Recently, I had to proofread The Ten Visions (coming out 4 July, so as not to overshadow the last Harry Potter on the twenty-first; avoid the queues and pre-order now!). I curled up on the sofa, coffee in one hand, pen in the other, realised I couldn’t turn the pages, put the coffee down, and began to read. It took all my self-control, honed by Taoist meditation on mountain retreats and further schooled by Tibetan fire-walking techniques, to last as long as I did. After five chapters, I had to nip off for a cold shower. And yes, that is a euphemism. It’s a credit to my proofing skills that even in throes of unsated lust I can spot a there that should be their, but I probably left swathe’s of misplaced a’postrophe’s in some of the sex scen’es. The whole exercise held the seed of its own collapse from the start.
You see, rigorous self-control is my favourite style of one-handed reading. I’m talking no hands – not even a fingertip, not even a surreptious wiggle against the sofa. I sits, and I reads. The slight flush rises up my body, my lips part, my eyes dilate, a squishy wetness seeps, but it’s strictly lapdance rules: no touching. Once, I came like that. (Once, I came just from internet sex – talk about kkkkkrrrshhhhhvvvv – and once from a toe massage, so yes, it is the thought that counts.) Usually, my self-imposed discipline collapses at some point, or I set a pact with the book – I’m only allowed to touch when and where the characters touch, or I can only slip a finger in when the heroine gets something rather thicker wedged slowly into her. With short story collections, I might be forcedly composed for the first two and then gradually disintegrate over numbers three and four, until the book is pinned down at an awkward angle halfway off the bed, my neck is in agony, the bedclothes are tangled and heating up…
There’s also the question of where. I once read a Nexus book on a rush-hour tube, inside a copy of Germaine Greer, hoping the flush would be mistaken for feminist fervour. I thought I was safe, wedged against the back of the carriage by the door. I’d forgotten the glass window into which the next carriage’s occupants could peer, rubber-necking their way through a severe ritualistic spanking. Sometimes I read on the sofa, then wish I’d thought to close the curtains earlier, often in bed (such a handy place, bedrooms; have you noticed how many cosmetics come in cylindrical containers? Coincidence? I think not), and most daringly while invigilating a university exam. (Put the sub back into sub-fusc, I say.)
I do, rather pruriently, prefer to read alone. The fallen angel I share my bed with reads at the identical speed, so we could theoretically read in tandem; we read aloud to each other, so we could theoretically read erotica out loud, but for some reason we don’t. (Now that I’ve thought about it, though… watch this space.) It’s a private fantasy world, sliding under a character’s skin and sharing their shudders. That said, sometimes I’ll wake up earlier and lie in bed reading until his tranquil sleep is abruptly and demandingly disturbed.
My erotica stash frequently lands up on the bedside table, but migrates around the house like a herd of restive stallions. For a while, it sat in a box under the stairs. Occasionally it hides under my skirts (it won’t fit in my knickers drawer anymore). Tucked behind other books on the bookshelves was discreet, but I could never remember which shelf. Sometimes they get shelf-space of their own, but that’s a precious commodity in this house – so during parent-proofing, they get shoved hastily in a drawer and by the time they’re ready to come out their alphabetical niche is mysteriously occupied by a batch of Terry Pratchetts. (I swear those books breed.)
So – what about you? Now that I’ve divulged more intimate details than anyone was probably ready for, it’s your turn. How do you prefer to read? Where? With someone, alone, or both? And where, in your home, do these inflammatory books live?