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The Sexual Life of Catherine M. Paperback – April, 2003


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The Sexual Life of Catherine M. + The Surrender: An Erotic Memoir + Story of O: A Novel
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; First Trade Paper Edition edition (April 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802139868
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802139863
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #289,864 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Millet, art critic and editor of Art Press, has become a literary sensation in France with the publication of this graphic memoir of some 30 years of her sexual adventures. Millet's "gift for observation" and her "solid superego" are as useful in her career as an art critic as they are in her erotic explorations: her ability to concentrate and observe puts her inside "other people's skins." Comparisons have been made to The Story Of O, but Millet is more in the tradition of Jean Genet and Violette Leduc, whose descriptions of their sexual encounters were not meant to titillate so much as to explore the meaning of the erotic. Millet's "quest for the sexual grail" takes her to group orgies, gang bangs in French parks and other serial sex escapades. Before long, the sex begins to seem utterly routine, in spite of the elaborate staging. Millet and her readers are then free to consider more closely some questions she raises: how oral sex compares to vaginal intercourse; why sex in disgusting circumstances is not about "self-abasement," but raising oneself "above all prejudice"; or why solitary sex is more pleasurable for her than sex with a partner. Toward the end of this curiously graceful memoir, Millet comes close to explaining her need for all this sex: only by sloughing off the "mechanical body" she'd been born with could she experience actual sexual pleasure. 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.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In this steamy work, a best seller throughout Europe, the editor of France's Art Press shatters gender assumptions by detailing her rollicking sex life.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

Or, perhaps, I am simply not getting the whole idea of the book.
Martin Hulme
I couldn't find even a grain of passion or pleasure in C Millet's writing, just a list of very boring descriptions of sexual activities.
TJ
If the eroticism is what interests you, skip this book: You will be disappointed.
Lover of Mysteries

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

94 of 106 people found the following review helpful By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on July 18, 2002
Format: Hardcover
It is always fun to have an erotic work presented in a serious way and have it become popular. This was the case with Nicholson Baker's fictional _Vox_ some years back, and of course the short stories of Anaïs Nin. Good old Grove Press has been seriously printing erotic books for decades, and now has produced _The Sexual Life of Catherine M._ (note the ironic homage to _The Story of O_) by Catherine Millet. Millet is the editor of the Paris magazine _Art Press_, and has written several serious books on contemporary art. When her memoir was published in France last year, there were many intellectuals who were nfuriated that she was somehow trying to purge her sexual demons by publishing such a frank memoir about some extraordinary sexual adventures. In the US, her book won't infuriate intellectuals as much as it will infuriate the prudish and those who are offended by a woman of broad sexual appetite satisfying that appetite; but it also may well offend those who buy it thinking that every page will have words to inflame the passion and excite the imagination. This isn't a book for them.
Let us be clear: there is plenty of sex in the book. What Millet likes is men, lots of men, often in rapid sequence and simultaneously. Her lifelong hobby seems to have been orgies, swinging clubs, and being passed from one satisfied man to another. She describes plenty of episodes of men, more or less unknown to her, penetrating, licking, caressing; if this is disturbing, one only has to recall that she was enjoying it as were they, and that one has one's own sexual peccadilloes to nurture. The prose here is in translation (by Adriana Hunter), and so it is hard to tell how much to praise Millet for the words themselves, but in this edition they are vivid but also detached. She is not a seductress.
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54 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Martin Hulme on December 6, 2003
Format: Paperback
I read this entire book over the course of a transatlantic airline flight. From cover to cover, with interuptions in order to choose between "chicken or beef" and watch The Hulk two times running.
If I said I'd bought it to be titillated, I'd probably be missing the point. Which is a good job, really, because I found it about as erotic as an episode of Antiques Roadshow.
If I said I'd bought it for it's literary merits, and the enthusiastic praise on the back of the book, I'd be closer to the mark. The promised sex was just a bonus.
But, sadly, I was disappointed on both counts.
This is a book detailing, in explicit, but not remotely arousing detail, the prodigious sexual exploits of Catherine Millet. From the first time she had group sex, not long after she lost her virginity, to anonymous orgies in carparks in Bois de Boulogne, all of the details are written down in cold, clinical detail which makes them about as erotic as a pathology report.
Catherine M is thusly hailed as a pioneer, breaking apart gender stereotypes. She makes it very clear throughout the book that she's in the driving seat of her sexual life. Saying that, however, I really disagree with this idea.
One of the most obvious things one notices reading the book is the cold, clinical nature of Catherine's adventures. She really doesn't seem to gain any pleasure from any of these adventures. The results of her promiscuity, such as an STD and, later, an abortion, are described in throwaway detail as if they were as mundane an event as brushing her teeth.
I'm not sure if this is because of lacklustre translation (I wouldn't mind getting a copy of the original next time I'm in Paris)or simply because Catherine M is a cold, clinical woman.
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138 of 174 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 8, 2002
Format: Hardcover
As a preface, let me say that I bought the book and tried to read it. I'm not someone who goes around writing bad reviews about dirty books. That said, there isn't much to recommend in this book. On some level, it might be considered a feminist work in that it talks about a woman "breaking the mold" by having hundreds of sexual partners. It seems that the "breaking the mold" theme was done years ago in Fear of Flying. I'm not even going to start getting into the debate about whether unprotected sex with mulitple partners advances anyone's cause.
The story fails as an erotic work; the letters sections of most men's magazines are more erotic. Much of the book is along the lines of, "I went to an orgy, laid in a recliner, and let everyone have a go. The next day, I went to an orgy, ...." Far too much of the book repeats the same old things in the same old way. There's no humor to it, and there doesn't seem to be much enjoyment. Occassionally there is some self-reflection, but it isn't especially well-written either. This is a depressing story (it would be equally depressing if a man was telling it, but I think more people would be jumping up and talking about the actor's reprehensible conduct). The hardback version seems over priced and overly long by about 75%.
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109 of 138 people found the following review helpful By Sankhya on July 12, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Given the positive pre-press I read about the English-language version of this book-and there was SO much!-I felt I was predetermined to enjoy it. I was wrong.
I wanted to read a memoir about a woman with whose sexual life I had something in common, even knowing I had not experienced quite such a level of, um ... activity. I wanted to learn what drove her to be so promiscuous: Physical drives? Insecurity? A need to please? A desire to be dominant? Or submissive? Perhaps just a motivation to live `la vida loca' or trump everyone else's adventures?
Even having read the book, I can't answer these questions. I certainly knew it wouldn't be erotica, but I was interested in how an accomplished woman of her cultural and socio-economic status might relate her experiences to her place in our times. After all, she is of an age to have been exposed to feminism.
Amazingly, even given her self-absorption, she turns out not to be introspective in any manner that enlightens readers. I finished this book not understanding her motivations yet suspecting, sadly, that they had something to do with self-annihilation. (She writes disturbingly about disassociating herself from her sexual encounters--and who wouldn't, if you let a line of Parisian workers have a go at you in the back of a corrugated metal municipal van that leaves your backside raw)?
And dare I, as an American, say it without sounding close-minded or ethnocentric?--the intellectual posturing was so "French". There was NOTHING intellectual about the author's reminiscences about her escapades. Such intellectualism would imply cultural context--and there was none. There are no clues about the years in which she lives or the cultural pressures/dictates by which she might be influenced.
If readers can't draw broader conclusions from her experience that might relate to their lives, why read this?
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