Wednesday, August 27, 2008

let's talk about sex

Recently, I got my deposit check back from my last apartment (only two months after moving out!), so I decided to use the extra money to buy myself (gasp) a new book. The book I chose was one I'd seen at Women and Children First and been intrigued by. Also, I very much doubted I'd ever find it at my trusty public library.
Fucking Daphne: Mostly true stories and fictions is a collection of short stories and essays edited by Daphne Gottlieb, a poet and writer from San Francisco. Each story involves its author having sex (literally or occasionally more figuratively) with Daphne. The backstory is that Gottlieb started finding herself in her friend's stories and began wondering what impact her sexually explicit fictional self had on her real self and what that meant all around.
It's an interesting idea, not to mention a good conversation starter sitting right there on my bookshelf, and I was not entirely disappointed. The collection starts slow, with a number of stories that seemed to feature meeting Daphne in high school and having sex (not described) and then pining after her for a long time. (I was not enamored with that particular story line, which came up multiple times.) There was also a genre of story that featured Daphne having very dirty, very explicit sex with the person involved, which I certainly didn't complain about but seemed more like straight-up (so to speak) erotica than something more subversive than that. Then was a large genre that involved Daphne being a huge drug addict, which kind of weirded me out. Is she in real life, or was she upset by how many of the stories showed her that way? I was also a little disappointed with the arrangement of stories, as it seemed like they were in fact loosely grouped by genre, which just wasn't that interesting. Id rather have the different genres dispersed, rather than having to read a bunch of high-school-Daphne or drugged-out-Daphne stories in a row.
But there were a few gems, stories that really did something, made me think about it somewhat differently. For instance, The Subject was Sex by Delphine Gothleab (who maybe is Daphne? I wasn't sure) featured text from online erotic stories with all of the names and pronouns crossed out and replaced with "she" and "Daphne," placed side-by-side on the page with text about masturbation addiction re-written to be about art. (Sounds complicated, but it was cool.) There was a story told from the perspective of Daphne's cat (they did NOT have sex, thank god), one about becoming Daphne's literal doppleganger, and a hysterical story in the form of a letter to the author's girlfriend about how he didn't have sex with Daphne (sample: "I'm getting away from the point, but I want to illustrate that we were totally fucked up. We did go back to Daphne's place to chill out, but nothing happened."). There were some better-than average sex scenes. But my favorite story was definitely Dancing for Daphne by Sarah Katherine Lewis. This story involved Daphne showing up at the crappy strip club where the author works and asking for a lap dance. Which sounds silly and porn-like, but ended up being this really gritty look at working in low-level strip clubs. It made me more uncomfortable than anything else I read, and I also thought it was one of the more interesting Daphne portrayals.
Because that was interesting too. I don't know Daphne Gottlieb, but I guess now I know a little more about how people think about her in terms of sex and general presence. The Daphne characters were almost never illuminated except for their sexual activity (or at least not very much). From the stories I read, I'd say that Daphne is intimidating (people made much of the fact that she's six feet tall with dreads, lots of tattoos and crazily dressed), sexually aggressive, and a sometimes sympathetic person. But what else? The stories were all written by friends of hers, so I would think that they would try to give somewhat realistic accounts, but a story and a person are necessarily different. I felt almost like the Daphne from the book was like a shadow of the real Daphne, with the vague outlines filled in but a lot of personal details left out. It was interesting to read so many different stories about the same person, to get that composite Daphne but still understand clearly that she was a fictional character.
Anyway, I feel like I should have something smarter to say right now, but it's not coming to me. Ah well. Worth reading.

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