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Authors: Catherine Millet

Tags: #Biography & Autobiography, #General, #Health & Fitness, #Sexuality, #Literary Collections, #Essays

The Sexual Life of Catherine M.

BOOK: The Sexual Life of Catherine M.
12.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

A national best-seller that was featured on such lists as The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washing- ton Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Globe, and Publishers Weekly, The Sexual Life of Catherine

M. was the controversial sleeper hit of the year. Since her youth, Catherine Millet, the eminent editor of Art Press, has led an extraordinarily active and

free sexual life -- from al fresco en- counters in Italy to a gang bang on the edge of the Bois du Boulogne to a high-class orgy at a chichi Parisian res- taurant. A graphic account of sex stripped of sentiment, of a life of phys- ical gratification and a relentlessly hon- est look at the consequences -- both liberating and otherwise -- have cre- ated this candid, powerful, and deeply intelligent depiction of unfettered sexuality.

From Publishers Weekly

Millet, art critic and editor of Art Press, has become a literary sensation in France with the publication of this graphic memoir of some 30 years of her sexual adventures. Millet's "gift for observation" and her "solid superego" are as useful in her career as an art

critic as they are in her erotic explora- tions: her ability to concentrate and observe puts her inside "other people's skins." Comparisons have been made to The Story Of O, but Millet is more in the tradition of Jean Genet and Violette Leduc, whose descriptions of their sexual encounters were not meant to titillate so much as to explore the meaning of the erotic. Millet's "quest for the sexual grail" takes her to group orgies, gang bangs in French parks and other serial sex escapades. Before long, the sex begins to seem utterly routine, in spite of the elaborate sta- ging. Millet and her readers are then free to consider more closely some questions she raises: how oral sex compares to vaginal intercourse; why sex in disgusting circumstances is not about "self-abasement," but raising oneself "above all prejudice"; or why

solitary sex is more pleasurable for her than sex with a partner. Toward the end of this curiously graceful memoir, Millet comes close to explaining her need for all this sex: only by sloughing off the "mechanical body" she'd been born with could she experience actual sexual pleasure. While women readers will find much of interest, male readers may have to overcome a certain emperor's new clothes-type discom- fort, as they realize that Millet may know more about the male body than they do.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business In- formation, Inc.

From Library Journal

In this steamy work, a best seller throughout Europe, the editor of France's Art Press shatters gender

assumptions by detailing her rollicking sex life.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business In- formation, Inc.

Praise for
The Sexual Life of Catherine M.

“[An] exquisite, philosophical, imaginative, precisely reported memoir…
The Sexual Life of Catherine M.
offers a wholly unique voice: brilliantly literate, utterly unabashed, exact- ingly concrete, consistently provocative. The excellence of Millet’s memoir rests not in numbers…but in Proustian memories and perceptions suffused with sex and insight.”

—Carlin Romano,
The Philadelphia Inquirer

The Sexual Life of Catherine

is refreshingly unapologetic in its enthu- siasm for the sexual wilderness…. She an- swers for her particular enthusiasms with a grace and a curiosity that are far more win- ning than the common American gambit of

presenting one’s pathology and the struggle with it as way stations on the road to salvation.”

—Will Blythe,

“[A] maverick…an epicure…[Her] aloof, gracefully crystalline style is as elegant as any French pornography since Sade…. Bey- ond the book’s stylistic brilliance, one of the reasons it appeals is that unlike earlier fe- male pornographers—Erica Jong comes to mind—Millet never proselytizes.”

—Francine du Plessix Gray,

“Her sex life—ranging from her first group coupling just weeks after losing her virginity to her recent romps with her steady lover—is treated frankly enough to keep you en- grossed (even after the umpteenth orgy) and with sufficient cerebral heft to remind you that the book you can’t put down is more than dirty.”

—Mark Healy,

“It is truly a masterpiece of sexual explora- tion and I’ve no doubt that the book will be a classic of sexual literature.”

—Alistair Highet,
The Hartford Courant

“An intelligent reflection, crude, unusually frank.”

—Mario Vargas Llosa,
Los Angeles Times

The Sexual Life of Catherine M.
contains] no invention, no elusiveness, no embroidery. The truth…of her full, orgiastic, freely offered, frenzied, consuming, liberated, spontaneous sexual life…Astonishing.”

—Penelope Rault,

“Millet’s book strikes me not only as provoc- ative, but dangerous…. Her entire sexual stance…is an impudent and fundamentally inarguable challenge to the assumptions

about female sexuality on which most of the world’s social arrangements are built.”

—Vince Passaro,
New York Observer

“[Millet’s] prose is lovely and surprising….
The Sexual Life of Catherine M.
gives us a titillating glimpse of Millet’s alternative uni- verse, where everyday objects reveal them- selves to be sex toys and offices become pleasure domes.”

—Joy Press,
The Village Voice

“If you want a book that’s guaranteed to be picked up by every member at your summer house (unless your Hamptons harem hap- pens to be guarded by eunuchs), this is the one.”

New York Magazine

“[A] stylistic tour de force recounting three decades of sexual exploits…This book’s pleasures are first and foremost literary…. It

is a rare treat to listen to a measured intelli- gence delve into the folds of its own salacious sexual history with such frankness and with such little interest in scandal…. A Proustian whole far greater than the sum of its parts…Relax, sit back, and enjoy.”

