Monday, May 14, 2007

One-handed reading habits

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?


Anonymous said...

Hi Olivia,

Your post magically appeared as I sat here typing to Tilly about Coming Attractions. So let me get down to the business of reading and books.

Thanks for the post, by the way. I could talk about books and reading and reading habits and books all day. XXOO to you, Ms. O. (You came during a foot massage? Do tell!)

I generally read in bed, in the morning with coffee, at night with a glass of Merlot. I routinely carry a book in my purse with me for those situations where Kiddo is not in tow and I have a few minutes to kill----gas station, grocery store line etc.)

I have books stacked on my desk: Catcher in the Rye, Cannery Row, A Good Man is Hard to Find, BAE 07 (Shanna!) & 95, The Lover, and In the Cut. I also have an enormous clutter of books around and near the bed: BAE 00, BAE 96, Carrie's Story, The Invisible Man, Guide, Caught Looking (Alison! Shanna! Sophie!), Notes from the Underground, Best Gay Erotica 07 (Me!) Jesus's Son, Memories of My Melancholy Whores, Crash, Dorothy Alison's collection of essays called Skin, and a Roget's Thesuarus.

Kiddo and I live in a two-bedroom apartment, and we maintain nine bookshelves, all crammed with books. There are also four boxes of books in our storage shed. I never-ever part with books. I have books from my childhood still, including my Nancy Drew collection, some dating back to the forties. I also still have the copy of Stephen King's The Stand (missing it's cover, beginning to yellow) that my father gave me when I was twelve-or-thirteen.

"Dad, I'm bored."
"Here, read this."

While my father was a hard-core censor about most things involved in my girl life, he and my stepmom never censored books or took books away from me or told me I couldn't read a particular book. So I ran amuck through literature of all kinds. Still do.

As for reading erotica aloud to someone, sadly no. No one to read to these days. I did have a lover this past winter/fall and read aloud to him once, and we both cracked up laughing until water drained from our eyes and our guts were bust. Hmmm, I read him one of my earlier stories. (Yeah, that bad. And no, I will not mention the title; and Shanna, don't you dare, haha. Love you!)

I don't keep my erotica in any particular place in the apartment. A book is a book is a book: I love them all, read them all, feel no inclination to be coy about some and not about others. Walt Whitman said, "The dirtiest book of all is the expurgated book." Which is, as Nx might put it, "Spot on."

Nikki Magennis said...


Thank you for such a witty and pretty post about onanism! It's high time we had one. And what a lovely pair of legs, if I may say so!

I used to keep my dirty books (Delta of Venus, Secret Garden, Little Birds) in a cupboard. My friends kept borrowing them, I had to get replacements, I got more, the cupboard got full. Now they're scattered all over the house.

If I think someone might not approve of the dirty books, I'd rather not invite them to the house than try to hide anything.

I read everywhere, but I read dirty books mostly in bed. With a man within handy reach.

Portia Da Costa said...

Splendid post. Very bold.

I can tell you where I read my computer manuals, my writing 'how to' books, my travel books, my Radio Times and my books of Jeremy Clarkson's comical tirades... I read them everywhere, and store them everywhere, and I read them alone and in company.

But as for the other stuff, well, that's nobody's business but my own! ;)

Vincent Copsey said...

Books everywhere at my place. The erotic has virtually an entire bookcase to itself these days, but it's not uncommon to find an erotic novel on the end of the kitchen bench.

As for where I read - mostly in the bath. It's the only time I get any peace and quiet. But I've also taken erotic novels on train journeys, to the beach, on camping trips etc. I've never attempted to disguise it as something else. Why would I?

Great post, Olivia.

Kristina Lloyd said...

A friend of mine told me he'd been reading Asking for Trouble in a cafe. I thought he might, as a bloke, be embarrassed by the girly cover so asked if he'd hidden it behind a copy of The Brothers Karamazov. He said, 'No way! I hid it behind a copy of Shaved Snizz.'

I very rarely read in public, smut or otherwise. I'm weird. I read at home with my legs up in stirrups.

You can tell Olivia's a newbie because her stash fits in a drawer. I hear Alison Tyler rents a spare apartment for hers. My porn's all over the place though I've been known to hide it when bringing some poor unsuspecting back to my lair. I'd get my Iris Murdoch out from under the mattress. It didn't really work.

Great post, Olivia, and a cracking pair of pins.

Nikki, weirdly, you used the word onanism and I used onanist yesterday (in the contest comments - last day to enter, folks. Hurry, hurry, get me a gang bang!). All of which is a good excuse for me to tell you that Dorothy Parker named her pet bird Onan - because he spilled his seed on the ground.

Anonymous said...

I love the way in which (for me, at least), the experience of becoming aroused through reading erotic lit is distinctly different from that of travelling other avenues to arousal (even good old all-in-the-head fantasizing). Sort of like getting a buzz from wine vs. from beer (and I like both!).

Anonymous said...

