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Category: sex

It's Taschen's bargain warehouse sale

Art book publisher Taschen launched its semi-regular warehouse sale today, marking books down by 50% to 75%. The online sale continues through June 24; its stores, like the one in Beverly Hills, will also be offering bargains.

The warehouse sale includes discontinued titles, books that are "slightly dented" and "retired review copies." That means they're in limited supply, and this might be the last chance to get a book you've been keeping in your sights. One of the first to sell out is the "Big Penis Book 3D" -- but maybe that's for the best. Who knows who'd put their hands on it?

Taschen's warehouse is full of photo books, books that showcase art, even books about type -- "Bondoni" is a reprint of the 1818 typeface masterwork by the offical printer for the Duke of Parma, Giambattista Bodoni. There are many books about classic art and contemporary design. There are more than a few sexy books. There are books with photos of exotic locations, wild animals, movies, living spaces abroad, robots and Marilyn Monroe.

Taschen is the company of Benedikt Taschen, whose eclectic tastes govern its offerings. "He will stand behind every book that he publishes, no matter what," the Wall Street Journal wrote in 2011, "a directional choice that has not only defined the Cologne-born publisher as a seminal maverick in the world of books, but also as a rebellious risk-taker."

"Most books look so ... dispassionately done; they are disposable from the beginning," Taschen told the Journal. "Their books are not designed to become significant objects, so most books have no identity, no soul. I'm not saying all, but the vast majority [of publishing houses], with a few exceptions, have lost their profile and personality. It doesn't look like they have spent a lot of care and love."

Taschen publishes about 100 books a year; about 125 titles are part of the warehouse sale.


Meet Benedikt Taschen

Hugh Hefner for cheap? Taschen's big 2011 sale

Taschen makes its mark with high-end bookstores

-- Carolyn Kellogg

The origins of '50 Shades of Grey' go missing

"Fifty Shades of Grey"People who know about "50 Shades of Grey" have probably heard that author E.L. James began the story as post-"Twilight" fan fiction. But now the Internet evidence of its start has been deleted, so its origins have been erased.

That's what the website Galleycat discovered when it went to the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. The Wayback Machine allows anyone to look at websites as they appeared on days past, when the Internet Archive's computer systems took a snapshot of the site.

Galleycat had previously visited the site to look at the history of James' website 50Shades.com, where she began posting writing in earnest after a beginning on Fanfiction.net. It found lots there to demonstrate that James' early writings were meant to be a continuation, or detour, of the characters in Twilight, including images of actors Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson. That was in James' online serial "Masters of the Universe," which begat "50 Shades of Grey." Now only Galleycat's screenshots of the site remain online -- the Internet Archive no longer has them.

“The Internet Archive honors requests from domain and site owners to exclude pages from the Wayback Machine at their request,” the site told Galleycat.

Why take down those pages? Could it be that fan fiction is in the crosshairs?

So far, fan fiction -- in which devoted readers revivify characters from their favorite works in their own writing -- has been left largely to flourish unimpeded. Vibrant online communities have sprung up around some books -- think the "Harry Potter" series -- in which people write and share their own versions of the characters in different places, time periods, and relationships. Sometimes, as in the case of "50 Shades of Grey," those relationships get sexual. But the sex isn't the problem -- it's the copyright.

"Copyright issues are at the core of fan fiction because using the characters and fictional worlds of commercial authors to create fan works is arguably a violation of the law from the outset," explains Steven Hechter in the British magazine Times Higher Education.

James' agent told Deadline, "This did start as 'Twilight' fan fiction, inspired by Stephenie Meyer’s wonderful series of books. Originally it was written as fan fiction, then Erika [E.L. James] decided to take it down after there were some comments about the racy nature of the material. She took it down and thought, I’d always wanted to write. I’ve got a couple unpublished novels here. I will rewrite this thing, and create these iconic characters, Christian and Anna. If you read the books, they are nothing like 'Twilight' now." Her American publisher told the Associated Press that James' "Masters of the Universe" (which was fan fiction) and "50 Shades of Grey" are "two distinctly separate pieces of work."

