Tuesday, August 24, 2004


When I started this blog, I'd intended to regularly report on strange books I either owned or found in the library. As with many of my other ambitions for the blog, so far this idea has fallen victim to lack of time and energy (mostly the latter, to be honest). At any rate, here's one.

Sense and Sensuality is a novel by Roger Bowdler. Originally published in England in 1971, my copy is a 1973 paperback from Dell, which tried its best to make it look like a dirty book (in fact, I found it in the "erotica" section of a used bookstore). It's not, though there are a couple of brief, unerotic sex scenes. What it is is a comic novel about a male transvestite who dreams of becoming a wealthy courtesan, and a heterosexual male writer and small-time pornographer who falls in love with him. It's well-written and funny, in a very dry, British way. Here's a sample:

"They sat there in silence for a moment and then Willoughby said, 'I have been feeling depressed lately. I get these black moods which come and go all through the day.'
"'How old are you now?'
"'Ah, yes, that is a dangerous age. I used to be very depressed up to thirty two and then it stopped. I have been moderately happy since, except for my pains, which ravage my body daily, from my feet to my eyes. At the moment I have a stiff neck. It is some sort of neurasthenia. Funnily enough Queen Elizabeth I had the same sort of pains. But she had good reason for them, as her father executed her mother when she was a girl. But we mustn't talk about me.'" (147-48)

The book's last eighty pages, which aim at satire, are less good.

Though Bowdler has written several other novels in addition to this one, none of them are to be found in my university library--one of the largest in the U.S.--nor in any of the other 50-odd college and university libraries in Illinois whose catalogs can be electronically searched from here.

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