My sister sent me a link to a New York Times article on Gloria Vanderbilt (age 85) and her new novel, Obsession: An Erotic Tale published by Harper Collins.
The NYT article is full of amusing quotes. For example, Vanderbilt's son is CNN newscaster Anderson Cooper (I didn't know!) who says: “The six most surprising words a mother can say to her son are: ‘Honey, I’m writing an erotic novel.’ But actually she’s pretty unique, and there’s not much she does that’s surprising anymore. At 85, whatever she wants to write is fine with me.”
(Actually my sons would not be surprised at all, but they're probably better for it.)
The description of Obsession makes it sound very much like another classic erotic tale that begins, and ends with "O." There's an orgy mansion, plenty of BDSM paraphernalia, a cache of raunchy letters discovered in a "Frank Lloyd Wright-like architect's" personal effects after his death. Oh and some interesting activities involving "mint, cayenne pepper, and a fresh garden carrot."
Sounds like one of our blog tours.
I have mixed feelings about all of this. Vanderbilt is a cultural icon and so does that make it "okay" for a major publishing house to sully its list with her dirty book where others are soundly spurned? Does the resemblance to The Story of O elevate this work to an acceptably classic level perhaps even as it reaffirms the cliche of what literary erotica is--gotta have whips and an orgy mansion where an elite can enjoy the pleasures ordinary folk are not allowed? Fresh from the humiliations of my own efforts to promote erotica, I can only wonder at the industry's willingness to give Vanderbilt full literary and publicity honors. On the other hand, does the publication of such a book open the door to other writers who "dare" to tackle eroticism and "activities of a sort that readers of The New York Times are usually shielded from"? Or do we have to be octogenarian celebrities, freakish and therefore safe, both in terms of sexuality and profit (it currently stands at #461 on Amazon)?
Sadly, I suspect the latter is the case.
Anyway, I haven't totally processed this and so my blog post is somewhat half-baked, more of a question to anyone stopping by about how they feel about this and the issues not so explicitly named: that mainstream publishing uses sex to titillate but rarely delivers, for example. I may read Vanderbilt's novel, if it makes it to my library, which is an interesting question in itself. I'm sure I'll write more on these topics later, but to end on a high note: while I always cast a jaundiced eye toward the publishing industry, I really admire Gloria Vanderbilt for writing this book. Emerald had an interesting post by a less famous octogenarian about her erotic life which moved me deeply. We need more of this and if the first knock on the door comes wrapped up as a celebrity freak show, but opens the way for others, it may be a price worth paying!