That point was countered by romance-focused site Dear Author, which compared the two works side by side. In one test, using the plagiarism-checker TurnItIn, the texts had 89% similarity.

I'm not a lawyer, so I certainly can't sort any of that out. It is interesting that the early version has now disappeared.

Or maybe the disappearance has nothing to do with the old connection between "50 Shades of Grey" and "Twilight" -- maybe the reason someone requested those pages be taken down is simply so "50 Shades of Grey" can stand -- firmly on the top of bestseller lists -- on its own.


On Goodreads, "50 Shades of Grey" is a regional hit

The deluxe mommy-porn apartment in the sky

Bestselling "mommy porn": "50 Shades of Grey"

-- Carolyn Kellogg

On Goodreads, '50 Shades of Grey' is a regional hit

According to data at Goodreads, Utah and Wyoming readers were the least likely to be checking out the underground erotic hit "Fifty Shades of Grey"
Mothers in Utah who might have found news of the popularity of the underground erotic hit "Fifty Shades of Grey" baffling can be forgiven, according to the data at Goodreads. Among the social reading website's 8.6 million users, Utah and Wyoming readers were the least likely to be reading E.L. James' novel.

The graphic above shows which states have most embraced the book, which the New York Times dubbed "mommy porn." The novel tells the story of a love affair between naive college student Anastasia and Christian, a billionaire with a taste for sexual dominance.

In the first six weeks the book has been available through new American publisher Vintage, "Fifty Shades of Grey" has sold 10 million copies. To put that in perspective, the president of Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group explained that the book had captured 25% of the adult fiction market -- quite a lot. And there are even more books in circulation -- "Fifty Shades of Grey" was a word-of-mouth hit via a small Australian publisher before Vintage picked it up.

More than 11,000 Goodreads members have written capsule reviews of the book on the site. Though the three most popular only have one star, that hasn't stopped legions from being tempted by the book. A popular five-star review reads, "Wow. Wow, wow, wow. I still feel somewhat under the spell of this book. I'm so ... beguiled by it ;-) (book allusion). It was honestly an amazing read -- and one which I meant to just skim a few sample pages of, but ended up buying and then staying up the entire night to finish."

Among Goodreads members, "Fifty Shades of Grey" is most popular in New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island and New York. Except "most popular" isn't exactly it -- those are the states where the book is most likely to have been read. Yet those readers are not as enthusiastic about the book as their counterparts to the south and west -- readers in Mississippi, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Nebraska gave the book its highest ratings.

That enthusiasm has carried over: Goodreads has a list of other erotica titles that are starting to take the site by storm.


The deluxe mommy-porn apartment in the sky

Bestselling "mommy porn": "50 Shades of Grey"

Porn-ish "50 Shades of Grey" grinds toward movie deal

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Image credit: Goodreads

The deluxe mommy-porn apartment in the sky

E.L. James' novel "50 Shades of Grey" has gone from an underground hit to a major national bestseller on the power of its kinky sex. Much of the fictional sex between billionaire Christian Grey and college student Anastasia Steel took place in Grey's luxury apartment, set in the real-life Escala Building in Seattle.

On its blog, the real estate site Zillow takes a look inside those condos, in Seattle's Belltown neighborhood. There are high ceilings, huge windows and incredible views from the terraces. The units, which can be custom outfitted, sell for $400,000, going up to $4- to $6 million and more. Because 70% of them have sold -- and because of the interest generated by "50 Shades of Grey" -- the condos are now shown by appointment only. Zillow writes:

While author James did take some creative liberties with her fiction — you can’t land a helicopter on the penthouse roof like it was done in the book, says Escala’s Director of Sales Erik Mehr — he agrees that the Escala is still the best pick for a billionaire character like Grey.

“If you were going to pick something opulent,” Mehr said, “This would be the building.”

