Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille

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Hiiiiiii readers, interesting post for you today and I’m just going to throw in a trigger warning here right at the beginning. I tend to avoid books where I would need to say approach with caution but I couldn’t not review this because it may just be the most shocking book I have ever had the chance to read. In the book there are numerous quite distressing sexual scenes, there is a lot of human feces flowing and it’s a bit much – so be careful.

Before you ask; why the hell were you reading this – it was T’s fault. He’s one of these readers who likes to read the stuff that everyone talks about but not always for the best of reasons. Normally classic fiction (he’s currently reading A Clockwork Orange) he also has a thing for weird books. We were reading in the garden on a sunny afternoon. I was reading a thriller and I looked over and couldn’t ignore what I saw there; right then I decided to read it the next time I had some book free time. Here I am today reviewing for you The Story of the Eye. It might not be pretty, it might not be sane, but it’s here either way.

In 1928, Georges Bataille published this first novel under a pseudonym, a legendary shocker that uncovers the dark side of the erotic by means of forbidden obsessive fantasies of excess and sexual extremes. A classic of pornographic literature, Story of the Eye finds the parallels in Sade and Nietzsche and in the investigations of contemporary psychology; it also forecasts Bataille’s own theories of ecstasy, death and transgression which he developed in later work.

The best way to explain this book is that is has been obviously written to shock; it’s an unabashed collection of disturbing eroticism, sadism, insanity, surrealism and violence. This book is really a series of sexual encounters – over and over again we are given story after story full of surreal sexual violence and attack. The short read simply revolves around a male’s desire and fascination with a friend Simone and a young girl names Marcelle. The three flirt and indulge in truly shocking games; in one particularly shocking episode Marcelle reacts terribly, coming out of her coquettish nature and loses her mind. Insitutionalised Simone and our male character break her out of said asylum. From here I think Bataille loses it and the plot loses control. I’m not going to say any more because it’s too difficult to write about and my mother reads my blog so I’m not going to go into too much detail but there’s a lot of unconstrained, very pornographic sex. 

I was a little repulsed by this book; the amount of urine that is passed during the sexual encounters was not only difficult to read about but was terribly misogynistic. It’s animalistic, and Simone has a penchant for eggs; there are a good few pages where Simone throws said eggs into the toilet and there her obsession grows to an obscene amount. The final scene is an aggressive orgy event; here we see the three kill a man and use his dead body as part of the proceedings. So yes, that’s a thing.

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Did I enjoy this? No? Am I glad I’ve read it, yes? (is that a weird thing to say?) I’ve never read something quite so out there and aggressive in nature. I’m not sure why it’s been written other than the author to say – right I’m just going write whatever the hell I want and see what people say about it. This is not necessarily a bad thing but there’s just no more too it really; it feels as like what is the worst thing I could put down on paper? The writing swells and fades but at times it takes a nature that is so truly warped it’s a little difficult to truly understand what is happening however that may be me and my difficulty to read what I was supposed to be reading. The characters aren’t fully formed – probably because that’s not the point on the book ie a story but it does create an even more surreal feel to the book as a whole.

Overall, I am very glad I’ve read this despite its truly shocking nature just for the sheer fact I have never and am unlikely to read anything like it ever again. Would I recommend it, no I’m not going to quite do that, but if any of my darling readers have read this let me know what you thought in le comments. That would be rather lovely.


The Post Office by Charles Bukowski

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Good morning readers, another ‘classic’ book for you today. I wasn’t planning to read this, but due to moving house I’ve had to move libraries. So taking all my beloved books back including F (a novel) which I haven’t yet finished, me and T wandered to the new library in Hanley and we both forgot it was a Sunday. So, I had to borrow one off T. It turns out that this and Factotum are rather similar. However, if you’re yet to read Bukowski then this might persuade you to get hold of a copy.

Henry Chinaski is a lowlife loser with a hand-to-mouth existence. His menial post office day job supports a life of beer, one-night stands and racetracks. Lurid, uncompromising and hilarious, Post Office is a landmark in American literature, and over 1 million copies have been sold worldwide. This book is the story of Henry Chinaski’s world. Its deep and compelling individuality is a refreshing change from conventional literary works.