Great post Olivia,
When I'm working on a book, it is usually the pictures I see in my head, before even writing them down that turn me on the most. When it comes to putting it down on paper, my writing can get a little shaky at times. I'm a pen and paper girl, it works better for me than a computer and, anyway, I write far faster than I type, even if I have trouble actually reading the finished product on occasions.
Thank goodness you have cracked the Terry Pratchett mystery - they breed- I've been wondering why we seems to have even more and more of those books around the house every time I look.
My place is also chock a block with books in all kinds of genres, both non-fiction and fiction as well as, carefully selected erotic novels, most of which, of course, are on the lustbites sidebar.
My only problem is that eventually I have to part with some of the well-worn paperbacks. Most I give to the local chairty shop, but so far I've not parted with any of my erotic novels in this way, mainly because I fear that if I did so I might be responsible for giving heart attacks to the elderly ladies who run the shop!

Sommer Marsden said...

Oh my, just reading this post had me making a 'no touch' pact with myself (*blush*)

I mainly read in the evening on the sofa with a glass of wine. It's the only real reading time I have. If a book is *really* good (wink, wink), I will read late into the night since everyone else is asleep ;)

My smut lives on the highest of the built-in bookshelves away from underage hands. They are both gifted and talented readers and curious...but they understand that those books are mine. I don't worry too much. Some of my smut lives on the highest shelf in the bedroom, some in the basement music room. It's pretty much everywhere. Occasionally it lives in the cute little smut box I bought for emergency storage.

I have been known to read my naughty books at the dentist, in the doc's office, or waiting for an oil change. I feel no reason to hide it. And usually, at least one person will ask shyly...

"Excuse me, is that ahem--good?"

As if my flush and the shifting in my seat isn't answer enough, I smile and nod. "Yes, very good. You really should read it."

Great post! ;)

Alison Tyler said...

I was hoping at some point we'd all share pictures of our bookshelves—I put one up on my blog awhile back. (Yes, and also pics of our boot collections, refrigerators, and underwear drawers. I'm such a voyeur.)

But I'm also an exhibitionist. I love to read in public.

I read Story of O at the counter of the Daily Grill in L.A. Faced away from the main room. White cover. Totally innocent, right? But a knowing waiter realized what I was reading and had fun teasing me all during lunch.

Did the same with a Beauty book, at a different restaurant. A waitress nearly came as she described how much she loved the book.

I've read porn on trains. (Variations is my favorite mini-magazine to read in public. I love the letters! And it fits into other books easily, if you want to hide it.) I've read porn on planes. (Oh, Jesus, this is starting to sound a bit like Dr. Seuss.) I've read it in lines, just like Sommer. Even more than reading porn in public, I do like buying it. By the armful.

When I'm finished, I like to mail my porn to people. If I love a book, I want to send it off to someone else who might also love it. (My friends can attest to this. Porn popping up in the mail for no reason at all!)

Great post, Olivia!

Janine Ashbless said...

If you actually look up what God struck Onan dead for, it wasn't masturbation - it was coitus interuptus. He'd married his brother's childless widow (an obligation under Hebrew law)and was supposed to get her pregnant: the child would legally count as the dead brother's, thus allowing his name/family line to continue. However, Onan didn't want to give his brother an heir so he pulled out at the critical moment. Bang, God struck him dead. Presumably therefore exacerbating the widow problem, but don't expect logic from God.

(Genesis 38:1-10. Spot the badly mis-spent childhood.)

May said...

Great post, Olivia!

I read everywhere. No matter what the book.

Now, anybody have one of these?

Hands free masturbation...hands free for your erotic reading! *ggg*

Angel said...

What a great post!

I read erotica anywhere. I've taken it with me to the doctor's office, the attorney, on a plane(it sure beats the movie!), and even at my very straight-laced grandmother's house. (She knows I write it. She also knows I know she reads it, but we don't discuss THAT, because she is sworn to deny it. *grin*)

My books don't hide. They hang out right there with everything from Kipling to King.

So far as one-handed reads, well...there are a few choice books. You would know which ones, because when you let them fall open wherever they may, they always open to the steamiest parts.

Reading erotica aloud? Ah, yes. It's an occasional thing, usually right after I've written a new story I think will turn him on. If it gets him hot, I know it's a keeper.

Anonymous said...

Alison, my boot collection would disappoint you to no end. My fridge might keep you overnight but the underwear drawer? Let's say it's at least better than the boots. After all, I do own one pair of crotchless panties. :-)

Nx, when I was a senior in college I took a Victorian Lit course and wrote my thesis paper on My Secret Life, a huge randy volume of smut, not to be confused with My Secret Garden, which I almost did. :-)

Janine, thank you for clarifying the story of Onan. Gets better and better doesn't it?

By the way, one of my favorite things to do is dress up then march into a Barnes & Noble or Borders and approach the cutest cashier there and then ask him, "Can you tell me where you keep the erotica?" Brings on instant stammering and blushing. Last time I was at Borders I did the same thing but then asked the cute sales guy if he'd like me to sign thier copy of Best American Erotica 2005.

"I have a story in here," I told him.

"Really? Wow. Would you sign it? Thanks, that's great, thank you."