James uses the word "opulent" only once -- to describe a couch, not an apartment, but close enough. Luxurious digs may get some people exited, but here at Jacket Copy, we think being wooed by a $14,000 rare book is truly thrilling.


Bestselling "mommy porn": "50 Shades of Grey"

Porn-ish "50 Shades of Grey" grinds toward movie deal

Mike McGrady, the man behind sexy, '60s literary hoax, has died

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photos: The Escala Building. Credit: Zillow.com

Mike McGrady, the man behind sexy, '60s literary hoax, has died

NakedcamethestrangerMike McGrady, a cigar-smoking, hard-drinking reporter who rallied his Newsday colleagues to write 1969's suburban sexcapade "Naked Came the Stranger" under a pseudonym, has died. He was 78.

Published as the supposedly true-life tales of a highly sexed suburban housewife, the book was attributed to Penelope Ashe, who turned out to be a wholly invented character. Like J.T. Leroy after her, Ashe was represented publicly by an actual human -- Billie Young, McGrady's sister-in-law -- who had nothing to do with the text.

That book had been written by McGrady and others on the Newsday editorial team. Inspired by popular bestsellers by the likes of Jacqueline Susann, McGrady challenged his newsroom buddies to write their own terrible, trashy, sex-filled bestseller. McGrady and 24 other writers each took a chapter; in every badly-written one, Penelope Ashe engaged in fantastical sexual exploits.

"It was great," McGrady said in an August 1969 Times story, after the scheme had been exposed. "Everybody sat down and wrote his chapter in one night. It was terrific for morale at the paper. We would all pass our chapters around to see how bad everybody else was writing. The only problem was that we had to send several back for rewriting. They were too good."

That was in 1966. McGrady and co-editor Harvey Aronson spent some time knitting the pieces together and finding a publisher. Lyle Stuart, known for its racy books, published "Naked Came the Stranger" in 1969 without being aware of its true origins. 

The actual authors were exposed in the summer of that year, with McGrady happily telling the story of the book. He talked to newspapers and appeared on the television show "To Tell The Truth."

Not everyone was delighted by the ruse. "Mike McGrady and cohorts' bestselling novel 'Naked Came the Stranger' is not only evidence of a decadent American society, but a perverted one as well," fumed Times reader Dona Gregory in a 1969 letter to the paper. "The fact that 25 journalists baited fellow Americans with all the sickness their little minds could conjure up was matched, (perhaps surpassed) only by those who bought 20,000 copies, the $127,000 Dell paid for paperback rights and the 20 movie companies now considering it for film possibilities."

McGrady hoped that a film version would be as deliberately bad as the book itself. "Would anyone in Tinseltown have the guts to make a consciously bad movie?" he asked in The Times in 1970. "The movie, as I see it, should be a compilation of all the great Hollywood cliches. I envision an endless series of naked backsides, flames flickering in nearby fireplaces, fireworks being set off against night skies ... "

Negotiations over a film version never panned out; a pornographic film of the same title was released, but it was not made in conjunction with the book's authors.

In 1970 McGrady published a how-to book for aspiring writers, "Stranger Than Naked: Or, How to Write Dirty Books for Fun and Profit."

Maybe that's the secret to E.L. James and her wildly popular series, "50 Shades of Grey."


"Mommy porn": "50 Shades of Grey"

Lady Gaga and Slavov Zizek rumor a hoax

The mysterious hoax Nobel Literature Prize website

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Image: The Dell paperback edition of "Naked Came the Stranger." Credit: Goodreads

Porn-ish 'Fifty Shades of Grey' grinds toward movie deal

Hollywood is courting E.L. James for rights to adapt her book "Fifty Shades of Grey," which has been described as "mommy porn" E.L. James' titillating novel "Fifty Shades of Grey," described by the New York Times as "mommy porn," is close to a movie deal, according to industry reports.

The book, which has two sequels, was originally published by a small house in Australia and has found wide success as an e-book. Its new American publisher, Vintage, plans a broad paperback release April 17.