I first want to comment on Bukowski’s acknowledgements at the front of the book; ‘this is presented as a work of fiction and dedicated to nobody.’ This basically sums up the entirety of Bukowski’s work. It’s brutal, honest, raw and unmaterialistic. The book follows Henry Chinaski who works in the Post Office. The character who is Bukowski’s alter ego in many of the book is an alcoholic who strives to stay alive and stay drunk. Following both his personal and ‘professional’ life we see Bukowski treat women as like they are only for sex, work paying Bukowski to do as little as possible and us readers are treated with as much contempt as the characters in the rest of the tale.

What sets this apart and what makes it so much like Factotum is that it tells the tale of a man who is in touch with the most basic of urges. Sex, money, friendship, horse racing, and getting pissed is the crux of the book whilst Chinaski comes across as a man who knows the world and is cleverer than most but his inability to compromise with society as a whole means he will never move forward in his life. He refuses to buy into social morality, and instead is a man who barely survives.

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The prose is easy to read and flows along. It is sarcastic and cynical but there is something loveable there despite Chinaski’s apparent want to alienate the reader at every turn. *Trigger.*

 There was a part  that was a little distressing; Henry rapes a woman and yet Bukowski by the end of the short scene made it sound as if she enjoyed it. It felt a little stressful and unneeded but you get the feeling Bukowski writes whatever he wants whichever want he wants. Chinaski as a character is not a nice man and many of the things he says and does are disgusting and repugnant. But there is something truly fascinating about the life that he leads.

In terms of its seeming similarity to Factotum, it revolves around the same ideology of sex, alcohol, racing, and working as little and as badly as possible. It is both cynical, written in the same style and a number of scenes turn up in both books. Once again this could be Bukowski just playing with being an author but it felt a bit repetitive. T was about to buy Factotum but I’m not sure it’s worth reading both. For me anyway.

There is a lot of beauty in this book, but it is a cynical type of beauty. I enjoyed it as much as I did Factotum but I don’t feel I learnt anything from it. An author definitely worth a read, but maybe not a second.




The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

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Do you ever go onto Amazon to have a look at what people thought of a book you recently read and find that everyone hated it? Yep, odd feeling isn’t it. I’ve had a look through the comments and reviews and they tend to agree with what I thought of the book but I just thought it didn’t make the book less enjoyable? It’s an interesting read and one I will try and review objectively.

Six people – five women and a man – meet once a month in California’s Central Valley to discuss Jane Austen’s novels. They are ordinary people, neither happy nor unhappy, but each of them is wounded in different ways, they are all mixed up about their lives and relationships. Over the six months they meet, marriages are tested, affairs begin, unsuitable arrangements become suitable – under the guiding eye of Jane Austen a couple of them even fall in love…

As the blurb suggests the book follows the six characters as they meet at the book club to discuss the book of the month; Jocelyn, Sylvia, Bernadette, Allegra, Prudie and Grigg. Each of them has personal relationships, stresses, career worries and life doubts which they are hiding behind closed doors. We read along as they struggle to deal with their personal lives whilst also discussing their favourite Austen books. I wonderfully bookish tale.

I thought this book was really special, I’ve always wanted to be a part of a book club and reading their discussions about the books whilst mixing in their personal lives was a really interesting read. Each is introduced and described well and they each have their own personal quirks. Joycelyn is the stereotypical matchmaker who can’t seem to find the right man for her. Bernadette is a little older and wiser preferring to have a little laugh in her life. Griff is a bachelor who has a penchant for science fiction and he grates against the women as the book continues. Sylvia’s marriage has recently hit the rocks and needs a bit of patching up and then there’s Allegra. Feisty and exciting she’s the total opposite of the final member Prudie. A high school French teacher but is a sweet and loving character.

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In terms of developemt they are very well built up. With so many characters it could get messy but they are all developed to a point where you really felt for them. I thought the way she contrasted the teenage friendships with Prudie’s relationships help to add contrast between the ages of character. The description is strong and well written helping to take the reader to this new location. I thought the idea that each of the characters discusses their favourite Austen novel helped to show something else about the characters and their personalities. It allowed for an interesting read. Additionally moving between the snatches of the book club and then back to the personal lives helped to highlight the ways the book club was helping and then hindering the characters.