Of course nothing beats carrying a stack of Best Gay Erotica 2007 to the cashier line in Barnes & Noble then me telling the cute cashier guy, "I have a story in this book. You want one?"

Alison Tyler said...

Oh, Alana,
Lie to me... because I can just see you in boots. High-heeled white fringed ones. Or dark cherry-red knee-highs. You have "boots" written all over you!

Sommer Marsden said...

*Now, anybody have one of these?*

Oh. My. God! I bet it's good for your thigh muscles, too. Whew. The only drawback I see is...too big for my panty drawer. How *do* you hide that thing?

Re: what Gwen said...I do (clears throat) have a few books that would just fall open to the good parts. Just a few ;)

Could never read erotica out loud. I start laughing.'s true. I can write anything and everything that inspires me but I cannot read it out loud. Even to myself. I have a giggle gene, I guess.

Unknown said...

I hide mine, it's part of the allure. I have 3 teenage sons-way too much testosterone in my house and some stuff I don't want the dear pure little chaps reading-just yet-(I'm their mother-if I want to think they are sweet and pure let me)

I mainly read the dirty stuff when Mr Kate Pearce is away on business. It keeps me sane until he returns.

Great post, Olivia!

Nikki Magennis said...

Alison, just for you...

some bookshelves!

Alison Tyler said...

Oh, Nikki, I love them!
I have to spend some time looking at each picture...

Anonymous said...

*dashes in*

"Alison, I want to go boot shopping with you!"

*dashes out*

Lucy Felthouse said...

Definitely prefer reading alone! My books reside on the top shelf of my bookshelf - stereotypical or what!?

Anonymous said...

I am not here this week.

So no one listen as I shamefully (and not unsurprisingly) admit that I like, um, pictures. *ahem*

Shanna Germain said...


I want boots written all over me too...

I have bookshelves of dirty books. All over. BUT, my favorite shelf is the one that I save for books that include my stories. When I was little, and wanted to be a writer, I always imagined having a bookshelf full of books that had my stories in them. Then, when I first started getting published, I picked the longest shelf I had and put my first few books there. The rest of the bookshelf sat empty, waiting for future books. Now, five years later, my bookshelf is almost full. I'm going to have to find an even longer shelf...which pleases me to no end.

Slightly off-topic, eh? Sorry about that.

Where do I read? Everywhere. I walk a lot and often take an erotic book with me while I walk. (Yes, I can read and walk at the same's not as scary as it sounds). But once, my guy's boss pulled up in his car as I was walking and I was holding some Slut Boy-on-Boy book with one of those super-sexy covers while we talked. He was a bit flustered....

:) s.

Nikki Magennis said...

Shanna, yup, I perfected the art of reading and walking too!

Alison Tyler said...

Am typing one handed, but Shanna, hmmm. I see you in these... and I'm not just saying that because they're called "Big Ruth."

(Can't get more off topic, I think.)

Oh, Smut Girl sent me pics of her bookshelf, too! Could we arrange a blog tour of authors' bookshelves?

Wendy already thrilled me once with a look into her office.


Madeline Moore said...

Great post Olivia. I had imagined that the buzz on this post would be 'she really came from a toe massage?' and I'm so impressed that our community has pretty much refrained from such sorta-beside-the-point musings..
Like Shanna, my favourite bookshelf is the one that holds copies of Felix's work and mine. It's really packed! Okay, mostly because of Felix but...including anthologies I'm in, of course, I hold my own.
I read erotica in bed. It's never really occured to me to take it with me anywhere. I guess I'm more Canadian than I thought.
I live in a small town and none of the bookstores even WANT me to so much as sign the copies of my book that I've forced them to order. Grumble. I can't seem, for love nor money, to get Chapters (our version of Borders) to carry my book, which is driving me nuts as I think Canadians would LUV a smutty book that stars Canadians!
(Even if they'd never carry it around with them in broad daylight.)
Hmm...I try to read aloud to Feix but he very much prefers to read it for himself.
And finally, I'm impressed that you, Olivia, admit that proofing your own book turns you on. I was definitely turned on proofing my book and imagined that was 'proof' of my egomaniacal tendencies...but perhaps it's normal for erotica writers? I wonder if Stephen King gets scared proofing his work. I wonder if he proofs his work? Obviously, he has no editor, but likely he has minions, now, to do the job for him.
I really enjoyed this post and learned something, (the Onan stuff) from it, too. My favourite kind of LB post.

Jo said...

Great post, and beautifully erotic in itself!

Did Alison explain why she's typing one handed? It sounded a little lewd on its own. Shanna, htat is the sweetest little girl writer story. Ever. You're such a pet!


Karl Friedrich Gauss said...

Looks like I'm among the most secretive in this crowd. I started off with a locked briefcase but soon ran into capacity issues. So I've let the overflow colonize the back of a file cabinet drawer. I'd have more but I used to throw the stuff out when overcome by periodic bouts of self-doubt. Photos of peoples bookcases are great, but let's have enough resolution to read titles off the spines of the books.