From recent correspondence:

[livejournal.com profile] the_red_shoes: "In the classic Against Our Will Brownmiller writes of going to the library to look up The Fountainhead for that classic 'rape-by-engraved-invitation' (so it was described BY ITS AUTHOR) passage and the book FELL OPEN to the right page. Slightly scary."

Me: "As a young girl I was so desperate for information about sex porn that I read...

Gary Jennings' horrible novel Aztecs, which scarred me because the porn was interspersed with horrible deaths by leprosy, fire, hearts ripped out, torture, etc.

About a zillion scare-tactic novels meant to terrorize kids out of doing drugs/having sex/leaving the house, like Go Ask Alice.

Piers Anthony.

Jack C. Chalker.

Clan of the Cave Bear.

Though not, thank goodness, Ayn Rand. But if I'd known those had sex I'd probably at least have skimmed to look for it, hence contributing to the page falling open to the invitation to rape scene."

Clan of the Cave Bear was responsible for me acquiring the odd belief, at the age of about ten, that the clitoris expands significantly during puberty. That's because Ayla's sounded so gigantic compared to my own.

Did any of you also desperately skim for sex when you were young (or old?) What were the worst, most inappropriate, most misleading, or least erotic books you read in your quest for porn?
From recent correspondence:

[livejournal.com profile] the_red_shoes: "In the classic Against Our Will Brownmiller writes of going to the library to look up The Fountainhead for that classic 'rape-by-engraved-invitation' (so it was described BY ITS AUTHOR) passage and the book FELL OPEN to the right page. Slightly scary."

Me: "As a young girl I was so desperate for information about sex porn that I read...

Gary Jennings' horrible novel Aztecs, which scarred me because the porn was interspersed with horrible deaths by leprosy, fire, hearts ripped out, torture, etc.

About a zillion scare-tactic novels meant to terrorize kids out of doing drugs/having sex/leaving the house, like Go Ask Alice.

Piers Anthony.

Jack C. Chalker.

Clan of the Cave Bear.

Though not, thank goodness, Ayn Rand. But if I'd known those had sex I'd probably at least have skimmed to look for it, hence contributing to the page falling open to the invitation to rape scene."

Clan of the Cave Bear was responsible for me acquiring the odd belief, at the age of about ten, that the clitoris expands significantly during puberty. That's because Ayla's sounded so gigantic compared to my own.

Did any of you also desperately skim for sex when you were young (or old?) What were the worst, most inappropriate, most misleading, or least erotic books you read in your quest for porn?
This is not an actual review. I do not have the book on hand, and it has been a number of years since I read it. People who own it, have read it more recently, or merely wish to share their own memories are welcome to jump in with comments, corrections or reminisciences. Paging James Nicoll...

The reason I am writing about it is that I mentioned in a comment to a different post that every time I come across anything where Asia or any Asian country is represented as the Big Evil, I recall Starseed and the moment when someone says something very much like, "So, we meet again, Robert... or should I call you Chen Po Chang?!"

Mely wanted to hear more about this book, which has loomed large in my mind since I first read it as one of the worst ever. So I will do my best to explain.

When I was a young teenager, I was very fond of Spider Robinson, and particularly of a novella called "Stardance," about a dancer in zero gravity. As a consequence of this, I read everything he wrote in a short period of time, including the less-good expansion of that novella into a novel. And then, like my father experienced after a youthful experiment consisting of drinking an entire bottle of vermouth, I became extremely nauseated, developed a violent aversion, and vowed to never touch the stuff again.

Robinson's works can have an appealing optimism and sense of loving community. Unfortunately, he loves his characters so much that he cannot bear to have anything bad happen to them, so dead characters frequently get resurrected and melancholy moments nullified. He also features many happy, stoned, touchy-feely hippies who are happily telepathic and condescend to anyone who does not wish to join them in their happy telepathic naked space orgy of loving kindness. For more details, see the post I wrote when this was all fresher in my mind:

In which I rant about vomitous space hippies; contains massive spoilers for practically everything he ever wrote, but since his surprise endings tend to be horrible, perhaps it's better to be braced for them.

Explanation of the space cockroach and the convenient suitcase nuke referred to in the above link; contains spoilers for a Callahan book but I forget which one )

Stardance and its sequel Starseed concern a bunch of hippies who go into space and discover an alien symbiont which enables them to live in a vacuum with no need for air, food, water, clothing, etc. They are all also telepathic with each other. Personally, I don't think that sounds all that great as long as you have a decent life to begin with, because you can't reverse the process, so you're forever exiled from Earth and everyone who's not a telepathic space hippie. Plus, I like eating and drinking.

And telepathy that can't be turned on and off at will, but instead means that you are accessing everyone's mind all the time and they're doing the same to you, sounds like a recipe for mass space murder-suicide, or at least mass space neurosis and misery, not bliss and perfect camaraderie. Here's the thing: no one feels positively toward everyone all the time, nor are all thoughts meant to be shared. If a stray thought about my fat ass or their childhood nose-picking happens to run through someone's mind, I don't want to know!