—Saul Anton,

The Sexual Life of Catherine M.
] evoked from most critics the sort of feigned bore- dom people offer up when they are intensely disturbed by sexual honesty. The joke was on them.”

—Charles Taylor,

“Writing a subversive book today seems im- possible. Yet that is just what Millet does…. After Sade, you could have said that no one could do it better. Millet surprises exactly for this reason…. An elegy to the body, to human fraternity, an excellent book.”

La Razón

“A mind-blowing relief. She guiltlessly philo- sophizes about getting laid and giving head in the best French tradition…. To be brilliant and to be brilliant at giving head—
Sexual Life
is a fantasy well worth importing.”

—Fantomina Haywood,

“The graceful, thoughtful, oddly charming, and profoundly pornographic account of a French intellectual’s life of extreme sexual- ity…[This] memoir will surely be the most blatantly pornographic read many will en- counter this year…. A bold, intelligent, pion- eering tour de force.”

Kirkus Reviews
(starred review)

“A smoldering slim volume that will color your cheeks quicker than the midday sun…. In the book, [Millet] unabashedly chronicles three decades of her own unbridled sexual exploration.”

—Michael Rovner,
New York Post

“A wild quest for sex for sex’s sake…A wo- man of deliberate purpose, Catherine Mil- let…relates her sexual life without trembling, and allows us to share her pleasures…. A book of a miraculous grace.”

—Daniel Bougnoux,
Le Monde

“Porn for the intelligentsia?…There’s a short- age of literature that can be compared to
The Sexual Life of Catherine M.
, which is intelli- gently brimming with graphic descriptions of swanky club orgies, assembly-line penetra- tions, and ‘impromptu fucks in the coun- tryside’ while remaining lustily unconcerned about anything outside the supposedly infin- ite possibilities of random sex.”

—Norene Cashen,
San Antonio Current



“Brave…Her book makes
The Story of O
feel as winsome as Annie Hall.”

—John Powers,
LA Weekly

“From Cyrano de Bergerac to Marquis de Sade, from Choderlos de Laclos to Casanova, they would, breathless with admiration, have laid at the feet of Catherine Millet.”

NRC Handelsblad

“Her truthfulness and simplicity are captiv- ating. She provides an intelligent contempla- tion of sex that is free of Bataille’s nastiness [and] de Sade’s discomfort.”

—Lisa Lambert,
Willamette Week

“[An] explicit journal of unending sexual availability…Ms. Millet’s book revels in its own sexual laissez-faire; like Tracey Emin’s bed, it turns self-revelation into artistic statement.”

—Michael Fishwick,
The Economist

“Delightfully unabashed…Readers of all per- suasions about sex will derive something of value from Millet’s honest, deeply personal exploration of her desires.”—Bonnie John- ston,

“In the tradition of Jean Genet and Violette Leduc, whose descriptions of their sexual en- counters were not meant to titillate so much as to explore the meaning of the erotic.”

Publishers Weekly

“A sex book in the tradition of
The Story of

and de Sade—just as classic and graph- ic…but more personal…The sex scenes Millet sets and performs are many, but they’re im- bedded within far more intimate disclosures about identity, the process of self-awareness, and varying degrees of intimacy.”

—Alex Richmond,
Philadelphia City Paper




Catherine Millet


Grove Press / New york

Copyright © 2001 by Éditions du Seuil

Translation copyright © 2002 by Adriana Hunter

Afterword copyright © 2002 by Editions du Seuil

Afterword translation copyright © 2003 by Adriana Hunter

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any elec- tronic or mechanical means, including in- formation storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the pub- lisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review. Any members of educational institutions wishing to photo- copy part or all of the work for classroom use, or publishers who would like to obtain

permission to include the work in an antho- logy, should send their inquiries to Grove/ Atlantic, Inc., 841 Broadway, New York, NY 10003.

Originally published in French as

La Vie Sexuelle de Catherine M.
by Éditions du Seuil, Paris.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publica- tion Data

Millet, Catherine.

[Vie sexuelle de Catherine M. English] The sexual life of Catherine M. / Catherine Millet ; translated from the French by Adri-

ana Hunter.

p. cm.

ISBN: 978-1-55584-701-2

1. Erotic literature. 2. Women—Sexual beha- vior. 3. Sex.

4. Group Sex. I. Title. HQ463 .M4413 2002

306.7'082—dc21 2002020032

Grove Press 841 Broadway

New York, NY 10003

  1. Numbers

  2. Space

  3. Confined Space

  4. Details

Afterword: Why and How




As a child I thought about numbers a great deal. The memories we have of solitary thoughts and actions from the first few years of life are very clear-cut: they provide the first opportunities for self-awareness, where- as events shared with other people can never be isolated from the feelings (of admiration, fear, love or loathing) that those others in- spire in us, feelings that, as children, we are far less able to identify or even understand. I, therefore, have particularly vivid memories of the thoughts that steered me into scrupu- lous counting exercises every evening before I went to sleep. Shortly after my brother was born (when I was three and a half ), my fam- ily moved into a new apartment. For the first few years we lived there, my bed was in the

BOOK: The Sexual Life of Catherine M.
12.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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