Look inside, I dare you.
This yummy collection of pataphysical inventions by Derek Pell and Doug Skinner has just hit the shelves. It even features some collage illustrations by yours truly. (Apparently they didn’t have room for my name on the cover, but we’ll let that pass.) Look closely and you’ll see the book has an Afterword by the great French humorist Alphonse Allais. That alone should send you off to Zon to buy a copy.
CLICK HERE for some serious fun.
Don’t Touch by Anne-Gabriel Meusnier de Querlon is a fun, lively, first-ever English translation of an 18th century French libertine novella with a narrative technique that drops the soutanes, lifts the wimples, and pushes the boundaries of the novel – 150 years ahead of its time. Erotic, sacrilegious, funny and infectious, it is the “amorous true story,” as told by herself, Saint Nitouche, a Carmelite Extern Nun, whose “taste for pleasure and vocation for retreat” bump up against each other in surprisingly modern and eternally scandalous ways in the convent and in the bawdy house. Still scandalous today – if you’re easily scandalized, don’t read this book! – it is like Thérèse Finds Happiness, but without the philosophy.
This is the first volume in the Pocket Erotica series – collectible, compact (4×6-inch) paperbacks from New urge Editions. CLICK HERE to order your copy on Amazon.
I first encountered Thérèse the Philosopher many years ago in a used bookshop in San Francisco. I discovered a long out-of-print hardcover copy (“second printing”) published by Grove Press in 1970. The translation was by “H. F. Smith,” although the name does not appear on the front cover—conceivably a pseudonym for Grove’s legendary editor Richard Seaver who was rumored to have translated several controversial French novels for the avant-garde publisher.
Admittedly, in my 20’s, the 18th century held little historical interest for me, it was the sexual episodes that beckoned. The graphic sex acts also explain the book’s popularity in France in 1748, as the novel was the equivalent of a New York Times bestseller during the “Age of Enlightenment.” Upon its publication, Thérèse was of course banned for its libertine amorality and copies were ordered destroyed. And surely the story’s humorous approach must have pissed off the censors as well. (Author Jean-Baptiste de Boyer, Marquis d’Argens had previously authored several satirical, non-pornographic works).
With the Grove edition in mind, this spring I decided a modern translation was called for — one which emphasized the tale’s humor and made the text more “user-friendly.” New Urge Editions commissioned the talents of Richard Robinson, who has produced the translation we’d dreamed of. We retitled the book Thérèse Finds Happiness and designed a cover** to better capture the novel’s innate charm. Indeed, even the notorious Marquis de Sade described the original novel as “…a charming performance…”
A month of blood, sweat, and tears went into the book’s interior design and we think it captures the flavor of the period without impersonating it. Note that the title page (shown here at left) states “Printed in the Hague.” To confuse the censors, early editions were undated and featured mock foreign imprints such as “The Hague” and “Londres.” Publishers and printers back then were quite witty, unlike the somber, self-important snobs on the scene today.
I’m proud to say Thérèse Finds Happiness stands as our favorite classical work of erotic literature, and one I trust readers and collectors will enjoy.
** featuring a detail from“The Swing” by the great Thomas Rowlandson
OK, it wasn’t ten years, but it sure feels like ten years. I had to pester and prod 40+ contributors and — despite having flunked math — that’s a lot of people. Then, of course, I had to try and cram in all human knowledge into 116 pages — no easy task, take my word for it. Not to mention a boatload of illustrations. All this material was piled sky-high on my desk and i had to sort through it all and ALPHABETIZE the entries! Imagine what a chore that was. But that was just the beginning…the goddamn thing had to be placed in the layout and made to look like it all made sense — had an inherent structure, justified typography, and cross references — even freaking footnotes!!
It should all have been proofread, too, but I didn’t have the time for that, thank you very much.
If anybody asks if you’d like to edit an encyclopedia…tell them to go to hell.
Oh, but don’t get me wrong…this is a book you’ll surely want to own and give as a gift. Heck, what better gift than the gift of knowledge, right?
You can order the book as we speak at this LINK … tell ’em Norman sent you.
On second thought, tell them Diderot. (Look him up.)
After several delays my new collection THREE PLUS THREE MAKES SEVEN was published last week by Blazing Chapbooks in Paris.
My dear friend Alain Arias-Misson was on hand for a small launch party at the publisher’s home office at 75 Rue Saint Honoré. Alain was accompanied by the lovely writer Karen Moller and their good friend, the Oulipian wizard, Marcel Bénabou. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Alain and Marcel are at work on an oulipian interview which will appear in a future issue of Le Scat Noir)
UPDATE: “…I really feel constrained to say that my esteemed and notorious author-friend is as usual overly modest – it was most certainly not a small launch! Yes, the offices are quite small, so that not every member of the literary Parisian glitterati who wanted to get in – could. Norman Conquest has become something of a byword if not a shibboleth! in Anglo-French intellectual circles and I was daunted at having to say a few brief laudatory words, as much was expected! Well, in the end, all I can say is Bravo! and when is the American lit-establishment going to learn from Paris – as it did in the past with Joyce, Miller, Eliot, Hemingway and so many others.” — Alain Arias-Misson, Paris
I have yet to receive my author’s copies, but I hear it’s quite lovely. It has some nice illustrations by Stephan Evrard; a drawing by the late Georges Perec; and a preface by Derek Pell which, according to my editor Jason Steinholt, contains sufficient praise for a blurb or two. Speaking of blurbs, the publisher has sent a complimentary copy to Betsy DeVos (if that’s her real name)—admittedly it’s a long shot, but it would certainly be helpful to have the backing of the U.S. Secretary of Education. So, fingers crossed.
At the mention of Paris, I’m sure there’s panic among my followers, but don’t sweat it, the chapbook is in English. In fact, there’s only one sentence in French and if you can’t read it, so what? You’re not missing anything.
I can’t say much more about the book because I haven’t read it. Writing and reading are separate activities. Anyhow, the less said the better is my motto. Besides, it’s always wise to leave something to the imagination, assuming you have one, and since you’re reading this blog post it’s unlikely.
I will, however, give you a hint: the book is not about hats, mutants, marmosets, dwarves, ex-wives, Catholicism, meth labs, smartphones, or Donald Trump. Hmm, that rules out nearly everything except maths. Oh well, you’ll just have to take your chances .
IF YOU’RE IN FRANCE, PLEASE ORDER HERE