21st Jun 2012
My Three Favourite…Secret Reads
I don’t know about you, but I have a fair few books on my shelves that I don’t read in public. And it’s not always because I’m embarrassed to be seen reading something that has a particularly saucy or suggestive cover. Some books are better being read during those rare moments of quiet alone time rather than during the busy commute to work.
Of those books, here are my three favourite:
I first read this saucy semi-autobiographical novel about ten years ago when I was in sixth form college. It had been passed around from one group of girls to another dubbed as ‘excellent holiday reading’ for a girls holidays. I didn’t go on a girls’ holiday, so I have no idea how this book ended up in my hands. I read it on my family caravanning holiday instead. I was young and naïve and I had absolutely no idea what this book was about when it came my way. As it turns out, it did make excellent holiday reading.
The story is narrated by café waitress and aspiring novelist ‘Nikki’ (known as ‘Coco’ to her friends) who quickly falls for the mysterious Tian Tian – a reclusive artist who suggests that Coco give up her waitressing job and invites her to live with him so she can work full-time on her novel. Tian Tian’s constant depressive state, drug-dependence and impotence weigh heavily on their relationship.
Then Coco meets a devastatingly attractive (and married) western businessman, Mark, with whom she begins a (very physical) affair with. Torn between Tian Tian and Mark and plagued with feelings of guilt and betrayal Coco has to sort out her relationships and figure out who she really is and what she really wants. Oh, and she still has to find the time to finish writing her novel.
The story is super raunchy in places, but it’s also beautifully written. There’s nothing overly explicit here but it was banned in China shortly after its publication and in places, copies were publicly burned.
Okay, so I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a huge girl-crush on the screenwriter of the Oscar-winning Juno, but crushing aside her memoir tells the story of Cody – a bored twenty-something copy typist – who, on a whim, takes to the stripping stage. Lured by an Amateur Night advertisement in the window of Minneapolis’ strip club The Skyway Lounge, Cody decides to ditch her 24-year-old, well-respected image, don some killer heels and lose the clothes.
Her amateur striptease gives her such a rush in and amongst the mundane office existence that she goes back for more. And so begins her journey into the underground world of strippers, stripping, peep shows and sex lines. What starts as a way of ‘shaking things up’ turns into a totally different way of life for Cody, as her new hobby turns into her full time career.
It’s a weirdly fascinating read made all the more enjoyable by Cody’s sense of humour – sharp wit and wry, frank descriptions of the glamorous and the gruesome as she ascends the stripping hierarchy from back-alley strip clubs, to multi-level sex palaces offering free hotdogs with every dance (no, really). An honest and witty account of what really goes on behind those blacked out windows.
This is actually two books in one – the first half of the book is an exploration into the history of modern American Burlesque, flip the book over and the second half is a vampish take on the art of the fetish according to Dita Von Teese. It’s a photographic book (but probably not one you’d leave on your coffee table) so it makes for a relatively short read.
That’s not to say the words are merely an addition to the photographs. The writing style here is that of a true temptress – a voice that is both charming and intriguing as Dita takes us on a journey from her very first bra fitting all the way to that cocktail glass dance. Between the text and the pictures are the occasional framed asides which range from: “Dita’s Vintage Manicure Tip” to “The World’s Top Fetish Parties”.
Needless to say, this is a book I hide in a wardrobe whenever my parents come to stay – one look at the cover (or even just reading the title on the spine) is sure to raise an eyebrow (or two).
Interestingly enough, a quick scan on Google or Amazon will bring up a fair few requests for this book in e-format. With this in mind, it’s worth considering: are the sales of erotic/controversial fiction bound to rise (excuse the pun) now that we have digital readers to mask the covers? No more red faces at the cash desk in Waterstones, no more of those embarrassing “You Might Also Enjoy…” emails that are based on your recent purchases from Amazon popping up at work.
What do you think? Will e-readers provide us with privacy for our dirty little secret reads? Or will we just continue to hide these books in the wardrobe?