The Art of Sleeping Alone: Why One French Woman Suddenly Gave Up Sex

The Art of Sleeping Alone: Why One French Woman Suddenly Gave Up Sex

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by Sophie Fontanel
     
 

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Sophie Fontanel, bestselling novelist and iconic editor of French Elle, tells the provocative story of her decision to stop having sex—a choice that profoundly changed her view of herself and her place in the world.


At the age of twenty-seven, after many years of having (and, for the most part, enjoying) an active sex life, beloved…  See more details below

Overview

Sophie Fontanel, bestselling novelist and iconic editor of French Elle, tells the provocative story of her decision to stop having sex—a choice that profoundly changed her view of herself and her place in the world.


At the age of twenty-seven, after many years of having (and, for the most part, enjoying) an active sex life, beloved French author, journalist, editor, and fashion blogger Sophie Fontanel decided she wanted to take a break. Despite having it all—a glamorous job, plenty of dates and boyfriends, stylish clothes, and endless parties to attend—she still wasn’t happy, and found herself wanting more. She chose to give up her sex life, and in so doing shocked all of her friends and colleagues. What she discovers about herself is truly liberating and raises a number of questions about the expectations of the society in which we live. As she experiences being the only non-coupled one at dinner parties, weekend getaways, and summer vacations, she muses inspiringly on what it means to find hap­piness and fulfillment alone.

Provocative and illuminating, The Art of Sleeping Alone, which spent eight weeks on the bestseller list in France, offers advice on love and sex while challenging modern-day conven­tions of marriage and motherhood, making this an ideal read for anyone who has chosen to do things a little differently.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The first of Fontanel’s seven books to be translated into English, this memoir-in-fragments from French Elle’s longtime editor has been publicized as the tale of “why one French woman gave up sex.” Yet the book is less “why” and more “what.” Fontanel’s narrative reads like a series of long-distance phone calls made every few weeks. In her touching, solipsistic state, every encounter becomes an opportunity to return to the self. A trip to Hydra to stay with friends (and their children) gives her an opportunity to perform a recital of mothering. A memory of her father’s cousin suggests that if “the love of God is in itself a form of hedonism,” the love of self can be a form of godliness. This being an inspection (or introspection) of her foray into celibacy—a word she rejects (along with “chastity,” “abstinence,” and “asexuality”), opting instead for “singularity”—fashion lovers may be disappointed in the dearth of clothes: a pair of flat-heeled boots is the only name-dropped article. More central is Fontanel’s lifestyle. From a sensual massage in Goa to dining alone at a Vietnamese hole-in-the-wall in the Marais, her regime is a sumptuous escape. Agent: Bettina Edzard. (Aug.)
The Wall Street Journal
"Fontanel knows a thing or two about seduction.”
“Fontanel’s writing is intelligent, the reading experience is sensual.”

“Sophie writes provocatively about fashion (her signature, after all), the constraints society places on sex, and the vulnerability of desire.”

“Fontanel's admissions offer a salutary lesson to young women everywhere.”

The Australian
“Fontanel's admissions offer a salutary lesson to young women everywhere.”
Paris Match
“Fontanel’s writing is intelligent, the reading experience is sensual.”
Livres Hebdo (Paris)
“Sophie writes provocatively about fashion (her signature, after all), the constraints society places on sex, and the vulnerability of desire.”
Livres Hebdo(Paris)
“Sophie writes provocatively about fashion (her signature, after all), the constraints society places on sex, and the vulnerability of desire.”
Vanity Fair
“Leave it to a Frenchwoman to convert even giving up sex into an elegant gesture that reeks of worldliness and sends up a smoky wreath.”
Booklist
"In gracefully woven vignettes, Fontanel observes how society disapproves of people who refuse to pair off even as she is steadfast in underscoring the benefits she enjoys from unapologetically listening to her body’s needs and taking time for herself."
ELLE.com
"Candid, funny... For someone who has been celibate for the majority of her adult life, Sophie Fontanel sure is good at writing about sex."
The New York Times - Dwight Garner
"A searching investigation into the power of no... a sophisticated bagatelle of a volume, filled with detours to exotic locales."
The Daily Beast
"Fontanel strings together her narrative in a series of lyrical vignettes....No one has written so sumptuously about celibacy.”
Livres Hebdo (Paris)
“Sophie writes provocatively about fashion (her signature, after all), the constraints society places on sex, and the vulnerability of desire.”
Kirkus Reviews
Parisian novelist and Elle France editor Fontanel explores her decision to practice celibacy for more than a decade, beginning at age 49, and avers that sexual liberation ought to include the freedom to not have sex. "I'd had it with being taken and rattled around," she confesses, adding that she was tired, both physically and emotionally, of saying yes to lovers. In need of tranquility, she opted to stop having sex and, in the months that followed, found that she'd never been happier; she felt safe, confident and nurtured. In chapters averaging two to three pages, Fontanel cuts her life into vignettes that jump between time periods to reveal personal details about her romantic endeavors and heavy social calendar. Upon learning about her decision, friends and acquaintances offered endless questions and skepticism, and Fontanel artfully and humorously describes the couples who cast aspersions on her choice. "Why valorize the concept of a sex life simply because it's a sex life?" writes the author. "Leave people the treasure they posses: their indescribable equilibrium." Fontanel had been sexually active with men since her teenage years. Her depiction of celibacy isn't prudish or dry but lush; she isn't shy when describing either her previous affairs or her current erotic fantasies, and her frankness keeps the book from straying into polemical territory. The writing is stripped bare, with no extra fat or flair, and this simplicity works in the author's favor. Fontanel highlights encounters with male friends and dates, detailing their conversations in a way that underscores her conclusion that sex requires meaning; it is more than merely a superficial connection. The author thankfully avoids self-righteousness, so while she offers a guide of sorts for those who may be interested in following the same path, her voice and story hold up on their own, as do her insightful, darkly funny observations on societal expectations regarding sex.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781451696295
Publisher:
Scribner
Publication date:
08/13/2013
Sold by:
SIMON & SCHUSTER
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
160
Sales rank:
637,608
File size:
755 KB