So the space hippies' smug insistence that anyone who doesn't want this has a stick up their ass bugs me, and also reminds me of annoying people at the commune I grew up in. Additionally, Star Seed has the worst ending I have ever read in a professionally published book. Possibly ever. Oh, and as prompted this entire post: Chinese people? Evil.

I am pretty sure it also contains the line, "Hands on my keyboard touch me far more deeply than hands on my vagina." I may be mis-remembering it slightly, but even so, I recall reading it and thinking, "That is the worst line ever written."

Specific spoilers for Starseed )
My back hurts too much to concentrate to the level the memoir requires and way too much to train, so yay for livejournal and a pillow stuffed behind my back.

When I stopped for lunch in Santa Maria yesterday (seafood bisque, very nice) I popped into a thrift shop to check out the books. Thrift shops are often havens for books that I read when I was a kid and which I should have hung on to, because they never appear in bookshops. Eureka!

A Choose Your Own Adventure book, MASTER OF JUDO. I must have read hundreds of those, but not that one. The "others in the series" list includes MASTER OF KUNG FU, MASTER OF TAE KWON DO, MASTER OF KARATE (too bad they didn't have that one), and (to cover all bases) MASTER OF MARTIAL ARTS. My favorites, however, were not in that series but were Rose Estes' Dungeons and Dragons books, especially CIRCUS OF FEAR and REVENGE OF THE RAINBOW DRAGONS.

Ellen Kushner wrote a Choose Your Own Adventure book, incidentally. Hers was about getting transported back in time to being an immigrant at Ellis Island.

CAN I GET THERE BY CANDLELIGHT? by Jean Slaughter Doty. Doty wrote pretty good and comparatively realistic books about horses; THE MONDAY HORSES, for instance, is a gritty backstage portrait of a rental stable, complete with pushy parents and doped horses. CANDLELIGHT is a moody timeslip novel about a girl who rides her horse Candlelight a hundred years into the past. The ending is unexpectedly bleak.

HEADS YOU WIN, TAILS I LOSE, by Isabelle Holland. Holland wrote a number of glum YA novels, of which my favorite was ALAN AND THE ANIMAL KINGDOM, about a boy who doesn't tell anyone that his last remaining relative has died, because he thinks they'll put all his pets to sleep, which is what happened when his next-to-last relative died. It ends on the signature glum YA novel note of a teeny ray of hope in the midst of inevitable misery and despair. Holland also wrote some adult suspense novels, which I remember enjoying but have never been able to find.

She's probably best-known for THE MAN WITHOUT A FACE, in which a boy apparently has a sexual moment with a man-- something which blew right over my head when I read it. I hope this review at amazon is a joke:

"For the same reason that the historical novels of Mary Reynolds are failures - a trilogy which purports to depict the relationships between Alexander the Great and his boy, but suppurates with honey and marshmallows until no self respecting male can continue reading them - Holland's book becomes absurd rather than tragic. Women should not try to write about relationships between men and men, or between men and boys. They possess neither the physiological instruments nor the erotic imagination for the task. Women see the male sex drive as something superficial, anatomical and standing in the way of romance. How little they understand! Sex between men turns on shared understandings of how muscles flex, organs pulse and juices flow; and we make from our animal excitement something playful which opens the door to a testosterone driven romance more powerful than any fairy-tales that giggling girls may tell each other. Don't read the book."

The front cover of HEADS reads "Melissa lost weight steadily, but her days were spent as unknowing 'highs.'" Yep, copyright 1973. Melissa is supposedly a compulsive eater, though we don't ever see her compulsively eating. We do see her being depressed because her monstrous parents keep verbally abusing her for being fat, ugly, and unworthy. She starts popping her mother's diet pills, with predictably bad consequences. There's a vague feminist undercurrent, in which feminism keeps getting mentioned and seems to be a fad, but Holland never quite seems to connect the social pressure on women to conform to an ideal of appearance to feminism. Still, Melissa's adolescent pain comes across vividly, which is no doubt what attracted me the first time I read it.

The bit where Melissa "freaks out" reminded me to look up the ads for other books in the back of Jay Williams' wonderful middle-grade fantasy, THE HERO FROM OTHERWHERE:

TUNED OUT, by Maia Wojciechowska. Winner of the 1965 Newbery Medal.

"Summer turns into a nightmare for sixteen-year-old Jim when his brother Kevin comes home from college. Kevin, whom Jim idolizes, has changed drastically during his year away. He has become a person full of doubts, with urgent needs-- one of which is drugs.

We share the experience of that terrible summer in this moving book-- the LSD, the marijuana, the hippies, the disillusionment, the helpless confusion and fear. It is all recorded frankly, to the final horror of Kevin's freaking out and the shaky beginnings of his redemption."

Yep, the teeny ray of hope in the midst of inevitable misery and despair.

It goes on to quote "Horn Book's" review: "No recent novel or factual treatment succeeds as well in showing the self-deception, the sense of alienation, the bitterness against the established order today..."

The picture shows a silhouetted man freaking out in the middle of a psychedelic swirl.
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