BOOK REVIEW / Fruity appetites
Victoria Coren, confronted by a plate of girlie pornography, takes a cautious nibble; Eat Me by Linda Jaivin Chatto & Windus, pounds 9.99
Saturday 23 March 1996
This generous helping of sauce for the goose is peppered with strident female academics and vegetarians, who meet in Sydney cafes to discuss their fantasies. Though explicitly sexual, most of these focus in some way on food - hence the title. Think women and danger, naughtiness and illicit thrills and you end up, unerringly, at the fridge door.
The novel opens with an episode involving a woman and an array of fruit: this is the Marianne Faithfull Mars Bar trick for a health-conscious generation. It sounds rather uncomfortable, if you ask me - particularly the kiwi fruit - but at least she stops short of making out with a pineapple.
The imagery throughout is all giant leeks and plum puddings; in one section, Jake "peeled off Julia's clothes as if they were the leaves of a steamed artichoke... his gaze rested on the Mediterranean caramel of her belly before proceeding down... to the folds of moist gravlax". A pretty unappetising mixture, if you think about it.
Even when the snacks are left behind, the sex scenes are too metaphorical for simple gratification. Getting it together with a Chinese circus performer, one girl confesses: "I kneel down and swallow the sword of the sword-swallower, charm the snake of the snake-charmer." Lucky for him he wasn't a ringmaster. Another obstacle to erotic success is that the novel is plagued by common sense and humour. Slinking seductively towards a lover, "the smooth soles of [Helen's] new shoes slid on the linoleum and she came in for a rather clumsy landing on his lap. `Oof,' he cried, despite himself."
Erotica, more than any other genre, demands the suspension of disbelief and here it is undercut by earthy reason. Like most things that come out of Australia, this is funny and likeable, but deeply unerotic. Bathos and realism are the enemies of porn, that realm where fantasy swells unimpeded. There is no room for, if you will forgive me, the deflating prick.
But Jaivin's main problem is that successful porn is inherently nasty, and her attempt to reclaim it for a right-on readership is admirable but doomed. Eat Me's women are very sexually empowered - always on top, talking of "engulfment" rather than penetration - no thrills for the unreconstructed girl here. Even the food is all trendy international deli-produce: "Camilla poked the tip of her tsurros into her latte and fellated the long pastry". Not so sexy with a saveloy and weak tea, I guess.
Condoms interrupt the flow (yes,yes), peeping Toms pause to point out that "the women I watch are all perfectly safe", and Jaivin gets into terrible ideological confusion with an episode in which a woman hires a black slave but takes pains to stress that "we're enacting a fantasy, with his consent", thus pleasing no-one. As a literary exercise, it's all very interesting - but the fact is, you can't be right-on when you jerk off.
'At times I thought he was me'film
Review: One Direction, Fourmusic
Review: The World of Ice and Firebooks
Film More romcom than S&M
Review: The Imitation Gamefilm
Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars
TVNetflix gets cryptic
TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth
Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 2 Anti-gay hate preacher accidentally tweets 4,000 followers cartoon clip of him 'confessing' to be a 'homosexual sodomite'
- 3 Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
- 4 Grayson Perry: London needs affordable housing because 'rich people don't create culture'
- 5 Kenya bus attack: Al-Shabaab militants kill 28 non-Muslims who failed to recite Koran
Lee Evans announces his retirement from comedy on The Jonathan Ross Show
Iggy Azalea responds to Eminem rape lyrics: 'I'm bored of old men threatening young women'
Beyoncé '7/11' music video: Star bounces on bed in low-fi homage to viral video
Angelina Jolie confirms retirement from acting: 'I've never been comfortable on-screen'
Lana Del Rey rape video: Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking leaked footage
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
France 'blocks' Russian sailors from boarding a warship
Revealed: How the world gets rich – from privatising British public services
Myleene Klass: Ed Miliband 'strikes back' by comparing UK's need for Labour's mansion tax to Hear'Say track