In a revealing book that is being hailed as a "stylistic tour de force," art critic Catherine Millet unashamedly recounts her life of sexual freedom, one that ranges all the way from clandestine one-time-only romps in public places to heavily orchestrated group orgies at high-class Parisian swingers clubs. This is an open marriage more open than most, one that reveals shocking truths about female sexuality.
Millet, art critic and editor of Art Press, has become a literary sensation in France with the publication of this graphic memoir of some 30 years of her sexual adventures. Millet's "gift for observation" and her "solid superego" are as useful in her career as an art critic as they are in her erotic explorations: her ability to concentrate and observe puts her inside "other people's skins." Comparisons have been made to The Story Of O, but Millet is more in the tradition of Jean Genet and Violette Leduc, whose descriptions of their sexual encounters were not meant to titillate so much as to explore the meaning of the erotic. Millet's "quest for the sexual grail" takes her to group orgies, gang bangs in French parks and other serial sex escapades. Before long, the sex begins to seem utterly routine, in spite of the elaborate staging. Millet and her readers are then free to consider more closely some questions she raises: how oral sex compares to vaginal intercourse; why sex in disgusting circumstances is not about "self-abasement," but raising oneself "above all prejudice"; or why solitary sex is more pleasurable for her than sex with a partner. Toward the end of this curiously graceful memoir, Millet comes close to explaining her need for all this sex: only by sloughing off the "mechanical body" she'd been born with could she experience actual sexual pleasure. While women readers will find much of interest, male readers may have to overcome a certain emperor's new clothes-type discomfort, as they realize that Millet may know more about the male body than they do. It probably won't be as popular here, given American vs. French attitudes about sex, but it will attract those with a sexual sensibility and a certain je ne sais quoi. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
In this steamy work, a best seller throughout Europe, the editor of France's Art Press shatters gender assumptions by detailing her rollicking sex life. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
The graceful, thoughtful, oddly charming, and profoundly pornographic account of a French intellectual's life of extreme sexuality. Millet is a highly respected art critic and editor in her native France, where this memoir was a bestseller. The nearly complete absence of sentimentality in both her memoir and the encounters she describes sparked a controversy that made this one of the most discussed books in years. In a translation that preserves the elegance and clarity of Millet's prose, we are launched almost immediately into her life of group sex, anonymous sex, serial and public sex. While casually placed in context-this encounter occurred as Millet emerged from her Catholic upbringing; this man became a long-term companion; sex helped her avoid the social discomfort of small talk-this consists largely of a string of incidents that might have faded into mechanical repetition were it not for Millet's power of description and the insight she brings to bear. Millet entered the world of group sex shortly after she lost her virginity at 18, and joined the moveable feast of Parisian orgies and sex parties almost immediately, receiving dozens of men each night. Working in the art world, the boundary between business and sex was indistinct for her, and she would enter a studio to interview an artist and end up staying for days. Priding herself on having been without shame and always available, observing her partners in a way that has traditionally belonged to men, Millet's ultimately anti-erotic memoir will surely be the most blatantly pornographic read many will encounter this year. Lacking the literary tradition of intellectual discourse about sex that Millet writes from (France has de Sadeand The Story of O; we have Penthouse Forum), reaction here is likely to be less sophisticated than it was at home. A bold, intelligent, pioneering tour de force.