The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life

Kisses are like confidences: they attract each other, they accelerate each other, they excite each other.
—Vivant Denon, No Tomorrow (11)

The Kiss, marble, 1888-89, detail

 Rodin’s The Kiss, marble, 1888-89, detail

Naturally I had to read it. After reading the essay, I thought I might just let it rest with the Kundera (follow link to have a clue as to what I am blathering on about). But once I read Slowness I knew that everything in my fast growing-finished-with-the-semester!!-reading-queue was going to receive yet another bump down. And of course I read everything out of any sort of proper order (insofar as a deep comprehension of the original essay, ‘”Are You There Yet?”: Libertinage and the Semantics of the Orgasm,” was concerned) but that’s okay: no regrets.

A woman’s imagination moves quickly, and at this moment Mme de T—’s imagination was singularly inspired (5)

The book, maybe perhaps probably written by Vivant Denon is a lovely little dream. And that is all it is meant to be. That is the point. A point which finds its glory and meaning in its very pointlessness.

The libertine novel is a curious pre-Victorian era phenomenon (when people could talk about sex without implicating themselves in the discourse of repression that Foucault famously cited) but this novel has a different tone from others that I have read such as Les Liaisons Dangerous or Les Bijoux Indiscrets  which have a distinct cynicism attached to their themes. Denon’s story is a paean to pleasure in all its fleeting splendor.

There’s an ethics to the erotic encounter properly understood and managed. Yet to think that such a lesson has any currency in our society makes the assumption that we still feel some mysterium tremendum in sex, that it is something for the private pavilion and the cushioned grotto. Is that still the case? (from the introduction, Peter Brookes, xxv)

I can not say, but we can each of us try to live according to the spirit of simple pleasures for pleasure’s sake. And at any rate, it is a fun read and makes the memory of Kundra’s novel Slowness that much more pressing on my soul. It is the commitment and the hope of writers like Devon and Kundera to love and to passion through relationships with others that I admire and in which I find consolation.

I stepped into the carriage awaiting me. I looked hard for the moral of this whole adventure…and found none (32).

*Title taken from dedication: 2 Corinthians 3:6

**translation from the French by Lydia Davis



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