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Unmastered: A Book on Desire, Most Difficult to Tell Hardcover – June 4, 2013


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Unmastered: A Book on Desire, Most Difficult to Tell + What Do Women Want?: Adventures in the Science of Female Desire
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (June 4, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374280401
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374280406
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,198,934 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Writing honestly about sex takes moxie, but to reach the degree of subtlety and significance Angel attains also requires knowledge, literary finesse, wit, and acuity. This unique, aptly intimate book of meticulously crafted and succinct observations, aphorisms, musings, and intense vignettes illuminates the nature of desire and eroticism. Angel examines with startling insights the thoughts and feelings generated by sexual longing, satisfaction, and frustration; the language of sex; fantasy; pornography; the eroticism of archetypal gender roles; and the divide between a couple’s social demeanor versus private moments when they are “all teeth and claws and wings.” Angel looks back to her sexual awakening (“It is dangerous to be a girl. To be exciting to others”), consults Woolf and Sontag, and defines her “own feminist erotics.” Exquisitely attuned to the vicissitudes of the body-mind dynamic, Angel is funny, tender, candid, and generous. Wild, abandoned, fleshy pleasure is matched by intellectual and psychological complexity that embraces ire, fear, sorrow, and regret. This is a brave, beautiful, thoroughly considered, and haunting book of reflections, a masterful inquiry into sexuality and its consequences. --Donna Seaman

Review

“Offers an arresting mix of diaristic experiences with her lover . . . and heady reflections from feminist thinkers like Susan Sontag and Virginia Woolf. A genre-busting nonfiction account that reads like poetry, revels in ambiguity, and intentionally defies definition, the book explores the slippery emotions of sex in fiery, collage-like scenes intended to reconcile the contradictory ‘metaphors we love by.’”
O Magazine

“Unconventional, deeply personal . . . often poetic.”
The New Yorker Page Turner blog

“Angel embraces the impossibility of extricating fact from feeling.”
—Julia Klein, The Boston Globe

“Poetic . . . Sharply truthful, musical, and beautifully patterned . . . An act of cultural resistance, and a book you immediately start to reread.”
—Adam Foulds, author of The Quickening Maze

“Absorbing . . . [A] vigorous testament to a female libido undaunted by the cold shower of self-analysis.”
—Talitha Stevenson, The Guardian

“Ghostly and poetic . . . [A] thinking woman’s meditation on sexual desire.”
Publishers Weekly

“[A] provocative and profoundly personal investigation into female desire . . . It’s hard to overestimate the riskiness of these passages, their courage and their exquisite sensuality . . . But the real joy lies in the artfulness with which [Angel] uses these intimate episodes as a way of unwrapping the larger issue of what it means to be a woman, both object and subject of desire . . . Unmastered is a giddily joyful book . . . Days after reading, its images linger in the mind . . . [An] elegant and uplifting journey through the labyrinth of female lust.” 
—Olivia Laing, The Observer

“Katherine Angel’s Unmastered stayed in my head for weeks after I read it. It’s brave, moving, and perfectly structured.”
—Sam Byers, author of Idiopathy

Unmastered is an intriguing literary and cultural study . . . Erudite and personal . . . The strength of Ms. Angel’s writing . . . makes the book seem both universal and intimate at once.”
The Economist

Unmastered is one of those totally out-of-the blue, impossible-to-classify, weird and new and wonderful fiction-ish nonfiction books, which happily come along every so often and make you go, ‘Whoa: this is what we need now’ . . . A libidinous thrill all of its own.”
—Stuart Hammond, Dazed & Confused magazine


