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The Sexual Life of Catherine M.


The Sexual Life of Catherine M. Cover

ISBN13: 9780802139863
ISBN10: 0802139868
Condition: Standard
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1. Numbers

As a child I thought about numbers a great deal. The memories we have of solitary thoughts and actions from the first few years of life are very clear-cut: they provide the first opportunities for self-awareness, whereas events shared with other people can never be isolated from the feelings (of admiration, fear, love or loathing) that those others inspire in us, feelings that, as children, we are far less able to identify or even understand. I, therefore, have particularly vivid memories of the thoughts that steered me into scrupulous counting exercises every evening before I went to sleep. Shortly after my brother was born (when I was three and a half), my family moved into a new apartment. For the first few years we lived there, my bed was in the largest room, facing the door. I would lie staring at the light that came across the corridor from the kitchen where my mother and grandmother were still busying themselves, and I could never get to sleep until I had visualized these numerical problems one after the other. One of the problems related to the question of having several husbands. Not the possibility of the situation, which seems to have been accepted, but the circumstances themselves. Could a woman have several husbands at the same time, or only one after the other? In the latter case, how long did she have to stay married to each one before she could move on? What would be an ?acceptable? number of husbands: a few, say five or six, or many more than that?countless husbands? How would I go about it when I grew up?

As the years went by, I substituted counting children for husbands. I imagine that, in finding myself under the seductive spell of some identified man (in turn, a film star, a cousin, etc.) and focusing my wandering thoughts on his features, I perhaps felt less uncertainty about the future. I could envisage in more concrete terms my life as a young married woman, and therefore the presence of children. More or less the same questions were raised again: was six the most ?acceptable? number, or could you have more? What sort of age gap should there be between them? And then there was the ratio of girls to boys.

I cannot think back to these ideas without connecting them to other obsessions that preoccupied me at the same time. I had established a relationship with God that meant I had to think every evening about what he was going to eat, so the enumeration of the various dishes and glasses of water I offered him mentally?fussing over the size of the helpings, the rate at which they were served, etc.?alternated with the interrogations into the extent to which my future life would be filled with husbands and children. I was very religious, and it could well be that my confused perception of the identities of God and his son favored my inclination to counting. God was the thundering voice that brought men back into line without revealing him to them. But I had been taught that he was simultaneously the naked pink baby made of plaster that I put into the Christmas manger every year, the suffering man nailed to the crucifix before which we prayed?even though both of these were actually his son?as well as a sort of ghost called the Holy Spirit. Of course, I knew perfectly well that Joseph was Mary?s husband, and that Jesus, even though he was both God and the son of God, called him ?Father.? The Virgin was in fact the mother of the Christ child, but there were times when she was referred to as his daughter.

When I was old enough to go to Sunday school, I asked to speak to the priest one day. The problem I laid before him was this: I wanted to become a nun, to be a ?bride of Christ,? and to become a missionary in an Africa seething with desti­tute peoples, but I also wanted to have husbands and children. The priest was a laconic man, and he cut short the conversation, believing that my concerns were premature.

Until the idea of this book came to me, I had never really thought about my sexuality very much. I did, however, realize that I had had multiple partners early on, which is unusual, especially for girls, or it certainly was among the milieu in which I was brought up. I lost my virginity when I was eighteen?which is not especially early?but I also had group sex a few weeks after my deflowering. On that occasion I was not the initiator, but I was the one who precipitated it?something I still cannot explain to myself. I have always thought that I just happened to meet men who liked to make love in groups or liked to watch their partners making love with other men, and the only reaction I had (being naturally open to new experiences and seeing no moral obstacle) was to adapt willingly to their ways. But I have never drawn any theory from this, and therefore have never been militant about it.

