Synopses & Reviews
From the author of four New York Times
Notable Books: a stunning story of sexual and spiritual awakening, inspired by what is perhaps the last remaining taboo.
Few women do it and even fewer will admit to it. But in Toni Bentley's daring and intimate memoir, The Surrender, she pulls the sheets back on a sexual act that's been forbidden since the Bible and celebrates "the joy that lies on the other side of convention, where risk is real and rapture resides." From The Story of O to The Kiss to last year's sensation, The Sexual Life of Catherine M, readers have been enthralled and the media has been obsessed with sexually subversive memoirs by women. But even those erotic classics didn't navigate the psychosexual terrain that Bentley does when she meets a lover who introduces her to the pleasures of dominance and submission as well as the "holy" act that she came to see as her awakening. The Surrender is a frank, witty and eloquent exploration of one woman's obsession that will be sure to leave readers questioning their own desires.
"'I am sitting on the threshold. Perhaps this is the final paradox of God's paradoxical machinations: my ass is my very own back door to heaven. The Pearly Gates are closer than you think.' Bentley is writing of her rhapsodic experience with sodomy. So some will call this memoir blasphemous, others spiritual; some pornographic, others erotic. What it is, is wonderfully smart and sexy and witty and moving, a tale of unbounded passion that leads to transcendence. The tale is paradoxical in more ways than one: aside from Bentley's ass leading to heaven, she finds that submission leads to freedom a freedom she had never known as a dancer with the New York City Ballet (about which she wrote her first book, Winter Season), nor in her failed marriage, nor in any of her other polymorphously perverse sexual experiences. While deeply serious, Bentley is also hilarious as she describes the delights of crotchless panties ('they come in many different styles each with its own je ne sais quoi') and touching in an imagined obituary for her lover, A-Man ('He was the only one who took time to be friends with my cat....He was the one with whom I couldn't tell whose pleasure gave me more pleasure'). Bentley's honesty about the most intimate of subjects is daring and delightful for those willing to follow her to, so to speak, the end. First serial to Playboy. Agents, Glen Hartley and Lynn Chu. (Oct.) Forecast: Sodomy may, as Bentley writes, be the last taboo, and this book is very graphic, which might keep some readers away. But this could and should generate the buzz and sales that The Sexual Life of Catherine M. did two years ago." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Arousing, fascinating, and beautifully written, Toni Bentley's The Surrender is a unique testimonial to one woman's passion and intellect. Think Story of O with a high IQ and a sense of humor. Destined for controversy, The Surrender will serve as a Rorschach for everyone who reads it some will be shocked, some delighted, but no one will be left unmoved. Toni Bentley is shameless, brazen, and hot." Jerry Stahl, author of Permanent Midnight
"Toni Bentley has gone into territory other writers are afraid of, and that has been considered male territory at that, and done so bravely and sexily. She has planted her flag, and made it back home alive. What lifts The Surrender from strictly erotic and profane concerns is its psychological dimension. While Bentley has written an account of the very bowels of her physical being, her real interest is examining her craving for connection. The Surrender is filled with unsettling insights into how we need, and why." Philip Weiss, author of American Taboo: The Murder of a Peace Corps Volunteer
"If you've picked up The Surrender expecting to be merely titillated, think again. For what Toni Bentley has achieved in these pages is something rare and unexpected. Hers is an erotic journey neither prurient nor grandiose, resulting in a work of high literary ambition rendered unforgettable by its unflinching candor." David M. Friedman, author of A Mind of Its Own: A Cultural History of the Penis
"[A] brave book....Its bravery lies...in its earnest attempt to do justice to the transcendent dimension of a profane act....While Bentley certainly has the requisite pluck for the job, her prose, alas, proves incommensurate with her ambition." Zoe Heller, The New York Times Book Review
From the author of four New York Times Notable Books: the shocking story of an unusual path to sexual and spiritual discovery inspired by a powerful experience with what is perhaps the last remaining sexual taboo.
About the Author
Toni Bentley danced with George Balanchine's New York City Ballet for ten years. She is the author of Winter Season, A Dancer's Journal, Costumes by Karinska, and Sisters of Salome. She is also co-author, with Suzanne Farrell, of Farrell's autobiography, Holding On to the Air, as well as articles for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Allure, Dance Magazine, and Rolling Stone.