rushthatspeaks: (bestest authorservice)
[personal profile] rushthatspeaks
Recommended by / lent to me by Thrud's father. I should have remembered maybe that the last book he lent me was Samuel R. Delany's Hogg*.


There is this short story by Joanna Russ called 'The Clichés from Outer Space', in which she gives an example of the Weird Ways Of Getting Pregnant plotline. Here is the beginning of that example:

"Eegh! Argh! Argh! Eegh!" cried Sheila Sue Hateman in uncontrollable ecstasy as the giant alien male orchid arched over her, pollinating her every orifice. She-- yes, she-- she, Sheila Sue Hateman, who had always been frigid, nasty, and unresponsive! She remembered how at parties she had avoided men who were attracted by her bee-stung, pouting, red mouth, long, honey-colored hair, luscious behind and proud, up-thrusting breasts (they were a nuisance, those breasts, they sometimes got so proud and thrust up so far that they knocked her in the chin. She always pushed them down again). How she hated and avoided men! ...But this was different.

I swear to God until I sat down with The Pollinators of Eden I didn't know she was talking about a specific book. That paragraph serves as a far, far better review than I am personally capable of; I can only bow to the master. Russ has even gotten the tone of the novel right. And the prose style.

EVERY SINGLE WORD OF THAT HAPPENS except her breasts hitting her in the chin, which only happens figuratively, in that her breasts are what the Senate Judiciary Committee chooses to find memorable about her.

Oh, and her name is actually Freda. Not that that matters.

The thing is... I didn't hate this book. At first, I was confused, in that way where nothing that was going on made any sense because it was all based on cultural assumptions that have vanished into the mists of the aether (publication date 1969, extrapolation of the fictional 2200s, heavily pun-based language centered around stuff that must have been current at publication date, might as well have been written in Indo-European except I have more theoretical background on that). Then I was incredulous, in that way where you see what a person is getting at but cannot quite believe that they mean it, because seriously.

THEN THERE WAS GIANT ORCHID TENTACLE PORN and after that I was just laughing too hard to find any of it anything other than delightful.

I would like to apologize in advance for lapsing randomly into capital letters for the rest of this review.

People. She gives birth to a seedpod. SHE GIVES BIRTH TO A SEEDPOD. While she's in the mental institution she's been clapped in for plant-related nymphomania. Her doctor hates her because she is AN UNWED MOTHER despite the fact that this is THE YEAR 2230-SOMETHING and CASUAL SEX IS TOTES ACCEPTABLE but THERE ARE LIMITS, and he is a total dick to her throughout her pregnancy, and then she gives birth TO THE SEEDPOD which HAS BLOND HAIR because her HUSBAND HAD SEX WITH THE FEMALE ORCHID AND THERE WAS CROSS-POLLINATION. And then after the delivery the doctor is all 'I am so sorry you gave birth to this whatever it is, should we burn it?' and she is all 'NO IT IS BEAUTIFUL I HEAR A HEARTBEAT WE MUST PLANT IT' and then he has a MYSTICAL CONVERSION BECAUSE OF THE DEPTHS OF HER MATERNAL LOVE and SEES HER AS THE DIVINE SPIRIT OF THE EARTH MOTHER and is consequently willing to break her out of the mental institution and send her back to the alien space orchids. After having sex with her a lot.

At this point I was laughing so hard my stomach hurt, and it had become obvious that about the last fifty pages of this book are one of the great stupid dénouements in the history of fiction, the kind of thing that elevates a book to legendary status, the kind of thing that made it entirely worth the previous hundred and fifty pages of administrative one-uppery, bureaucratic fuckery, homicidal ultrasonic space tulips (HOMICIDAL ULTRASONIC SPACE TULIPS which, I would like to point out, CALL HER THEIR MOTHER) and Freudianism. My affection for this book knows, I tell you, no bounds. I mean, after the thing with the space orchid, her husband, who has been standing there nodding approvingly the whole time (he's been seeing the female orchid for a while now) informs her that that was very pretty AND COMPARES HER TO LEDA AND THE SWAN. How can you not love that? I would say they should film this and show it every Christmas, but I think I saw that hentai once.

