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Category Archives: Support your Library

{Review} Memoirs of Fanny Hill or A Lady of Pleasure – John Cleland

Erotica has never been ‘my shelf’ in the library, with the one exception of a short story by Neil Gaiman in Smoke and Mirrors, even Lady Chatterley’s Lover made me flinch. This should become apparent fairly quickly in the review. All I can say is that I can’t help but be ‘English’. 

Why did I choose Fanny Hill to read? Because I never say no to a free book (thank you, Project Guternberg!) Also, I wanted to read a book for European Reading Challenge

Blurb (From Goodreads) 
From her position of wealth and happy respectability, Fanny Hill looks back at her early life and disreputable adventures. Arriving in London alone, poor and innocent, she falls into the hands of a brothel-keeper. But only when she is separated from the man she loves does she enrol in the ‘unhappy profession’ of prostitution. Fanny becomes a kept woman and also works in an elegant bawdy-house, entertaining polite voluptuaries. By the age of eighteen, she can afford to retire; in her marriage she can at last combine sexual passion with romantic love.
Fanny Hill, shrouded in controversy for most of its more than 250-year life, & banned from publication in the U.S. until 1966, was once considered immoral & without literary merit, even earning its author a jail sentence for obscenity.

The tale of a naïve young prostitute in bawdy eighteenth-century London who slowly rises to respectability, the novel & its popularity endured many bannings & critics, & today Fanny Hill is considered an important piece of political parody & sexual philosophy on par with French libertine novels

Review
The language was, for the most part, beautiful and varied – I learnt three new words from it! Fanny’s voice and narration were mostly perfectly pitched, although like most heroines, she is a tiny bit silly. Several parts of the narrative were eye-wateringly painful with virtuous women instantly becoming uncontrollably lustful at the sight of a turgid male member and one bloody instance involving an over-large… part.

It is an interesting read from an historian’s point of view as the main ‘plot’ of Fanny’s love, separation from him etc. is obviously just whacked in there in an attempt to stay on the less salacious side of ‘indecency’ (rather like the music included in most of the videos on MTV channels nowadays).

The conflict between vivid descriptions of homosexual acts between men and the condemnation of the afore-mentioned scenes is also interesting, especially as scenes of a Sapphic nature don’t seem to have drawn the same level of censure from the author.

Overall
Whilst I doubt that erotica will ever be a favourite genre, this novel is very well written and I shall certainly re-read it at some point over the next few years.

Wild Night In’s Verdict? Wavering towards… win!

 

  If anyone knows of any books written about homosexuality in pre-Victorian England, do please post the titles as this is a subject I would like to learn more about.

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{Review} The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho

The ‘snarky’ tone of this review is a one-off as I usually enjoy the books that I read. Of the 98 books I read last year, only one received a ‘review’ along these lines.

Every time a friend recommends a book by saying, ‘It’s a best-seller… everyone’s read it and you’ll love it!’ it makes me twitch uneasily. Quantity of sales maketh not (necessarily) quality of prose. When the friend who recommended The Alchemist to me used the afore-mentioned line and then declared it to be ‘life-changing’ a few hundred flashing lights and sirens went off in my head. Sceptical? Moi?

Blurb (as written here)
Paulo Coelho’s enchanting novel has inspired a devoted following around the world, and this tenth anniversary edition, with a new introduction from the author, will only increase that following. This story, dazzling in its powerful simplicity and inspiring wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert (my emphasis to illustrate the level of wisdom in this novel) in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids.

Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles along the way. But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasures found within. Lush, evocative, and deeply humane, the story of Santiago is an eternal testament to the transforming power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts.

Review

Bizarrely perhaps, the first thing I thought when I’d got into the book was ‘Voltaire’. Each chapter has the repetitive format of, ‘good happens.. bad happens… our hero learns and improves and gets out of whichever scrape he’s in by a hair’s breadth’.

 That is all well and good in Voltaire’s work as he tends to be making a point about society and throws in a few humorous moments. In The Alchemist, I felt as though Coelho were trying to convert me to his way of thinking. This feeling was further intensified by what appeared to be his attempt at setting the tale out to be an allegory. The problem with the moral message that this tale was meant to skilfully contain was re-iterated so many times and in such unsubtle language that I can still see the ‘core ideals’ he wrote about with my eyes open.

 This makes me uncomfortable as it ties in with the first of the pearls of wisdom supposedly imparted by the text: ‘don’t forget the language of omens’. The ‘language’ that this story was supposedly teaching its readers.

 Other elements of the story did not appeal to me, such as dialogue reminiscent of Dan Brown’s and the hint that there would be an Epic Twist at the end of the plot to drive the message about ‘Personal Legends’ further into the reader’s already enfeebled brain.

 Verdict

Don’t believe the hype, believe your heart.

If you feel that you need to justify your desire to do the things that you really want to, don’t read the book, follow the omens you start to see everywhere after having read it and tell the world you’ve had an epiphany. Just do what you love (unless it’s unnecessarily cruel or illegal).

Wild Night In: Wail!

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2012 in 12 in 12, Support your Library

 

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