The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘sex’

To Heaven with Buraq, and Other News

September 23, 2016 | by

Buraq with Taj Mahal, a poster from Delhi. Image: Sandria Freitag personal collection/Public Domain Review.

  • As the Quran has it, Prophet Muhammad took a night trip to heaven aboard a trusty winged pony-horse-mule-ish creature called Buraq. It’s an episode that’s inspired Islamic art ever since, because few artists can resist a theologically sound reason to draw a winged horse. Yasmine Seale writes, “The friction between the historical Prophet and his fantastical mount, between the sacred and the physical, reflects a similar divide within Buraq herself: she has been perceived both as a dream-horse—mythical, sexless, emblematic—and as a creature of flesh. And Buraq as animal, especially in her more sexualized incarnations, in turn raises thorny questions about the body of the Prophet himself. Artists generally elided this problem, or creatively eluded it; early images of the Prophet tend to show him with a veil, and more recently his body has been symbolized by a white cloud, a rose, or a flame.”

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No 
Woman Will Be Able to Resist

September 9, 2016 | by

Image: Gianni Dagli Orti.

This week, we’re publishing four short excerpts from The Ultimate Ambition in the Arts of Erudition, a fourteenth-century encyclopedia of … well, everything, or everything known to Arab civilization circa 1314. Compiled with dogged dedication by Shihāb al-Dīn al-Nuwayrī, the book runs to more than nine thousand pages; an abridged version is now available for the first time in English. Ultimate Ambition lives up to its bold title—its eclectic, protean entries cover lunar cults, the sugary drinks in the sultan’s buttery, and how to attract your dream woman by burying a crow’s head. Its translator, Elias Muhanna, believes the compendium affords “a view into the kaleidoscopic and multifarious intellectual tradition of the classical Islamic world”; the New York Review of Books calls it “a bizarre, fascinating book that illustrate[s] the sprawlingly heterodox reality of the early centuries of Islam.” Today, the final extract: Read More »

Five Hours of Happy Hour, and Other News

August 25, 2016 | by

Still from Happy Hour.

  • Early in the fourteenth century, an Egyptian bureaucrat embarked on the kind of project that many of us attempt on nights off: an enormous encyclopedia designed to contain all knowledge in the Muslim world. The book, The Ultimate Ambition in the Arts of Erudition, ran to nine thousand pages, and a part of it will see English translation, after so many centuries, this fall. It illustrates “the sprawlingly heterodox reality of the early centuries of Islam, so different from the crude puritanical myths purveyed by modern-day jihadis,” Robert F. Worth writes. “Reading it is like stumbling into a cavernous attic full of unimaginably strange artifacts, some of them unforgettable, some merely dross. From the alleged self-fellation of monkeys to the many lovely Bedouin words for the night sky (‘the Encrusted, because of its abundance of stars, and the Forehead, because of its smoothness’) to the court rituals of Egypt’s then-overlords, the Mamluks, nothing seems to escape Nuwayri’s taxonomic ambitions.” (We’ll have excerpts on the Daily after Labor Day.) 

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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

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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 »

Shock Your Way to Fertility, and Other News

August 11, 2016 | by

This could be you, friend! Animal magnetism and animal electricity at work.

  • Some asshole on Ninth Avenue grabbed Mary Karr’s crotch and that was a really, really, really dumb thing for him to do: “I came to and shouted from the doorway, ‘Not today! Not this bitch! You picked the wrong woman to fuck with today!’ … Around Forty-First Street, a cop car pulled up, and I hopped in and recounted it all as they peeled out like they do on Law & Order. The female officer riding shotgun radioed the description I gave her to other cops, who nabbed him and hauled him, handcuffed, before me outside the Port Authority. ‘That’s him!’ I said. He was blank-eyed, as if this whole thing were happening to somebody else. His buddy was amped up, though, claiming his friend hadn’t done anything. I shot back that was horse hockey—yes, he had—and the buddy walked off as an officer put the Grabber in the back of a cruiser.”
  • In the thirties, Wallace Stevens published a poem called “Sad Strains of a Gay Waltz”: “There are these sudden mobs of men, / These sudden clouds of faces and arms, / An immense suppression, freed, / These voices crying without knowing for what … ” David Bromwich reflects on the meaning of these lines in the age of Trumpism: “The qualities of the mob I think Stevens meant to evoke were anger and a somehow warranted self-pity. Those outside are unequipped by nature to enter into the mood. But these sudden mobs don’t want our pity; they are made out of feelings that are intoxicating, and the feelings are their own reward. And never pretend that self-pity is a contemptible thing. It is the most popular and contagious of emotions. ‘The epic of disbelief,’ Stevens concluded, ‘Blares oftener and soon, will soon be constant.’”