In conclusion: glorious beyond the wildest dreams of a reader who walked into it cold. I knew nothing about this going in except that Thrud's dad sent it and I didn't read the flap. At about page fifty I couldn't figure out why he had. At about page one hundred I was starting to wonder if I'd done something to offend him. As it turned out... I must write him a thank-you note. And see if he's aware of the Joanna Russ story.

* He wanted someone to discuss its philosophical themes with. If any of you have actually managed to finish reading it, he is still in need of someone for this purpose, and I can put you guys in touch; I understand that he is sad about not having anyone with whom he can talk about the book, but it is not merely a case of not my kink, it is a case of I find this kink actively boring to read about. In Thrud's dad's case, it is, and I guarantee this absolutely, a case of 'I didn't notice the kink because I was thinking about the metaphysics'.

Date: 2011-08-12 10:24 am (UTC)
doire: (Default)
From: [personal profile] doire
Oh my, I think I read that round about the time it came out. It all seems vaguely familiar, but the details have gone.

I wonder if I still have it? I don't dispose of books easily, but some of that age have just disintegrated from paper rot.

I'm sad that I only found these reviews as you're coming to the end of them; perhaps I shall just go back a year to read.

Date: 2011-08-12 11:15 am (UTC)
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
From: [personal profile] kate_nepveu
. . . wow.

Date: 2011-08-12 01:21 pm (UTC)
akycha: (Default)
From: [personal profile] akycha
I would say they should film this and show it every Christmas, but I think I saw that hentai once.

Laughing! Hard enough to scare the cat!

I adore that Joanna Russ piece. I am TOTALLY UNSURPRISED that there is a specific story she was referencing, given some of the other things I have seen in pulp of the 40-70s eras.

Date: 2011-08-17 06:52 am (UTC)
georgmi: Camping on Shi Shi Beach, WA (Default)
From: [personal profile] georgmi
(Here via [personal profile] gwyneira)

In Washington State, we have a town named Humptulips. Not sure why I felt compelled to mention it, feel free to ignore.

Date: 2011-08-12 07:40 am (UTC)
sovay: (Sovay: David Owen)
From: [personal profile] sovay
While she's in the mental institution she's been clapped in for plant-related nymphomania.

Okay, that's not even a capslocked bit and that's genius.



—I laugh until I hurt something.

Date: 2011-08-12 08:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I do remember reading this book!

My English was not good enough to understand any metaphysics there might have been in there, but boy do I remember the sex parts (and was there some killing of pigs or am I mixing it up with "Lord of the Flies"? I mean, the plants killed the pigs because now they - the plants - had people to have sex with?)

Date: 2011-08-15 06:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
There were pigs being killed, yes. They were the previous pollinators, before the people came. So your memory of this book is accurate.

Date: 2011-08-12 09:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
this book sounds entirely wonderful, in that I want everyone to read it and write down their reactions to it, but I don't want to read it myself, if that makes any sense? :D

Date: 2011-08-15 06:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That is entirely and completely fair.

Date: 2011-08-16 08:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
May-be even better would be if people would read and draw manga about their reactions?

At least that is what I would prefer personally.

Date: 2011-08-16 08:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Haha, I think that would be amazing!


Date: 2011-08-12 10:21 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
You could point your friend's father to Ray Davis blog, Pseudopodium.
He has a multi-part essay online on Delany's pornographic works, starting here:

Re: marco

Date: 2011-08-15 06:29 am (UTC)

Date: 2011-08-12 10:47 am (UTC)
skygiants: Princess Tutu, facing darkness with a green light in the distance (double meaning)
From: [personal profile] skygiants

(But were there metaphysics?)

