My turn next! I’m Vinnie Tesla. I write dirty stories, some of which owe a very big debt to the Victorian pornographic novels that I loved and still love.
Pandemonium Unlimited, or, A Strained Analogy
Trying to assess my battered mass-market paperback of The Pearl is like trying to write a book review of a library. There’s a cacophany of voices, some reciting bawdy spoofs of forgotten drinking songs, one obsessively detailing the blood trickling down birched posteriors, another firing off arch jokes about the chance of catching a glimpse of a young lady’s ankles when she climbs out of her carriage. Originally it was a magazine, illegally printed and distributed, featuring a mix of silly poems, terrible jokes, and serialized novels in each issue. It occurs to me that my love of The Pearl and my love of anarchic online fora like ASSTR have something in common–a pleasure in a messy, exuberant excess that is reminiscent, almost, or real life.
The Taboo, or, The Passage of Time
One of the striking qualities of much Victorian porn compared to most contemporary commercial smut is the casual male bisexuality. Explicit portrayal of any sex at all is so taboo-violating that the border between normative sex and other varieties is trivial by comparison.
The unsavory flip side of this, that has to be acknowledged, is that rape is so routine as to be almost a formality. It appears to have been *literally inconceivable* to many of the authors that any woman might agree to sex with a gentleman friend she has not previously fucked. Once she protests and resists the first time, though, the ice is broken, and she pursues her affair with him with mutual enthusiasm. It’s kind of appalling, but it has about as much to do with the realities of sexual assault as a Road Runner cartoon does with the realities of wildlife predation.
Nostalgia, or, The Follies of Youth
I bought this book at an age where the purchase involved stomach-churning nervousness. Smuggling it into my bedroom was fraught and thrilling. And all this drama before I’d had a chance to do more than flip through it, agonizingly self-concious, heart in my throat, in the bookstore.
He Called it Macaroni, or, A Case in Point
The first story serialized, “Sub-Umbra, or, Sport among the She-noodles” (“noodle” is slang for fool) does a good job of exemplifying the book’s charms. It takes place in a stylized world of idleness and garden-parties that will be instantly familiar to anyone who had read “Importance of Being Earnest” or any P.G. Woodehouse. The protaganist seduces a succession of his cousins and their friends who exist in a state of almost Edenic innocence. Lacking any real notion of the mechanics of human sexuality, their hands-on lessons in the subject are devoid of any shame or sense of consequences.
All Cats are Grey, or, De Gustibus Ain’t What They Used To Be (with apologies to Henry Taylor)
Yeah, it’s cool that The Pearl is a glimpse into the raging id of another place and time. But what really makes me come back to it again and again is that it works for me–the silly, stylized seductions; the waltz parties that segue into orgies; the after-hours dormitory antics get me hot, they push my buttons, even a quarter century after I first found the collection. Will it push yours? Perhaps. Browse through–you will certainly find something to surprise and amuse you.
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