Monday, October 29, 2007

Naked Came the Stranger

In the on-going escapade of reading erotic novels for a forth-coming book, I recently finished Naked Came the Stranger by "Penelope Ashe". Now, everyone knows for sure that "Penelope Ashe" was a journalist called Mike McGrady and a bunch of his colleagues and that the book was written as a prank to prove that anything will be published if there's enough sex. The result: the book was on the best seller list for quite a while and became one of the best-selling books of 1969 when it first appeared. You can read a lot about the whole case here.

Now, the book is at best uneven and not very erotic by today's standards, but it's also not as bad as some make it sound. Sure, it's dated and even today's YA novels have more straightforward sex, but at times it's almost funny. But were it not for the scam McGrady and his friends pulled off, no one would remember the book and it wouldn't most certainly being in our book as one of the classics of erotica.

The most interesting thing here, cultural-historically wise, is that it's been said that the book broke boundaries between pulpy sex paperback and hardback mainstream novels. From 1969 on, the sex paperbacks concentrated more on sex (and later on, on hardcore porn) and mainstream novels could have more sex in them without anyone being embarrassed (or jailed, as had happened to many sex publishers and writers in the fifties and sixties). There was also The Sensuous Woman, by "J", that was published almost at the same time. It's intriguing to note, though, that Naked Came the Stranger isn't very liberal in its depiction of sex: all the men who are willing to cheat on their wives either get killed, shoot themselves or go crazy. It's like the eighties' teen slasher movies: have sex and die.

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