Reading Judy Blume: A Treasury of Awkward Moments

No one writes early-life humiliation better than Judy Blume, whose birthday we celebrate today. From periods and sexual fumbling to bathroom emergencies, masturbation, and awkwardly timed erections, from bullying to “the first time,” she covers it all, unashamedly. And she often gives us an education before anyone else does. In our abstinence-only era, her books are so gorgeously accurate and honest that it’s not a bad education to get. … Read More

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The 50 Greatest Poems About Sex

It would be unwise, unfair, and impossible to list the sexiest poems in the Western tradition. Sex, you don’t need me to tell you, is variable, personal, and subjective. “Greatness is, too,” you might add. Maybe it is. But there is something about the poetry on this list that transcends the merely “good.” These poems, which span from antiquity to today, are great poems. There is something egalitarian, too, about this selection, which more or less chose itself. Sex as a poetic subject has a way of equalizing discourse by way of its… Read More

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25 Painfully Unrequited Love Stories From Literature

Great unrequited and unconsummated love affairs in literature act so powerfully on readers that we think we can change the story’s ending. Some of us will devour a book over and over again, knowing that two characters with great romantic chemistry won’t — and maybe shouldn’t — end up together but wishing against all reason that they will. Each time, we hope that the page might turn, and this time instead of a missed moment or a gaze or a goodbye, we will happen upon a kiss, or a reconciliation. … Read More

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Will Europe Collapse? 10 Books on the Crisis in the Eurozone

The situation in Europe is bleak, whether or not we acknowledge it from the armchair of culture. Years of austerity economics — policies that resemble our own — have led to widespread disenfranchisement, xenophobic fanaticism, and the current crisis in Greece, all of which shine a light on the cracks in European culture. Still, the recent election in Greece of Syriza — a left-wing, anti-austerity party — has forced Europe’s hand. Will the response be an acceleration of austerity politics (as usual) or serious political change? … Read More

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1-Star Amazon Reviews of Classic Erotic Fiction

If you only know one thing about Fifty Shades of Grey — well, one thing besides that it’s a wildly popular BDSM novel with a film adaptation due out Friday — it’s probably that E.L. James’ bestseller isn’t very good. Critics, when they deign to consider its literary merits, haven’t been kind; a few years ago, it even became a common pastime for journalists and talk-show hosts to make celebrities read its notoriously awkward sex scenes aloud. … Read More

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Can the Word ‘Slut’ Be Reclaimed?

In a recent interview with Racked, Karley Sciortino, the blogger behind Slutever and’s “Breathless” sex and relationships columnist — the closest thing we have to Sex and the City‘s Carrie Bradshaw IRL — explained that the word “slut” is something she’s trying to reclaim. “I like the idea of saying the word ‘slut’,” she said. “I recently tweeted that I’m redefining slut now to mean a sexually successful female… We need more slutty role models.” For Sciortino, we live in a sex-negative society, and her use of the word slut, in her blog and in her sex writing, is an attempt to take away all the silly, society-based shame around sexuality. … Read More

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Christian Values vs. Christian Grey: Behind the Anti-Porn ‘Fifty Shades’ Backlash

A healthy sex-positive feminist debate has swirled around Fifty Shades of Grey in the years between the book and the movie. Harmless fantasy or trove of harmful tropes? Escape from capitalist patriarchy or reinforcer of the same, or both at once? Porn-world equalizer, poorly executed representation of the intricacies of the BDSM community, or fluffy mainstream crap? But beyond the world of “problematic” “tropes,” there’s more than one serious moral campaign gunning for both the book and film. In fact, the most intense backlash against the upcoming film comes from people who disapprove of it simply because it depicts sex, of the BDSM and premarital… Read More

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Jamie Dornan and Jimmy Fallon Save/Butcher ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ with Assorted Accents

Continuing our extensive and critical coverage of Fifty Shades of Grey and all things related, it seems only fitting to… Read More

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Literature as Religion: Alejandro Zambra’s ‘My Documents’

A few weeks ago, I changed a setting on my notation app. It now allows me to save all of my notes to a journal file, a long scroll of text that records each stray thought I enter into any device. This master file, I’ve been thinking lately, has become the document of my life, my soul, if you will. It’s a shitty version of a soul to have, but, along with what I write here and elsewhere, it’s also the best approximation of my self. And at least I can track and change it voluntarily.

“My father was a computer, my mother a typewriter,” Alejandro Zambra writes in My Documents, “I was a blank page, and now I am a book.” … Read More

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