Vacation of the Mind Part 5: The Most Stimulating Airplane Ride Ever

As the trip came to a close, I became fixated on my next endeavor: prepping for a class on Love and Erotica.  To get to teach the class was pretty exciting; but I also had to think about solid and interesting material to use for the class that could effectively communicate the complex thought for a younger audience (read: first year students).  Like a variety of courses I teach (like comics and cultural diversity), it has the possibility of going drastically wrong.  So my mind reeled with ideas but being away, I had little material to directly depend upon.

The Delta of Venus by Anais Nin 

So I did what seems to be the best course of action to start the train of thought; I asked for recommendations from friends and colleagues on Facebook.  And got some good ones.  One, in particular, was Anais Nin.  I had heard (vaguely) of her but never explored her much; but then a few people highly recommended her.  I figured I had a good few leads for when I returned home.  But low and behold, on my second to last day, I happened upon a second hand store where The Delta of Venus by Anais Nin (in English—not Dutch) was staring me in the face.  It was a foregone conclusion that it was coming home with.

Fast-forward forty-eight hours.  I had finished The Jungle and decided I would start in on Nin’s book.  It’s a collection of erotic short stories that were largely composed during the 1940s as commissions from a benefactor who was highly desirous of such writing.  I had some idea of this but I don’t think I was quite prepared for the stories that followed.  After all, my literary vacation had taken me from a rural village in Italy to juvenile detention center in New York, to fantastical worlds of Lilluput and Brobdingnag to the early 20th century slums of Chicago; quite the diverse landscape.  But The Delta of Venus led me into more than a dozen bedrooms (and others places) for scintillating (and I love how that’s pronounced “SIN-tulating) sex that often bordered or walked boldly into the perverse.

And no, I’m no prude.  I’ve logged a hundred of hours listening to Susie Bright’s podcast; have several other erotica book (mostly Best American Erotica, also edited by Susie Bright) and other accouterments to illustrate that sexual discussion and expression are not something I shy from.  Yet, there I sat in the airport and on the plane with my ears reddening with the heat of the story.

That was the interesting part.  Nin writes most of these stories with irony that uses caricatures or mocks erotica and those vested in it; and yet, despite knowing and seeing this, her work can still function well as erotica.  Not all stories were equal and some stories were surprising in what occurred (sometimes even offensive to many people), but the overall collection is pretty enjoyable and impressive.

What sticks out most in my mind with it was just the looks from men and women alike, reading a book whose title and author are outstripped in size on the front and back cover with “EROTICA.”  It made for amusing responses, double glances, and curious staring by others in the airport and on plane.

It's interesting that with the overabundance of pornography out there in cyberland that erotica still manages to have be fairly popular enough for some publishers to release a decent amount of books annually.  Cleiss Press is one of the more well-established publishers for erotica and Sounds Publishing also has several lines of stories for aural consumption.  There is something to be said of the mind and it's role in all things sexual.  So much of the research and anecdotal evidence suggests that it is indeed the real "sex organ."  Hence why Viagra and other such drugs only seem to work if the person is aroused. 

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