Tuesday, August 12

Sex and Sweden, Sex and France

So I'm seriously running out of shelf space in my tiny little room. My first solution was to reshelve to see if I can free up some space. But when that didn't prove effective and books started encroaching on the space previously occupied by the printer, I decided it was time for desperate measures. It's time to let go of some books.

Now I've read most of the books I own. But there are some that I bought years ago and never got around to reading them--like "The Complete Tales and Parables of Franz Kafka," which I got waaaay back when I was a college freshman and taking up philosophy classes. But Kafka I'd keep because, hey, it's Kafka. But there are really some books which I even forgot I had. Or I read a couple of stories or essays and then stopped. Then there are those I read once and never again. And I can't see myself reading them again, except perhaps under the pain of death.

So I started weeding all these books out of my piles and came up with a selection that came up to my waist. Some of the casualties are young adult books, remnants of my college thesis. There's a bunch of old Granta issues I'm sure I wouldn't really miss. Then there's the stack of Sweet Valley Twins--one of the first books I ever really paid for with my own allowance. I'm quite hesitant to let them go, but something has really got to give.

Then there are a couple of books which I've decided to let go, but now I'm rethinking them. There's Summer of Love by Helen Cross. I first heard about the movie, which I most likely saw in a film festival, got curious and bought the book when I saw it. It's a young adult novel: two girls from opposite side of the tracks form a friendship that sometimes blurred into affection. By now I've forgotten exactly why I liked the film and the movie.

Amazon reader Maruta helps jolt my memory: "To begin with the good bits, Helen Cross's strory of Mona, a 15 yo girl in the adolescent turmoil equivalent of the perfect storm (her mom's just died, her sister's turned into a smugg adult, and the whole world is about to crumble and burn - it's 1984, the miners are striking, Yorkshire is impossibly hot, a local girl's gone missing, possibly victim to some predator with an eye for lost teenagers...) is quirky but compelling, it has the energy and sometimes the imperfection of youthful writing.

When she meets Tamsin, she finds a soulmate who has similarly been burnt by life but brings that radical class difference - the carelessness of those who have a very good parachute when they jump in the tumuly of life - that will act like a catalyst for her own addictions, to alocohol, gamble, danger and ultimately violence."

I have a feeling that it was largely the movie that intrigued me. In fact, I have this deep suspicion that I'm vaguely remembering the wrong book and the wrong movie--because the movie I have in mind is from Sweden. And now Nerve Scanner tells us that teenage girls in Sweden like other teenage girls, not boys. Now that story is so remiscent of My Summer of Love had it been set in England. Oh well.

The other book is The Sexual Life of Catherine M, which Melissa Lion over at bookslut tells us is "the memoir of French, art critic Catherine Millet. She was also a connoisseur of the orgy and anonymous sex. The book itself is a detached account of so much of the sex she had. And it’s a lot of sex. The sex is on nearly every single page. Some of it is hot, some of it is uncomfortable, some of it, despite the content, is antiseptic in its cold observation."

Her assessment is right on the money. It's not meant to be erotica, but more like a meditation on the connection between self and body and how it connects with others. So much sex, and you can almost imagine the author shrugging all of it off. But it's really hard to feel that the I herself is invested in the telling of the tale. Or maybe art critics really just consider everything as though it could be observed on a white gallery wall, who knows?

But casual observers of a bookshelf won't have that kind of detached reaction. Melissa Lion shares a kind of urban legend that surrounded the book: "I was hired just as The Sexual Life of Catherine M was published and I don’t know who started the legend, but someone, somewhere, suggested that one day a bookseller was wrapping an innocent fiction book and accidentally swapped it out for The Sexual Life of Catherine M. Maybe it never happened, maybe just the threat of it was enough that I became unreasonable paranoid, waking deep in the night worried that somehow this would happen to me." Imagine the horror (or maybe delight, and then disappointment) of the recipient of such a package.

Really, if only these two books didn't cause me an arm and a leg, I'd be quick to give them away. Or perhaps the solution is not to give them away but to sell them. Then again, who would be interested in my pile of books to be discarded?

*Mas okay ang title na yan kesa "Books books books," I think. Who would want to read a blog entry solely about books except geeks. Hehehe.