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The Surrender: An Erotic Memoir Hardcover – October 12, 2004


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"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.
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Review

“Brave.” (—New York Times Book Review)

“Plucky.” (—The New York Observer)

“Wonderfully smart and sexy and witty and moving.” (—Publishers Weekly starred review)

“A small masterpiece of erotic writing.” (—Leon Wieseltier)

“Revealing and witty.” (—Time Out New York)

“Stylish and amusing.” (—Entertainment Weekly)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; First Edition edition (October 12, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060732466
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060732462
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #400,470 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Toni Bentley danced with George Balanchine's New York City Ballet for ten years. She is the author of five books, all named New York Times Notable Books, which include "Winter Season, A Dancer's Journal," "Holding On to the Air" (the autobiography of Suzanne Farrell co-authored with Farrell), "Costumes by Karinska," "Sisters of Salome," and "The Surrender, An Erotic Memoir." Her essay, "The Bad Lion" (originally published in the New York Review of Books) was selected by Christopher Hitchens for Best American Essays 2010. She writes frequently for the New York Times Book Review, the Wall Street Journal, The New Republic, Playboy, the Daily Beast, Vogue, Vanity Fair and other publications. She has been invited to give talks at Harvard, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Rutgers, Middlebury College and the THiNK Conference 2013 in Goa, India. "The Surrender" has been adapted into a one-woman play that premiered in January 2013 in a production by the Spanish National Theater in Madrid, Spain, and it will have its English-language world premiere at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August 2013. She is the recipient of a 2008 Guggenheim Fellowship.
www.tonibentley.com
www.thesurrendershow.com
@TheToniBentley

Customer Reviews

Ive been ISO a book that will be just as good since Ive read it..
Duckiey Doolittle
Very poorly written, boring, simplistic, misogynistic, belittling, imprecise descriptions, overly hyped, ordinary, lame erotica.
Gregory W Arnold
I read this book because it was this month's selection for my erotica book group.
Annabel

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

153 of 170 people found the following review helpful By Eileen G. on October 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I ordered this book with high expectations. Over the years I've sought out a variety of the classic and not-so-classic examples of the genre, both academic and just for fun. The expression of sexuality Bentley promotes is neither shocking nor abhorrent (millions can attest to this) and her story deserves to be told.

Bentley is a former professional ballet dancer and competent writer and reporter. Her memoir about an intense affair that had as its centerpiece frequent, albeit compulsive (she kept count) anal intercourse seemed like something worth reading.

Instead of "showing," though, Bentley tells - and you understand pretty quickly that Bentley has told her story and explained herself many, many times in many, many therapy sessions. She offers some nuggets of self-analysis that sound very much as if a mental health practitioner came up with them. Her father was cold and difficult to please, pain became a friend, she early on became perfectionist, etc. One is led to believe that it is a given that an old psychic wound is necessary in order for one to enjoy anal sexuality.

The Freudian punning is unnerving.

There is little dialogue in this story and precious little deep feeling. The guy to whom she insists she surrendered is called "A-Man," a cutesy moniker and far cry from the grave dignity of the Stephens and Sirs of the genre.

This is less an "erotic memoir" than a series of descriptions - told by the way in the breathy prose of fashion-magazine reportage - of what she wore and how she looked, the state and the size of genitalia, and where to buy the supplies most cheaply (Costco), of an affair that while undoubtedly wonderfully physically intense and affecting, sounds surprisingly lackluster in the retelling. I was disappointed in this story.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Mary Sutton on November 1, 2010
Format: Paperback
I learned about "The Surrender," former ballerina Toni Bentley's paean to the supposedly sublime pleasures of anal sex, through an article I had read in "n+1." I was both fascinated and repulsed by a quote taken from the latter part of the memoir in which Bentley recounts how she had become so enraptured by her lover that she saved and stored away the condoms left over from their anal encounters -- nearly three hundred in all -- in a black, lacquered box where they remain as mementos of a transformative three-year long affair.

I imagined Bentley, a lithe and lovely ballerina and a bona-fide member of George Balanchine's chorus of swans, plucking stained prophylactics from the floor, each dripping with the oleaginous residue leftover from unabsorbed gobs of K-Y and spermicide, and dropping them into an elegant box as if they were just as precious as grandma's pearls. I was intrigued by the image of this woman and what she could say about an affair that could inspire such an obsession. I was also, with the exception of some brief perusals of Pauline Reage's literature, rather limited in my experience with contemporary erotica. Women are now the primary authors of this material and, after the publication of Catherine Millet's "The Sexual Life of Catherine M." in 2001 (a tome whose success may have helped lead to the publication of Bentley's memoir), it seemed as though Virginia Woolf's wish had come true: women could finally write the truth about the experience of their own bodies. The men (Henry Miller, D.H. Lawrence, et al.) had done a fine job, but lacked the authority. The women who have already traversed this territory either grossly embellished the experiences (Anais Nin) or had made the matter of female pleasure seem, well, to be more of a political act (Erica Jong).
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68 of 80 people found the following review helpful By C. Hutton on October 11, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is Toni Bentley's fifth book about either the world of ballet/dance or her own life. Now in her mid-40's, Ms. Bentley's formative experiences were with her distant father and her years with George Balanchine at the New York City Ballet. "Winter Season: A Dancer's Journal" was her painful account of establishing a new identity apart from the all-consuming world of the NYC Ballet. Now she writes of her quest to create a viable sexual identity for herself.

This focus upon issues of sexuality is nothing new for Ms. Bentley. She wrote a cultural history of a striptease known as the Dance of the Seven Veils in her "Sisters of Salome" (2002). She is an accomplished writer though she occassionally goes over the top.

The reader should be warned that this memoir is emotionally and sexually graphic as Ms. Bentley focuses upon her newly discovered obsession with sodomy. If the reader is uncomfortable with being a voyeur inside Ms. Bentley's bedroom, then this book is not for you.

For Ms. Bentley, she has finally found a form of sexual liberation for her masochistic and self-abasement tendencies. With her personal sexual surrender, she attributes a freeing up of a lifetime of inhibitions, releasing anger toward her father, and discovering a spiritual union with "Paradise."

"The Surrender" is a very intimate and searingly honest account of one woman's search for personal peace. It is difficult to be this honest about one's sexual neediness with a lover or with a best friend -- Ms. Bentley just published her sexual neediness for the world to read.
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