Jul 192013
 

McInnis, Maurie D. Slaves Waiting for Sale: Abolitionist Art and the American Slave Trade. University of Chicago Press, 2011

Group of African slaves sitting, waiting for sale, white men in background.

Slaves Waiting for Sale, by Eyre Crowe

This is an excellent work as a reference from the Virigina slave trade in the 1850s. The author includes all kinds of “you are there” details, including clothing and architecture.

Built around work of British artist and journalist Eyre Crowe, who travelled in America in the 1850s as secretary to author William Thackery on a lecture tour.

Crowe read Uncle Tom’s Cabin before he saw any actual slavery, but was moved by it. (Pg.4) Purchased from street book merchant, also selling Thackery’s books. Crowe was “properly harrowed” by the book. (Pg. 19)

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May 202013
 

In researching the history of consensual sadomasochism, there isn’t a comprehensive body of knowledge to draw upon, no established canon of reference works, no Journal of Sadomasochistic Studies.

Instead, I have data points: case studies, books (often anonymous), anecdotes, images, etc. I’ll admit that sometimes what is and isn’t a data point is decided on the “I know it when I see it” principle. Connecting those points requires a certain amount of guesswork and judgment calls.

For example: Dr. Samuel Johnson, English man of letters of the Enlightenment, and his relationship with his close friend Hester Thrale.  The latter’s posthumous effects, sold at auction in 1823, included a padlock and fetters. Thrale identified it as “Johnson’s padlock, committed to my care in the year 1768.” In 1767 or 1768, Thrale wrote that “our stern philosopher Johnson trusted me… with a secret far dearer to him than his life”. On other occasions , she wrote that “this great, this formidable Doctor Johnson kissed my hand, ay & my foot too upon his knees!” and quoted him saying, “a woman has such power between the ages of twenty five and forty five, that she may tie a man to a post and whip him if she will.” Finally, there is a reference in  Thrale’s journal to “the fetters & padlocks [that] will tell posterity the truth”, and Johnson’s own journal entry, dated 24 March 1771, about “Insane thoughts on fetters and hand-cuffs.” (in Latin) (Pg.387-388)

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Apr 132013
 

Cole, Shaun. ‘Don We Now Our Gay Apparel’: Gay Men’s Dress in the Twentieth Century. Berg, 2000 Amazon

If there’s a predominant theme in Cole’s book on the history of gay fashion in the twentieth century, it’s that gay fashion is always imperfectly mimetic, a tangled mix of “passing, minstrelization and capitulation”, to quote sociologist Martin P. Levine (pg. 3)

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Apr 032013
 

Perkins, Lori, ed. Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey. Benbella Smartpop, 2012 Amazon

Much like Christian Grey himself, the Fifty Shades trilogy is everywhere, overwhelming and relentless, dominating bestseller lists, metastatizing into countless imitators, and spawning an entire industry of gifts, CDs, boardgames and other branded merchandise, plus a feature film. Through sheer repetition and ubiquity, we find ourselves trying to accommodate it, even to make excuses for its flaws and offences. Some of the authors in this essay collection try too hard to put a positive spin on Fifty Shades. Even the collection’s  editor, Lori Perkins, says:

Some have wondered how a “classic” can be so “poorly written.” But I contend that it is not poorly written, but rather written in an everywoman’s voice, a necessary part of its success I once worked with an author who used plebian language…. When she returned my edits, she told me that she did indeed know the word “simultaneously,” but when she was fantasizing, she always used the phrase “at the same time as,” and she knew that her readers did as well. [Pg.3]

EL James’ prose is not “plebian” or “in an everywoman’s voice”, it’s just plain bad. You don’t need an MFA to read or write good prose or hot prose.

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Feb 232013
 

I’ve officially agreed to edit a collection of essays on the history of Master-slave relationships, commissioned by the Master Taino’s Training Academy.

I’m very excited about this project, as I will help create a contribution to the scholarship of the history of this field, and also get to work with people who have been involved in this subculture from its earliest days. My hope is that this book will have a place on shelves next to classics like Leatherfolk and Different Loving.

This project should run into 2014, at which point I will present the finished manuscript to MTTA for them to either publish themselves or present to a publisher.

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Feb 052013
 

After writing more than 87,000 words on this trilogy (some of it excerpts), what can be said?

Someone once asked me if Fifty Shades had any good points. I thought a moment and said, “It’s very good at making money.”

That’s ultimately what is most baffling about Fifty Shades: its phenomenal commercial success, particularly in light of its inferiority to so many other romance or erotica books on the market. You’d think people had never read a sex scene before. Why it is so popular is a mystery, even after reading the entire thing.

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Jan 262013
 

On a strictly literary and technical level, Freed is actually a worse book than its predecessors. EL James’ prose remains about the same, her characters are no better developed, and Ana’s response to everything is to flush or think “Holy shit!”

Furthermore, the plot is shapeless. Fifty Shades of Grey had the will-she-won’t-she-sign-the-contract plotline to create tension and give events some structure, though the contract was later abandoned. Darker was about whether they would stay together. Freed opens with Ana and Christian already married, and from there the plot was fight-makeup-fight-makeup, interrupted by one artificial crisis after another, usually resolved in the next chapter, or completely irrelevant events like the entire cast going to Aspen for no good reason. Then it’s back to scenes from a really bad marriage, as Ana feebly struggles against Christian’s controlling regime.

There’s no character arc either either. Despite all the sex, stalkings, car chases and kidnap and ransom schemes, Christian’s attitude towards Ana is basically unchanged by the end of the story. From one of their earliest meetings, the moment when Christian saves Ana from being hit by a bicycle, it’s clear that Christian sees it as his responsibility to look after Ana, with the implicit assumption that she can’t take care of her self. That continues right through to the end, when Ana, near comatose, hears her husband and her step-father both talking about her as if she was a little girl in need of a spanking. Ana, for her part, is so immature that it’s apropos. So, one-percenter Bluebeard meets dim-witted girl-woman and they live happily ever after.

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Dec 312012
 

Will this be the big Scene that the whole series has been building up to? Or will EL James screw with us once again?

“So you want to play?” he murmurs.
“Yes.”
He says nothing, and I risk a quick glance . . . up his jeans, his denim clad thighs, the soft bulge at his fly, the open button at the waist, his happy trail, his navel, his chiseled abdomen, his chest hair, his gray eyes blazing, and his head cocked to one side. He’s arching an eyebrow. Oh shit.
“Yes what?” he whispers.
Oh.
“Yes, Sir.”
His eyes soften. “Good girl,” he murmurs, and he caresses my head. “I think we’d better get you upstairs now,” he adds. My insides liquefy, and my belly clenches in that delicious way.

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