Story of O - erotic fiction by Ballantine Books - review by Jenny Swallows

Story of O

Book by Ballantine Books

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"O" for The Original

This book probably turned more people onto BDSM than any other single work. Not for the squeamish, but if you even suspect you are an adventurous lover, you need to read O.
An excellent translation
If you like the theme, there are none!
Rating by reviewer:
extremely useful review
A great book, it is truthfully said, is more than a story. It is also an idea and it is equally true that the better the story, the greater the idea. Some of the most influential novels in modern literary history can also be ranked among some of the most boring. But they all affected the way people live and did so in a way that permeates our culture and language to this day.

For every 1984 there is a Dune; for every Catch 22 there is a Dice Man. And no matter how many beatniks were set on their way by Kerouac’s On The Road, it is somewhat sobering to think that the Beat Generation’s greatest contribution may well have been the invention of text-speak, spelling, and punctuation, half a century before there was a need for it.

In general terms and for obvious reasons, modern sexuality has pulled considerably less from literature than it has from other, more obvious arts. Yet there are a handful of erotic books whose principles have left a lasting effect upon the way we wriggle.

Some two dozen different titles in John Norman’s Gor chronicles are single handedly responsible for a socio-sexual culture whose adherents range from anthropological petrie dishes to Cro-Magnon throwbacks (“me see girl, me like girl”); Anne-Rice-writing-as-AN-Roquelaurie effectively kick started the modern fascination for sexually explicit bodice rippers that are not your grandmother’s Harlequin romances.

And then there is The Story of O, a comparatively thin novel written for a bet in 1953 by a woman best known for translating modern classics into French, and the book that not only bought BDSM out of the closet and into the daylight, but also the foundation upon which most modern BDSM writings, teachings and practices were erected. And the fact that, like the Gor books, a lot of the people who claim to live by it have probably not read more than half a page of the cliff notes only amplifies the point. A great book is more than a story. It is an idea.

Anne Desclos was a leading light in post-war French literary circles when her employer (and lover) Jean Paulhan wagered that a woman could not write a convincing erotic novel. Desclos responded with L’Histoire of O, a book that even France considered so shocking that, while attempts to prosecute its publisher for obscenity were unsuccessful, the book itself vanished underground for almost a decade. Desclos’ identity, meanwhile, remained hidden for 40 years; not until the mid-1990s, four years before her death, did Desclos reveal that she was Pauline Réage.

The first English-language edition appeared in 1965. It was the early 1980s, however, before anything approaching a mass market edition appeared on US bookshelves, by which time two generations of readers had grown up knowing only of O by reputation - a reputation that was both perpetuated and enlarged by the difficulty of the quest to find a copy. And when one was finally obtained, it was accompanied by the revelation that almost everything they had heard about O was either wrong or very wrong.

And that, too, speaks volumes for its impact, the fact that entire new stories could (and have) been written, simply by mistelling the true Story of O.
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My Story of O tags
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    Who might this product be best for? How is it best used? What are the best circumstances or situations for using this product?
    • Anyone
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    Where / what types of places can this product be used?
    • Anywhere
This review was edited by
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Do you like this review?
  • Lisa72
  • Maiden
    Another great review. As I mentioned before, I like your writing. That said, I do think your reviews would benefit from more specific details, along the lines of what you did for the "waterproof book"(sorry, I can't recall it's name right now). In that review you at least outlined a few of the stories in it. I would have liked to see that here as well. I love the facts and history of this book, but I would have liked to at least get a hint of what the story is actually about. I get that it's about BDSM, but maybe you could have wrote about a particular "scene" for those of us who have truly never even heard of this book.
  • voenne
    Hmm, I hadn't come across this book before... I agree with Maiden's comment, but I went and looked at the synopsis then reread what you had written. Thanks for your review!
  • Jenny Swallows
    Lol I also agree with Maiden, but so many other reviews here do such a great job of detailing the story that I wanted to cover the historical significance too... so much erotica, even from (comparatively) recent times, is overlooked, disregarded... even unknown. O matters at least partly because it rose above that. Plus it's a great story as well!
  • Ms. N
    Great review. This is a book that has been on my "to read" list for ages. You just backed this up even more
  • faust
    nice review
  • sunkissedJess
    great review!!
  • SubmissiveFeminist
    Thank you for reviewing!
  • Blooddragon
  • Undecided
    Thanks for the review
  • kdlt
    Great synopsis and review! Thank you.
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