Read an Excerpt

With my elbows propped on the safety bar of the lift chair, I was raised up to where I just knew the sky would be blue, with fog slipping away like a skin skimmed from milk. I was looking at fir trees, mountaintops, immaculate planes of solid colors, and I was thinking: I want to find this calm for myself. As for the kind I’d already evaluated from personal experience, meaning the matchless scouring performed by sex, well, that no longer interested me. I’d had it with being taken and rattled around. I’d had it with handing myself over. I’d said yes too much. I hadn’t taken into account the tranquility my body required.

Realizing that I wasn’t listening, my body had begun to speak up. Before this winter getaway, a certain resistance had intensified within me. In the privacy of my body, every atom of my being was walling itself off, yet I couldn’t do a thing about it. I had trouble unclenching my fists and strained to open my palms flat against the sheet, only to have them curl shut an instant later. For weeks, I’d been obliged to shake my head at whatever my lover proposed. He was growing impatient. I made an effort. This lover thought I was giving when I was actually conceding. He believed I was capitulating when I was really calculating how to end the experience as quickly as possible. I’d become a paltry possession for the man who thought he had me in his power. I noticed his air of suspicion; he grew less and less sure of his spoils. He reminded me of those people who try to grab you in a fight but wind up holding your sweater while you race off, arms flailing.

I had run, run, to reach the ski resort. As soon as I got there, I bought a ski suit instead of just pants; I felt safe inside an outfit that was so hard to get off. The hotel was at the very top of the ski lift; when that stopped running at four in the afternoon, the place became a high-plains desert. It was the off-season: there were three of us at the hotel, including the owner, Jonas. My host had worshipped Johnny Hallyday ever since he was a kid, and as he served me he was listening to “Longing,” his pop idol’s 1986 hit. “The mountain saps self-confidence,” Jonas remarked, as if to put me on my guard.

He couldn’t have cared less about the fresh air. He complained about not meeting any women at such a high altitude, and going out for the evening required taking the snowmobile and coming back up again later in complete darkness, ten times more alone, drunk, and frozen stiff. His frustration amazed me. Personally, I thought it was delightful to be far from other people. And to sing about longing only for the horizon. To have the creaking of snow for my sole companion. Jonas saw things differently. He’d had no female company for three years. “I’m turning into a goat,” he said, adding three logs—more than necessary—to the fireplace. Such roaring blazes were his revenge on monotony. He paid me a few compliments that first evening. Proof, suddenly, of our isolation. Tanned, athletic, Jonas was a former chasseur alpin, a soldier in the elite mountain infantry of the French army, and he had those pale eyes mountain folk tend to have. Untouched by the elements, the skin below his neck was white, and if I’d wanted I could have had a closer look; he would certainly have shown me. When it occurred to me—a reflex—that going to bed with this man might be a possibility, the mere thought sent my body into lockdown. It was out of the question: my whole being was slamming shut. I remembered the time I was doing a crossword puzzle in Le Monde and had such trouble coming up with the word “portcullis.” At that moment, though, it popped right into my head.

I left Jonas and went off to my room. I thought about Paris, and what I’d escaped from, and that evening’s escape as well. I opened the window onto the blackness I knew was so white. I breathed. . . . With the snow all around, my destiny seemed to me like an Eden sweet with birdsong. My life would be soft and fluffy. I was through with being had.

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Meet the Author

Sophie Fontanel has been an editor at Elle France for more than a decade. A novelist and essayist, she lives in Paris. The Art of Sleeping Alone is her first book to be published in English.

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The Art of Sleeping Alone: Why One French Woman Suddenly Gave Up Sex 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Verity_K More than 1 year ago
Bold Essays on a Taboo Topic . . . NOT having sex!! I loved this book for the author's sophisticated writing and fearless approach to the idea that maybe there is more to life than sex. I recommend it for anyone who is ready to stop saying yes too much.