Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sunday Snippet - Aphrodite, A Memoir of the Senses

One of my favorite books about food and eroticism is Isabel Allende's Aphrodite - A Memoir of the Senses, an unpretentious, witty, and earthy collection of stories, lore and recipes taken from history, art, literature, and life experience itself. I've snipped from this book in two or three previous posts but I lack the energy and time right now to link you to them, though you can, if you wish, do a search on the blog.

Below is an excerpt from Aphrodite about the perceived difference between eroticism and pornography, in the form of a letter written by Anaïs Nin to a consumer of pornography, with an introduction by Isabel Allende.

Erotica is using a feather, pornography is using the whole chicken"

~ Isabel Allende

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 About Eroticism 

 In the forties, Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller survived for a while by writing erotic stories for a man who paid them by the page. This client, known to them only as the Collector, remained anonymous, piquing the indignant curiosity of the two great authors who lent their talents and their pens to satisfy his caprices. This collector of pornography did not appreciate style and repeatedly asked them to "cut the poetry" and concentrate on the sex, because that was all he was interested in. Nin wrote him a letter in which she masterfully defines the essence of eroticism:

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 is surprising textures, its subtle transformation, 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, mood, there are no surprises in bed. Sex must be mixed with tears, laughter, words, promises, scenes, jealousy, envy, all of 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 gestures; 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 by now be 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. 


"The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware."
~ Henry Miller


  1. I like this professorial side of you!

    Aloha from Waikiki

    Comfort Spiral

    > < } } ( ° >


    < ° ) } } > <


  2. that is a lovely post, I wonder if the exposure to pornography that the younger generations have grown up with and the over sexualisation of children will cause them to miss out on the more erotic side of life, i certainly hope not

  3. Cloudia - professorial, huh? I'm anything *but* when it comes to this subject, though I suppose it's appropriate for me not to kiss and tell! ;-)

    Jane - what I worry about for younger people is how much emphasis is put on body parts being some pornographer's idea of "perfect". Sex reconstruction for women - breast enhancement and enlargement, surgeries and dyes to make the genitals more...uh....I can't imagine what. And the ever-increasing focus on staying young.

    Thank you both for your comments.

  4. That's a remarkably beautiful painting you've chosen to illustrate the post. The letter to the pornographer was a treat to read.

  5. this is pretty wide-open of you Gina, but I like it. and I don't disagree with Mr. Miller or Anais Nin. I have that book somewhere on a shelf and now I only need to revisit it. I love that about your blog here - you bring to light things I had long forgotten to the dusty far reaches of my home. I hope you had a fine Thanksgiving holiday. happy week to you. oh I really like that Isabel Allende quote.

  6. I love the 2 quotes
    and how wonderful that the letter starts off
    Dear Collector
    We hate you

    that's just wonderful

  7. Susan - it is a beautiful painting, isn't it? Yes, I thought it was wonderful and worth sharing! :-)

    Becky - it makes me happy that you feel that way! I guess I am an open sort of person in many ways. I can also be very reticent and reserved.

    Dianne - hi!! I've missed your comments. I love the photos of you with Hope. I should go back to your blog and let you know that in case you don't follow comments.

    Love to all and thanks for the feedback!

  8. The letter by Nin should be read in ever high school health class!

  9. I have not read this book, but you encourage me to do so. I love the work of Isabel Allende .... so here goes!!

  10. Sandy - are health teachers allowed to mention pornography and erotica to their students anymore?

    Aguja - if you like Allende, you will love this book. It's one you can skip around in and read snippets from!

    Thank you both. Sending a hug.

  11. This dovetails nicely with the article I just read about the awards for bad sex scene writing in fiction. I've come to appreciate what Nin wrote to the pornographer.

  12. Lisa - I saw the link for that. Will have to check it out. :-)

  13. That first quote from IA is priceless, and couldn't be truer.

    I remember the precise instant when I placed Meredith-To-Be inside of you, and there were no "whole chickens" involved. Just the feathers of our hearts and souls dancing in a moment of pure love I'll hold forever as worth living and dying for.

