Monday, January 23, 2006

Bedside Anthology

Since receiving it, I have wanted to write about, and recommend, Reb Livingston and Molly Arden's provocative anthology The Bedside Guide to No Tell Motel--even though I haven't had the time to read all of the poems in it.

It's an anthology full of fantastic work, as those of you who regularly read No Tell Motel already know. But I also find it disturbing--as an anthology about sex in the present moment in American culture, it leaves a somewhat troubling afterimage in my mind. It makes me feel that sex as a meaningful aspect of bodily life is in trouble, as all things interpersonal are in trouble. If this anthology presents, between its pages, a safe harbor for the erotic, a place where one's needs and desires will not be betrayed, it is one so threatened by isolation, non-communication and indirection, that most of the fucking/lovemaking/intercourse, etc. in this anthology fails. Maybe sex, as a nodal point where social power is both performed--(assume the position)--and subverted( (_________)-style), has always been this way. But somehow I suspect that the quintupling of porn consumption (and I am all for porn, I have no qualms about it) tells us something. Between the Paxil/Prozac/Zoloft holy-trinity and the adult film industry, I somehow feel that Americans (for all our professed liberatedness about sex) have more sexual hangups than fin-de-siecle Viennese. When everything is sexualized, when sex is, as Shanna Compton's poem has it, just a font advertisers use to sell products, just something you can have added to your latte for thirty-five cents, you get sex like the Johnny in Anne Boyer's poem imagines it: "His popular mechanics lacked imagery." One wonders, have we gone from "Having a Coke with You" to "Having a Coke with Coke"? I've often felt that the supposed liberation of sexuality of the so-called "sexual revolution" had, as one of its untoward consequencs, the diffusion and, as such, liquidation of sexuality. Sex, then: everywhere and nowhere. Or maybe this is just parenthood talking. Maybe people aren't really more afraid to flirt; maybe I'm just becoming gradually less attractive.

I'm not an expert in these matters (an amateur, certainly), and I don't pretend to have fully thought through what this means. As such, I'll refrain from concluding that all of this signals the end of the human, of history, the body. Thoughts?


CLAY BANES said...

My first delight and surprise when I received mine was how great it looks. I'd never seen a lulu book before, and I'd presumed it would look something like the university press print-on-demand titles I'd seen, i.e. not so hot.

This is auspicious.

By the way we're expecting a couple in the store this week (we hope). If anybody wants to check it out and see it, then compulsively buy it.

Emily Lloyd said...

Hi, Jasper. You write: "If this anthology presents, between its pages, a safe harbor for the erotic, a place where one's needs and desires will not be betrayed" question is: does it, though? I mean, was that part of its intent? That an entire section of the book is called (I'm going from memory, so I might not be spot-on) "The Difference Between Seduction and Manipulation"--seems to complicate things. The editors assigned my contribution, "Plummy," to that section--and I was relieved. Originally the poem was one I'd posted on my blog, and I received a number of comments about it being sexy or hot, etc. I was very surprised that some people read it that way. To me it was, well, just that: about seduction and manipulation, a place where one's desires probably will be betrayed. There are a good number of poems in the Guide like this, I think--maybe in some ways it was marketed (or anticipated by some bloggers) as a sexy book, a book that would get the reader hot, a book for the "bedside"...but that is not really, or not just, the book it is...

shanna said...

hi jasper. i didn't really take the title of the anthology to mean "sexy poems about sex" either, but more as a witty organizing theme and reference to the magazine title (which is hot, but not necessarily always sexy). but maybe my expectations were different because my poem's not about sex; it's about object lust--the pleasure in/desire for/fetishizing of well-designed things and my admiration for the designers who make them. and book lust--Futura Book is a real font, but I also hope it reads as a pun. anyway, i think i got plucked from the mag archives for the anthology just because i say "tits"...twice. ;)