Copyright © 2001 by Éditions du Seuil
Translation copyright © 2002 by Adriana Hunter

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Francypants, February 3, 2006 (view all comments by Francypants)
This was the most boring book on a persons sexual exploits that I have ever read.
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Product Details

Hunter, Adriana
Hunter, Adriana
Millet, Catherine
New York
Human Sexuality
Erotic literature
Women art critics
Personal Memoirs
Women -- Sexual behavior.
Biography - General
Edition Number:
1st U.S. paperback e
Edition Description:
1st Grove paperback ed.
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
April 2003
8.25 x 5.5 in 8 oz

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The Sexual Life of Catherine M. Used Trade Paper
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Product details 224 pages Grove Press - English 9780802139863 Reviews:
"Review" by , "[G]raceful, thoughtful, oddly charming, and profoundly pornographic....Lacking the literary tradition of intellectual discourse about sex that Millet writes from...reaction [in the U.S.] is likely to be less sophisticated than it was [in France]. A bold, intelligent, pioneering tour de force."
"Review" by , "[D]elightfully unabashed....[Millet's] intelligent, detailed examination of female sexuality fascinates and titillates. Readers of all persuasions about sex will derive something of value from Millet's honest, deeply personal exploration of her desires."
"Review" by , "[A] curiously graceful memoir....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."
"Review" by , "There's group sex on the fourth page and a chapter that begins 'I really like sucking men's cocks.' But the most shocking thing about The Sexual Life of Catherine that it isn't particularly shocking at all. A good quarter of the time, it works as pornography (and I use the term in a descriptive sense, not a judgmental one); the rest of the time it's a rumination on the nature of desire and pleasure and the experience of living a life that is specifically arranged to let desire and pleasure have their way with you. It's titillating, explicit, dryly funny and sometimes exceedingly puzzling....[The book] is a dare to every human being, particularly every woman, who claims to be sexually open. No woman has ever written a book like this. Millet speaks with so much matter-of-fact assurance about her sexuality and her exploits that she's bound to make enemies, even among those who insist they're anything but prudish....The Sexual Life of Catherine M. isn't a titillating read masquerading as an intellectual treatise: It's unapologetically both. But what's refreshing about it is the way Millet naturally assumes that we're interested in knowing why she thinks and feels as she does, instead of trying to convince us that we should be. Her raw confidence works like a charm: We hang on every word....Her sensuality is written on the page not in blurred curves and soft moans, but in a sign language that recognizes the beauty of a good stiff cock, and in the sense of fulfillment and heightened self-knowledge that comes with taking charge of it. Whether you share Millet's predilections is beside the point; what matters most is not what she says but how she says it. There are always going to be those people who wonder why anyone should speak as freely as Millet does about such a private thing. Millet's response, one that races far beyond the question, is, Why not?"
"Review" by , "[A] stylistic tour de force recounting three decades of sexual exploits....This book's pleasures are first and foremost literary."
"Review" by , "[Her] aloof, gracefully crystalline style is as elegant as any French pornography since Sade."
"Review" by , "[Millet] relates her sexual life without trembling, and allows us to share her pleasures."
"Synopsis" by ,
A national best-seller that was featured on such lists as The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Globe, and Publishers Weekly, The Sexual Life of Catherine M. was the controversial sleeper hit of the year. Since her youth, Catherine Millet, the eminent editor of Art Press, has led an extraordinarily active and free sexual life — from al fresco encounters in Italy to a gang bang on the edge of the Bois du Boulogne to a high-class orgy at a chichi Parisian restaurant. A graphic account of sex stripped of sentiment, of a life of physical gratification and a relentlessly honest look at the consequences — both liberating and otherwise — have created this candid, powerful, and deeply intelligent depiction of unfettered sexuality.
"Synopsis" by , Since her youth, Catherine Millet, the eminent editor of Art Press, has led an extraordinarily active and free sexual life — from al fresco encounters in Italy to a gang bang on the edge of the Bois du Boulogne to a high-class orgy at a chichi Parisian restaurant. A graphic account of sex stripped of sentiment, of a life of physical gratification and a relentlessly honest look at the consequences — both liberating and otherwise — have created this candid, powerful, and deeply intelligent depiction of unfettered sexuality.
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