Story of O

Written by Pauline Réage

Peel: A fictional novel following the female protagonist in her submission to her lover.

Throughout the novel, O’s consent is asked for, though there are situations of potentially dubious consent featuring other characters. The reader sees O blindfolded, whipped, chained, pierced, branded, masked, and trained to always be available for any type of intercourse with anyone approved by her lover. Additionally, the reader sees O proudly showing off her welts, branding, and piercings to her female lover.

Trained at the chateau of Roissy by a group of upper-class men, O did not know what her lover had or had not done when she was whipped and taken as was frequently blindfolded or partnered with men wearing masks. At the end of this training, her lover gives her to a more dominant master: Sir Stephen. Her lover claims that it is very important for O to learn how to serve someone she does not love, and who does not love her. However, as the training progresses, O falls in love with Sir Stephen, and she is under the impression that he loves her as well. O chooses to remain with Sir Stephen instead of her lover, and is branded and pierced with his initials and crest.

There has been some feminist backlash against this novel. Dworkin, for example, argues that having the protagonist’s name shortened to O represents her being zero, empty, and nothing more than an orifice. It has also been argued that the novel is just about the ultimate objectification of the female, and that it glorifies the abuse of women.

In this light, the character of O does delineate being submissive as a person from being submissive in a sexual context. We do, however briefly, see her life in the outside world as a successful photographer. Furthermore, I think it is useful to keep in mind that Réage wrote this as a series of fantasy letters to her lover, a de Sade fan.

I would not recommend this to anyone uncomfortable with mixing pain and pleasure; otherwise, it’s an interesting fantasy.

Nibble: “And yet all she was aiming for was to make the silks, the furs, and the laces more beautiful by that sudden beauty of an elfin creature surprised by her reflection in the mirror, which Jacqueline became in the simplest blouse, as she did in the most elegant mink.”

Rating: 7 out of 10 rouged red apples

I borrowed a paper copy from the CSPH library; cross-posted on their website here.

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Athos in America

Written and drawn by Jason

Peel: A graphic novel composed of six short stories.

This was a lovely collection. The stories all had different characters, but had similar tones and ideas, which made for a cohesive collection. This collection was on the angrier side of things. As usual, Jason did an amazing job at conveying lots of emotion through simple anthropomorphic drawings.

I found all of the stories, except the title story, to be very strong and rather intense. One story has amusing scene of Jason doing a reading, quoting passages from one of his excellent mostly silent books- Hey, Wait…. Another story, Athos in America, didn’t come off as very strong to me, however it was supposed to be a prequel to another of his books “The Last Musketeer”, which I have yet to read. As a note this is one of Jason’s wordier pieces, which may not be to some fans’ taste.

I would recommend this to anyone who has really enjoyed Jason’s previous work or wants an introduction to graphic novels.

Nibble: “Go out and get me a body! Someone young this time…not some old wreck!”

My Rating: 9 out of 10 flat flavorful apples

Jason’s Blog

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The Imperfectionists

Written by Tom Rachman

Peel: A collection of overlapping vignettes focused on a failing newspaper.

Each chapter is from a different character’s point of view, and inserted between chapters is the italicized history of the paper. The book reads much more like a collection of stories than a novel. Though the characters appear rather different at first glance, they’re all alienated, cliches, and a bit dysfunctional. All the women characters are irredeemable with some form of neurosis, self-esteem issues, and/or a need for men. The prose itself wasn’t that great, and worsens as the novel continues. There are some amusing moments and lovely scenery, but the chapter titles/headlines tended to oversell the chapters.

The book is focused on people struggling with themselves, rather than the paper struggling to exist in an internet age. The brief bits of the paper’s history were rather dull.

Nibble: “This wins a ringing endorsement and a fast-dying chuckle- they don’t like to laugh at each other’s jokes.”

I would recommend this to someone as a quick and light read.

My Rating: 4 out of 10 incomplete apples

Tom Rachman’s Site

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