Thursday, January 15, 2009


I read somewhere that if you can combine two opposing emotions in a person [be it for a play, a poem or fiction], it becomes more real. That conflict, I suppose, that everyone can relate to.
--Ivy Alvarez on
Behind the Blue Canvas

Ivy is writing a love letter (or love letters) to my only published short story collection, Behind the Blue Canvas (2004).

I rarely discuss this book -- I'd written it as an homage to Dominique Aury; from the Acknowledgements. "[Aury's] lover Jean Paulhan had made the chauvinistic remark that no female was capable of writing an erotic novel. To prove him wrong, she wrote the graphic Histoire d'O (The Story of O) under the pseudonym 'Pauline Reage.' For the longest time, no one suspected that a woman--let alone the demure, intellectual and almost prudish Dominique Aury--authored the book."

Hence, I admire Ms. Aury. But, though Moi loves to blather I wasn't really comfortable promoting the book which partly explores dominant/submissive sex. After some initial P.R. (which I did for my publisher), I sorta let the book slip out of public attention (is that why its Amazon ranking exceeds 6 million?).

But Ivy's post made me pick up the book again after years of ignoring it. Reading through some of the stories now, I can still sense my conflict to the subject matter. I guess, I never did totally submit (which I consider a flaw in my attempt) to its subject matter which required me to take on the personas of submissive. (Jean Vengua's generous Introduction also reveals conflictedness; her first sentence is "My immediate reaction to the 'aesthetic affairs' in this book is both attraction and repulsion." Grin.)

With hindsight (as I read through this book now), I'm most taken by how gently I addressed the topic...

Eh, it's all hokum, this definitive categorization of "dominant" and "submissive." After all, one also can "top from the bottom."

But it's all poetry's fault: if one is delving into poetry, including the 20th century concerns on the "I", it's worth noting what a Senor Baumeister once said, "masochism is a set of techniques for helping people temporarily lose their normal identity." (There could be an interesting side topic here of poets taking (or not) risks a la Frank O'Hara allowing himself to be painted buck-nekkid...)

Okay, I'll stop this post now...which is what happens when I write before finishing the day's first cuppa coffee.

UPDATE AFTER COFFEE: I almost regret posting this originally because it's so sloppy. E.g.: "masochism" is not the same thing, but of course, as "submission"...

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