’s Almanac didn’t have to be right all the time, it just had to be right most of the time. The perception that it was is a big part of why the Almanac has endured.”
  • Today in wishful thinking: using the power of language, you can see a positive trend in any outcome, any set of data. Suddenly, significance is everywhere. Scientists learned this lesson a long time ago, as this list of weasel words from their research papers suggests: “a margin at the edge of significance,” “a marginal trend toward significance,” “a near-significant trend,” “a clear tendency to significance,” “a barely detectable statistically significant difference” …