Red Wheelbarrow Writers Book Club….May
The Red Wheelbarrow Book Club combines the pleasures of wine with popcorn. We don’t all read the same book. We come together to alert one another about many books, the insights and epiphanies they offer from writerly perspectives. Each month we collectively choose a genre or topic. For May, for spring, we chose the notion of Sex, Fertility, Renewal. The Red Wheelbarrow Writers never wear literary corsets. Possibilities abound.
We might begin with some classics. Bob suggested John Cleland’s 18th century unputdownable naughty volume, MEMOIRS OF A WOMAN OF PLEASURE titillating readers now for some two hundred plus years. To the classics I added D. H. Lawrence, not simply the banned LADY CHATTERLEY’S LOVER, but some of his lesser known work, THE RAINBOW (which was also banned in England when it came out c. 1915) and its sequel, the aptly named WOMEN IN LOVE, and THE WOMAN WHO RODE AWAY. Lawrence is always convolute and hyperventilating about sex. Lisa cited a more contemporary author, Augustin Burroughs’ LUST AND WONDER about his love-life partners.
The notion of Renewal brought unique titles. When Bob thinks of renewal, he thinks of nature and suggested WILDERNESS IN THE NATIONAL PARKS by Roderick Fraser Nash. Jean brought a novel, Karen Fishers’s A SUDDEN COUNTRY, a story of the frontier, the Oregon trail, based on the diaries of Fisher’s ancestors. Jean also brought an anthology of poems by Latina American women writers, a book that always refreshed her spirit.
Renewal can take place in the imagination as well as the body. For Susan, renewal takes place in the kitchen, or, more correctly, the pages of cookbooks. She shared some luscious examples, books visually gorgeous, appetite-stimulating, FRIEDA’S FIESTA, recipes and art by Frieda Kahlo,
DINING With THE IMPRESSIONISTS, a book that again combines art and food, pictures, recipes, and a book with the witty title, INTERCOURSES, a Sex cookbook by Martha Hopkins Randall Lockwood, guarantee to spice up your sex life. To these titles I might add MONET’S COOKBOOK, the recipes are interesting, the writing is pretty commonplace, but the pictures are so beautiful one feels like one has been to what must be the most refreshing and memorable garden in the world.
To this lively discussion we added the work of Walt Whitman who, it seems to me, writes in every poem, every page about sex, fertility and renewal. And of course the unabashedly erotic diaries of Anais Nin and her lover and compatriot, Henry Miller, his TROPIC OF CANCER that was smuggled out of France (where it was not banned) into countries like ours where it was banned. (And I can attest that in a different era it was also smuggled in and out of dorm rooms.)
Jes’s suggestions cited Noir anthologies like NOIR TRINIDAD, NOIR MIAMI, anthologies of writing about the steamy underbelly of various places, good for readers who like danger on the page, and THE DEADLY SPACE BETWEEN by Patricia Duncker about a family, weird sex and lots of erotic writing. Jes’s especial comments were reserved for a book by Elizabeth Engstrom, LIZARD WINE. This innocent looking volume had a rather plain cover, but it told a horrifying tale of a couple of college girls who tangle with drifters. “Absolutely,” said Jes, “you do not want to be reading this book before you go to sleep.”
Which, after more discussion, more wine, more popcorn, brought us to our June topic: The Books You Don’t Want To Read Before You Go To Sleep. For Whatever Reason.