Date: 2011-08-15 06:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Couldn't tell. I was laughing too hard.

Date: 2011-08-12 01:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I didn't know Delaney had written a book called Hogg and wouldn't have believed it if anyone else had told me.

Date: 2011-08-12 02:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
He did, and all I've read were some random excerpts in its Wikipedia article. At first I was like, O_O, but then I LOL'd. Probably shouldn't have, but I did.

What the metaphysics are like, I have no idea, but I'm tempted to go back and read it now just to see if anything sticks in my mind beyond the guy with the fetish for unwashed foreskins.

Date: 2011-08-15 06:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I see they only put the bits likely to offend the fewest people in the Wikipedia article.

There is, actually, a long literary precedent for the sort of kink it mostly features, if you consider James Joyce's love letters.

Date: 2011-08-15 06:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Do not approach Hogg unless you know what you are getting into.

Which is incredibly well-written porn of things most people find anti-erotic-- fetishization of dirt being the most mild. It was kind of amazing how thoroughly it managed to contain nothing whatsoever that touches on any sexual practices I enjoy reading about, while nevertheless not being centered around coercion, violence, and misogyny, but amazement at this feat did not carry more than about fifty pages.

Date: 2011-08-15 01:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Ahh, and now I understand someone's obscure comment in a slash APA a dozen years ago and more. Apparently Delaney read some slash and thought it, more or less, too sweet and clean. Buncha writers were all 'but what about those Pros H/C/ domestic abuse/ BDSM stories, huh?!!' Someone said, 'I think it's actual *dirt* that Delaney likes.' Could never figure out why she thought that, and now I know.

Date: 2011-08-17 12:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You mean, like, he heard about dirty books when he was a little boy, and thought wow, that would be seriously hot?

Date: 2011-08-12 01:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

Didn't I see them at the Fillmore?

That was sublime.

Thank you.


Date: 2011-08-12 02:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

Joining my voice to the others':

I have to read this.

Date: 2011-08-12 03:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

I need this book for my office, stat.

Date: 2011-08-15 06:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
YES. YES, YOU DO. I thought of you repeatedly during it, especially when her grad student sends her a letter saying that he is now the proud father of xyz number of tulips and if she does not come back in two weeks he will be the proud grandfather of Ridiculously Large Number of tulips DO SOMETHING.

I have no idea if the plant biology is any good. I suspect it is either reasonable, or hilariously bad.

Date: 2011-08-17 04:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I ordered it from Powell's IMMEDIATELY (okay, I took about twelve hours, because I had to track down the anthology with the "Cat-Eye Willie" fanfic in, without remembering what the story was at all, but I figured it out and they had it eee!) but they haven't yet shipped my order. I'm terribly concerned that this means they cannot find one or more of my books. If one of your other readers ordered it out from under me, WE WILL FIGHT and then I can let you know about the plant bio.

Date: 2011-08-22 05:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
What's the anthology and story?

Date: 2011-08-22 10:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2009, ed. Rich Horton. "Blue Vervain Murder Ballad #2: Jack of Diamonds", Erik Amundsen.

I'd very vaguely remembered it from Oyce's Murder Ballads thread, where I thought it was said to address our "who is Bonnie's master?" question. It was not satisfactory in that regard, but it turns out that's not what [ profile] sovay said anyway -- it does answer "what happens at the end of this song?", which is all she promised. Well, more like "after the end" really. Anyway, definitely a good story, and I'm enjoying the rest of the anthology very much too, despite already having read the first four or so stories in various places. (Alice Sola Kim's "We Love Deena" is gloriously creepy, and Delia Sherman's story is beautiful.)

Date: 2011-08-12 07:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I note in a disinterested sort of way that Boyd published at least ten other novels...

Date: 2011-08-13 04:06 am (UTC)
gwynnega: (Default)
From: [personal profile] gwynnega
This review made me grin.


rushthatspeaks: (Default)

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