My son, who knows I enjoy writing, sent me a video interview from CBS Sunday Morning with a 76 year old Texas woman, pen name Desirée Holt, who writes erotic novels. Since 2007 she has written 140 books.
“Maybe you should turn your writing abilities to this, and make a million a year,” wrote my son. “I’m sure you could improve on the cowboy themes mentioned in the story. Think Mr. Darcy!”
Desirée and her daughter were interviewed about the books that sell in their thousands and have made her wealthy. “How do you feel about your mother’s success?” the interviewer asked the daughter. “My 76 year old mother writes porn. We support her, we just don’t read it,” said the daughter demurely. The author graphically demonstrated without embarrassment how she works out scenarios with the help of Ken and two Barbie dolls. The film discretely obliterated the details with a screen fuzz. “I don’t wish to know that,” I thought.
The video cut to a warehouse in Ohio stacked with 5,000 titles by 800 authors, with sales of 200,000 books of this genre a month. Imagine needing a fork lift truck to move your books.
“Is he serious?” responded my friend with disgust, when I shared this amusing email. I replied, “He doesn’t see why somebody else’s 76 year old mother should be striking it rich while his own Mom starves in a detached bungalow in Virginia with all mod cons. Who would blame him for putting her to work? He knows that any wealth she might create would trickle down with pleasure.”
I’m a woman with an open mind. I considered whether I could prostrate my talents to write a blockbuster that would enrich the family. While I’m not averse to the idea, I just can’t do what she does. Not even for a million dollars. Her subject matter makes me queasy, despite unmitigated admiration for her energy and enterprise.
The thing is, my sexual fantasies are subtle and slow-burning. I enjoy the gaze held a moment too long, the slow smile of intimacy, the tender touch of one finger on a cheek, the knowledge that there is everything to come. Anticipation is as enjoyable as fulfillment. In films we frequently see couples arriving at their tryst with such an urge to commence, they are tearing their clothes off while undoing each other’s buttons the minute the door closes. They then commence to eat each other. I’m not convinced. In my book sexual attraction has little to do with getting your togs off so fast, you trip over your trousers. That sense of urgency is more akin to the need to find a bathroom when you have diarrhea: a total turn-off. And I would have to include some jokes.
Who hasn’t suffered agonies of longing, engaged desire by eye contact across a crowded room? Who hasn’t worn a treasured billet doux threadbare by re-reading? Who doesn’t find warmth, hugs, stroking, melting, more inviting than a quick strip? When the blue touch paper is duly lighted one rockets into space, but fasten your seat belt first.
“Imagine,” I said to my friend, “writing a blockbuster that is translated and sold in thirty something countries, sells by the million, makes you rich and you can’t talk about it because you are hiding behind your pseudonym.” We paused for thought. I read Fifty Shades of Grey because it’s a topic of zeitgeist, thought it somewhat entertaining and admired the enterprise of E.L. James. I found it a bit repetitive towards the end but 70 million people bought it and it’s the fastest selling paperback of all time: faster than Harry Potter.
“If you see me driving a new car you’ll know I hit the jackpot,” I went on, “but don’t hold your breath.” At the very least I’d want to buy lunch for friends in restaurants instead of dividing the bill; buy more expensive wine and better presents. And I’d turn up the central heating a few degrees if money was no object. Even put my grandson through college.
I wonder if Head Games, the psychological novel I’ve had on the stocks and ignored for a couple of years, resulting from a dream about three women living with one man, having distinctive complimentary roles and sexual dynamics, living in affluence, fully engaged in society, object of their friends’ envy and admiration for eschewing the predictable lifestyle more familiar to most of us … might work as an erotic treat for the thinking man or woman. In the film version the hero might be played by Jude Law or Colin Firth.
Would you buy it?