Yesterday, the postman brought a present from Peter Straub, a copy of his new book of non-fiction, Sides (Cemetery Dance Publications), which includes the afterword he wrote for the first edition of Tales of Pain and Wonder back in 1999. Thank you, Peter.
No writing in these quarters yesterday. It's so hot there are no birds singing until long after sunset. Or so it seems. Even the cicadas hardly make a sound. We read more Anaïs Nin — "Marieanne" and "Elena." Spooky went out into the fullness of the heat a couple of times, but I didn't leave the house.
In the 1930s and '40s, Anaïs Nin was "the madam of a literary house of prostitution." For one dollar a page, she and many of her friends — other writers and artists — wrote erotica for an anonymous "collector." The collector insisted, again and again, that the erotica be devoid of any hint of "poetry." This from the preface to The Delta of Venus:
George Barker was terribly poor. He wanted to write more erotica. He wrote eight-five pages. The collector thought they were too surrealistic. I loved them. His scenes of lovemaking were disheveled and fantastic. Love between trapezes
He drank away the first money, and I could not lend him anything but more paper and carbons. George Barker, the excellent English poet, writing erotica to drink, just as Utrillo painted painting in exchange for bottle of wine. I began to think about the old man we all hated. I decided to write to him, address him directly, tell him about our feelings.
"Dear Collector: We hate you. Sex loses all its power and magic when it becomes explicit, mechanical, overdone, when it becomes a mechanistic obsession. It becomes a bore. You have taught us more than anyone I know how wrong it is not to mix it with emotion, hunger, desire, lust, whims, caprices, personal ties, deeper relationships that change its color, flavor, rhythms, intensities.
You do not know what you are missing by your microscopic examination of sexual activity to the exclusion of aspects which are the fuel that ignites it. Intellectual, imaginative, romantic, emotional. This is what gives sex its surprising textures, its subtle transformations, its aphrodisiac elements. You are shrinking your world of sensations. You are withering it, starving it, draining its blood.
If you nourished your sexual life with all the excitements and adventures which love injects into sensuality,
you would be the most potent man in the world. The source of sexual power is curiosity, passion. You are watching its little flame die of asphyxiation. Sex does not thrive on monotony. Without feeling, inventions, moods, no surprises in bed. Sex must be mixed with tears, laughter, words, promises, scenes, jealousy, envy, all the spices of fear, foreign travel, new faces, novels, stories, dreams, fantasies, music, dancing, opium, wine.
How much do you lose by this periscope at the tip of your sex, when you could enjoy a harem of distinct and never-repeated wonders? No two hairs alike, but you will not let us waste words on a description of hair; no two odors, but if we expand on this you cry Cut the poetry. No two skins with the same texture, and never the same light, temperature, shadows, never the same gesture; for a lover, when he is aroused by true love, can run the gamut of centuries of love lore. What a range, what changes of age, what variations of maturity and innocence, perversity and art...
We have sat around for hours and wondered how you look. If you have closed your senses upon silk, light, color, odor, character, temperament, you must be by now completely shriveled up. There are so many minor senses, all running like tributaries into the mainstream of sex, nourishing it. Only the united beat of sex and heart together can create ecstasy."
I may spend the day hiding in the bathtub.
Oh, I keep forgetting. Spooky has listed another copy of the mmp of Theshold on eBay, so if you'd like a signed, personalised copy, you might want to have a look.
If there's anything I've forgotten, I'm sure it can wait until later.
Postscript (3:23 p.m.) — The temp has reached 100F, with a heat index of 108F.