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Customer Reviews

2.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By veronique on June 15, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Although I appreciate the author's observations on how our culture views female sexuality, by no stretch of the imagination is the digital version of this work worth $11.00. This is more like a long magazine article. It took me 90 minutes to read. As a previous reviewer mentioned, most of the length is blank spacing. Why any editor or publisher thought this was a good idea, I don't know. I returned my order.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Smithie on June 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After reading a rave review from Tracy Clark-Flory at Salon, I decided to order "Unmastered." When my package arrived I simply could not believe my eyes as I leafed through the book and saw pages upon pages "filled" with a sentence or two. The excerpts I'd seen were poetic and insightful--I did not expect them to be strewn around the book without a narrative to string them together. This book reads like a Twitter feed and is quite simply a waste of paper. I wish I'd read the reviews before ordering ...DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By jseliger on June 14, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
You may reasonably believe that memoirs are meant to tell a story of some kind. I, for example, hold this belief. UNMASTERED, unfortunately, does not express this belief. It's not really a story so much as a pile of vignettes that one might expect of a sophomore with her first blog. There is no real narrative and hence no possibility of narrative coherence. Many of the pages are single sentences surrounded by an expanse of ivory page. They seem designed to make you ask, "Why did I pay for this?" When I asked the same question, I realized there is no reason and returned the book. Thank you, Amazon, for your generous return policy.

A strategy of deliberate vagueness and random observation may have been original when Anais Nin was writing. It's not interesting anymore.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Fleming on August 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I'm giving this book 3 stars because 1) I only read what I could read on the sample and 2) I get what the author is trying to do and 3) I have experience on a smaller scale (a poem not a book) with a minimalist approach to writing and 4) She's a damn good writer who should have been advised by her publisher and agent not to try to sell paper instead of words. And interesting words they are. There's a juxtaposition going on in this book. Airy, literary prose is interlaced with dirty, nasty, porn-speak. Ms. Angel says she walks a (metaphorical) tightrope, and the text does just that.

This writing is something like a haiku prose style that is wonderful, but unfortunately can't be served as it is in its present, artistically optimal form. It's like trying to show a comic book movie in black & white. The audience simply will not stand for it. They pay, so they have that right. It's sad, because it limits the author's ability to push the boundaries of form. I wrote a poem that, aside from the title, consists of 19 syllables nesting nicely in the center of one page. It's one of my favorite poems, one I struggled with for a long time, shaving it down to its essence. Only one person has ever complimented me on the poem, and he was a Buddhist.

With all the e-books under $5, some over 400 pages of dense text, who really thought that this book would be an acceptable product for public consumption? Even if the idea was the writer's, I still blame her agent and publisher for letting this happen. Good literature like this should be made available to people. It's presentation shouldn't turn people off. Pricing might have helped fix this, but another set up in a shorter book, perhaps with asterisks ***** between text that now commands a full page would help. Shorter book, but an effective book. Good luck with your next book, Ms. Angel. I mean it.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Ariel on July 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I borrowed this book from the public library, and loved it so much (only half way through), that I went online to purchase a copy for myself. Normally I wouldn't have bothered to write a review, but I was so overwhelmed by all the negative reviews of this brilliant book, that I felt compelled to write a positive one.

This book is lovely and brilliant. I've been taking pictures of the pages and sending them to people I know ever since I started it, to try to get them to read it. It's that good.

I haven't purchased a book in a long while, as I work for a library, but I had to own this, so that I could always have it with me. So that I could annotate the pages with my notes, and earmark passages.

Her prose and treatment of the subject matter is moving and resonant and compelling, in a physical sense. I found this book utterly engrossing. I find myself having to stop reading it every few minutes and just let some of her insights sink in.

Her use of Sontag's ideas, of Woolf's, of everything, is enlightening and real and grounded. Her engagement with the the very real issues and ideas that are relevant to my life, and to my sexuality, and to my feminism is intoxicating, even if I don't always agree with her, or like her choices and her feelings.

This book reminds me of William Eggleston's photography.

I think this a profoundly important and deeply beautiful book.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Charles Morgan on April 20, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I love the concept of short sentences and paragraphs one per page. And this woman is so honest. How can someone be so honest. This took guts and it is a very, very juicy and way-cool read. Thank you, thank you for your sharing with us.
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