    Thank you, Gina.

  14. Oh, dear, now I fear I will start to cry. You have an amazing heart. In our own way, we will always love each other, won't we?

  15. Yes, "in our own way," and in the way which The Lucky Ones share with us.

    "Love is love," as the cool kids say. We were blessed with it, and it blessed us back.

  16. Well, I shall put my contrary oar into this still pond of feminist admiration. In my youth I read a lot of Henry Miller and through him heard about Anais Nin. I bought a book of her erotic stories once. I think it was in Penguin. I didn’t find them very erotic. I also read a novel of hers.

    If she was commissioned to write erotic stories I think she had a cheek delivering sermons to her patron. She didn't have to take his money. She wasn't a destitute whore.

    I'm somewhat reminded of this anecdote:

    Guy: “If I gave you a million dollars, would you sleep with me?”
    Girl: “A million dollars is a lot of money, and you don’t look that bad, so I guess I would consider it”
    Guy: “Ok, since I don’t have a million dollars, would you sleep with me for $100?”
    Girl: (outraged) “What kind of girl do you think I am?”
    Guy: “We’ve already established the answer to that question. Now we’re just negotiating the price”

  17. Vincent - all I can muster as a response is - paddling with one oar in this "still pond" of "feminist admiration" may prove to be quiet a feat.

    I am not a feminist, by the way. I am the sole member of my own club.

  18. Your mustering is well-mustered, dear Gina. I withdraw the epithet. I was crazy to employ that particular f-word. But still, I am justly proud of my one oar, and it’s a great thing to use in the right context.

    I am your admirer and mean no rudeness to any commenters. But I cannot resist a further remark, a kind of PS to my previous:

    The collector was paying for sex, or rather some stimulant to excite his presumably flagging libido. In this contract, Nin was a “sex worker”, a trade which gave her no right to get holy and hypocritical.

    Nin: “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.”

    No, and such a potent man wouldn’t be subscribing to her sex aid service either!

    I love your site. Can you explain one thing? You embellish posts on my site with 100 links to posts on yours. How do you do that? I would like to return the compliment! And what does it mean? See, for example, this post

  19. Vincent - those links are not my embellishments! I am not that full of myself! I have no idea of how they appear on your blog. I wish I could prevent that from happening but I have no idea how.

    I didn't take offense, Vincent but thank you for your thoughtfulness just the same.

    I see the point of what you're trying to say about Nin. I agree that she wasn't a destitute "whore" and perhaps that's why she felt the freedom to write and deliver such a scathing letter. I suppose we would have to ask her, which, of course, we can't.

    I do think this...

    A weak libido may be temporarily resurrected with pornography and prostitutes but a full, happy and loving sexual life is not as immediately obtained. It takes work and patience and love. I think that despite what you consider hypocritical, Nin was trying to say. I also think it was meant to be humorous in a tongue and cheek sort of way.

    Today, The Collector would only need to see his doctor and buy an online subscription to feel virile.But would that make him a happier person?

    I want to say further, that I have few objections to adult pornography and I think prostitution should be legal.

  20. Gina you have convinced me on all the points whereon I was not already convinced. Thanks!

  21. P.S. for Vincent - I appreciate all of your comments not just one oar two. ;-)

  22. I wonder if Isabel is for chicken :)))


  23. Dear Taxi - I think she is for chicken. Just not everyday! ;-)
    Felix Natal, meu amigo!

  24. oh my, i hope you see this, sweet gina...a Merry Christmas to you and a Happy 2012(I can hardly believe it's THAT number!!) hope you have a lovely holiday with those you love. xoxox

  25. Linda - time moves toward the future and so do we. Merry Christmas, dear Linda. I am thinking of you with love.

  26. HAPPY NEW YEAR for you and your family.

  27. Wait just one minute! What if I was a bit of a feminist? If so, I'm my own brand. I would not wish to be a member of any club that would have me. Who said that or something like it?


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