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THE SEXUAL LIFE OF CATHERINE M. by Catherine Millet Kirkus Star


by Catherine Millet & translated by Adriana Hunter

Pub Date: June 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-8021-1716-3
Publisher: Grove

The graceful, thoughtful, oddly charming, and profoundly pornographic account of a French intellectual's life of extreme sexuality.

Millet is a highly respected art critic and editor in her native France, where this memoir was a bestseller. The nearly complete absence of sentimentality in both her memoir and the encounters she describes sparked a controversy that made this one of the most discussed books in years. In a translation that preserves the elegance and clarity of Millet's prose, we are launched almost immediately into her life of group sex, anonymous sex, serial and public sex. While casually placed in context—this encounter occurred as Millet emerged from her Catholic upbringing; this man became a long-term companion; sex helped her avoid the social discomfort of small talk—this consists largely of a string of incidents that might have faded into mechanical repetition were it not for Millet's power of description and the insight she brings to bear. Millet entered the world of group sex shortly after she lost her virginity at 18, and joined the moveable feast of Parisian orgies and sex parties almost immediately, receiving dozens of men each night. Working in the art world, the boundary between business and sex was indistinct for her, and she would enter a studio to interview an artist and end up staying for days. Priding herself on having been without shame and always available, observing her partners in a way that has traditionally belonged to men, Millet's ultimately anti-erotic memoir will surely be the most blatantly pornographic read many will encounter this year. Lacking the literary tradition of intellectual discourse about sex that Millet writes from (France has de Sade and The Story of O; we have Penthouse Forum), reaction here is likely to be less sophisticated than it was at home.

A bold, intelligent, pioneering tour de force.