With My Body Guest Article by Nikki Gemmell

 by Nikki Gemmell
Artwork: Bradley Wind

Would you openly read The Story of O on a train?

Something’s shifting, profoundly, in the reading habits of women. A generation, a decade, even six months ago, the answer for most of us would have been a resounding “God no.” Yet over this summer we’ve witnessed an astounding loosening of the corsetry of decorum, a rectitude that’s bound so many of us - all our lives. It’s all down to one book of course: Fifty Shades of Grey. We’ve been freed. It feels revolutionary. It feels like fun.

It’s said the Fifty Shades trilogy has the e-book revolution to thank for its success; because women can safely download it knowing that noone will have any idea what they’re reading. But the phenomenon feels bigger than that. It was encapsulated for me by a friend recently - an extremely conservative housewife - talking in a completely unabashed way about the novel. “The sex is doable,” she said, matter of fact. “As I read it I kept on thinking, yeah, I could go there.” I was astounded because I’d never had a conversation about sex with this woman in my life. The revolution is not just about erotica finding its perfect vessel in e-books, it’s about the fact we’re openly reading this type of book now; avidly discussing it. I’ve even slipped the powerful little Story of O from its bookshelf purgatory in a darkened corner. It doesn’t deserve to be there. It’s such a potent little volume that connects viscerally; I still remember the heated flush of reading it. We can be declaratory about these things, thanks to Fifty Shades. This feels like a huge generational shift.

Crap books: Publish Relations

Reader Logo by Naomi Gill

“I think it’s almost impossible for anybody in Britain to argue for the artifact of the book because we just make crap books. Even the very best efforts of Jonathan Cape and Faber & Faber are ugly, mucky things in comparison with what Knopf do. I mean, those guys really make a book that’s beautiful."  
Hay Festival founder Peter Florence Source: The Bookseller

Review: Down the Rabbit Hole

Down the Rabbit Hole
By Juan Pablo Villalobos
Translated from Spanish by Rosalind Harvey
Published by And Other Stories
Reviewed by Jessica Patient

Juan Pablo Villalobos’ novella, Down the Rabbit Hole is a surreal story about the drugs culture in Mexico, body parts appearing on the news, rooms full of guns and a rollercoaster of a journey to grant a boy his ultimate dream. The dark fringes of life are seen through the innocent eyes of Tochtli (his name means rabbit in Nahuatl, Mexico’s main indigenous language), aged seven, whose only desire is to have a Liberian pygmy hippopotamus.

Through Tochtli’s viewpoint, the reader witnesses the isolation from living in a compound with his paranoid father, a drug lord. The only people he knows are hit men, prostitutes, servants, corrupt politicians and his tutor, Mazatzin. Death and killing surrounds Tochtli and yet he doesn’t seem to understand what is happening. He is only concerned about his hat collection and learning about the Samurai. This unawareness reminded me of Emma Donoghue’s Room. Both books combine a serious, disturbing situation with comic observations of the world around the protagonist.

Review: Nothing Doing By Willie Smith

Nothing Doing
By Willie Smith
Publisher: Honest Publishing
Reviewer: Grace Read

I’m a big fan of short stories, particularly quirky, innovative ones. So when I read the blurb for Nothing Doing, which described the collection as being full of ‘witty perversions’, I was immediately interested.

Little did I know quite how perverted those perversions were going to be!

There was one story in the collection, entitled Spider Fuck, which I just could not finish. It was repulsive.

I thought I was unshockable; turns out not!

I should have guessed, really, from the title, that the content was going to be hard to stomach, but I didn’t imagine that the word ‘spider’ could be teamed with the word ‘fuck’ in that way!