The main wobble of the book which didn’t really worry me but I know was a bit of a sticking point for others is that Fowler states at the beginning of the novel that ‘Each of us has a private Austen,’ and the book is written as like an Austen novel. The book is sold on being as like Austen’s writing; quaint and old fashioned and this just isn’t. It’s a little cynical, at times rude and it’s intelligent but it’s also not quite the pretty little book you might expect when reading something that is supposed to be ‘Austen.’ There are sex scenes and it does get a little risqué but I enjoyed it, but again Austen it ain’t.

Overall I really enjoyed this book and although many have complained about the lack of Austen links and the writing of the book I felt that the writing was strong. I think the links to Austen could have been stronger or it shouldn’t have been marketed in that way but a lovely little read, something easy, sweet and a lovely little tale.




The Bell Jar: Sylvia Plath

Happy weekend readers, I’m currently snuggled up in bed watching Hell’s Kitchen and penning you this review which is an odd but quite productive mix, if I suddenly start writing in capitals you’ll know that Gordan Ramsey is throwing people out of the kitchen. Saying that I’m sure it won’t  come to that. Today’s book review is another classic, although ultimately a modern classic and one I’ve been getting around to reading for a little while now. I haven’t really spoken about my TBR list but I don’t actually keep one because it terrifies me how long it would be, however I have one that sits snugly in the back of my mind of books I think I should read and this one has been on it for years. Finally I have got round to it. It’s taken a little while to decide my final thoughts but today I bring you my review of the beautiful and haunting ‘The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.’

I was supposed to be having the time of my life.

When Esther Greenwood wins an internship on a New York fashion magazine in 1953, she is elated, believing she will finally realise her dream to become a writer. But in between the cocktail parties and piles of manuscripts, Esther’s life begins to slide out of control. She finds herself spiralling into serious depression as she grapples with difficult relationships and a society which refuses to take her aspirations seriously. The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath’s only novel, was originally published in 1963 under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. The novel is partially based on Plath’s own life and descent into mental illness, and has become a modern classic.

I’m not sure how many of my readers will have read this rather wonderful book but I’ll script out a little bit of the plot. The story follows a year in the life of Esther Greenwood a plucky young lady who wins an internship to at a New York Fashion magazine. Despite the wild parties, exciting lifestyle and a bounty of friends Esther’s life starts to spiral out of control, first slowly and then suddenly almost all at once. A mixture of difficult relationships, the worry of losing her virginity and society refusing to taking her aspirations wholly seriously she spirals into a deep and serious depression. After failing to get onto a writing course with an author she ends up back at home with her parents who take her to psychiatrist, worried about her mental state. We follow as she battles with her depression, suicidal thoughts, and the inhumane shock therapy she is subjected to. A truly compelling tale.

So that’s a very crude description of the book and there is so much more to it but I’m hoping to pull you in with the review more than the description of the plot. Additionally before we dive into my thoughts I’ve done a little researching on the book and this was originally published under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas back in 1963. Some say the book is mainly autobiographical some state it was partially based. I’m reviewing this as much as I can on the book and the book alone.

I guess what stands out the most about Plath’s novel is how committed it is to telling a truly honest tale about experiencing a mental illness and Esther’s truly difficult battle with depression. It doesn’t feel over emphasised or skewed to make it more dramatic. Instead, we are told a truly upsetting but wholesome tale of ‘The Bell Jar.’ See, as Esther considers her life she describes her illness as to be trapped inside a bell jar. Alienated from the world Esther battles with the feeling of isolation, which leaves her unable to function on a human level (at one point she refuses even to shower.) The novel doesn’t give any easy quick fixes and throughout Esther discusses her belief that she may never be cured but will be something that needs controlling by her for the rest of her life.

One of the things I really enjoyed, were the contrasts between both the different parts of the story, the first during her internship and the second where she struggles between different psychiatric units; both are beautifully written. The imagery of the girls she meets and befriends and their glitzy nights out and interesting daily lives are brought to life before the reader’s eyes but there is always that feeling of isolation and an inability to fit in. The writing is stylish, honest, raw and sometimes confusing. It moves at times randomly and without warning. Esther is such an interesting character as well, both honest, naïve, blunt and edgy her personality warps throughout making the events even more intriguing.

It’s very difficult to get everything into this review because there is so much to pack in. If you haven’t read it I would really recommend it because it is a stunning piece of writing. It’s a raw and honest portrayal of Plath’s decision to face her own demons and attempt to pull through. Devastatingly we know the heartbreaking truth of Plath’s battle but her novel and tale live on, there to be read by generations and generations to come.