Hollywood isn't waiting that long. Deadline Hollywood reported Friday that nine studios were making offers to James.

"[T]he last time I've seen anything like this was when Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" was shopped," wrote Mike Fleming at Deadline Hollywood/NY.

That's one possible parallel. Or maybe Hollywood is thinking of another novel that was a word-of-mouth hit with female readers, one which had little traction with traditional review outlets but nevertheless went from hand to hand to the top of bestseller lists: Kathryn Stockett's "The Help." 

James, who wrote the book about a naive student and her older, more experienced, BDSM-inclined billionaire boyfriend as a kind of sexed-up post-"Twilight" story, says on her website that she is a British TV executive. She may be more well versed than your average fledgling writer when it comes to fielding Hollywood suitors: The Hollywood Reporter wrote that she and her agent are playing hardball.

E.L. James' "Fifty Shades of Grey" novels may be looking for a studio master, but in a shocking twist, the author is demanding to remain in the dominatrix role. ... Sources say the ask is very far-reaching and nearly unprecedented ...

The big difference between "Fifty Shades of Grey" and "The Help" -- or "The Da Vinci Code," for that matter -- is the sex. It's all about the sex, which is explicitly BDSM -- bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism. The sex is what has made "Fifty Shades of Grey" popular. Is erotica as safe a Hollywood bet as Brown's thrilling religious conspiracy, or Stockett's retro collision of the political and personal?

We may know what kind of bet movie executives are willing to make soon: March 23 was the reported deadline for final bids from producers and studios.

Who knows, the destiny of "Fifty Shades of Grey" could be surprising. The screen adaptation of "The Help," Stockett's debut novel that had been rejected by 45 agents, earned four Oscar nominations, with a best supporting actress win for Octavia Spencer.


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Bestselling "mommy porn": "Fifty Shades of Grey"

Romancing the tome: Saturday's book fair for the bodice-ripper

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Garage Magazine includes art condoms in its second issue

HaringcondomIn its second issue, dedicated to sex and relationships, Garage Magazine has included an appropriate, unique gift: artist-designed condoms. The designs are from artists Keith Haring, Sue Webster, Tim Noble and Mat Collishaw.

The magazine is part art, part fashion, a high-end blend of the two. As ArtInfo writes, it had to work hard to top issue No. 1. When it debuted in 2011, it had three separate covers; one was adorned with a Damien Hirst-designed peel-off butterfly sticker, underneath which there was a not-safe-for-work Damien Hirst-designed tattoo.

Garage was founded by Dasha Zhukova and named after an art center she opened in Russia in 2007. On the magazine's website she writes, "out of an increasing abundance of ideas, Garage the magazine was born."

The second issue promises to include stories about Internet dating, the legalization of gay marriage, and the advent of fertilization technology. But don't expect it to be too straightforward: Issue No. 1 was creative, artistic, and sometimes baffling. “It is so very, very different from other magazines,” Garage’s art director Mike Meiré told the N.Y. Times. “It’s like a box of Pandora.... You don’t know what is happening on the next page.”

The condoms can be found in every issue of the magazine, and in Andre Saraiva’s Le Baron nightclubs in Paris, London, and New York during Fashion Week.


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Art meets books: very cool and far away

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Keith Haring condom wrapper. Credit: Garage Magazine

'Once Upon a Secret' describes intern's alleged affair with JFK


In her memoir, "Once Upon a Secret," Mimi Alford claims to have had an affair with President Kennedy that lasted for more than a year. It began when she was a 19-year-old virgin and he was 45, and she last saw him a week before his death, she writes. The book officially hits shelves Wednesday, but some copies are already in circulation.

One made it to the offices of the New York Post.

In the summer of 1962, Alford was a slender, golden-haired 19-year-old debutante whose finishing-school polish and blueblood connections had landed her a job in the White House press office.

Four days into her internship, she was invited by an aide to go for a midday swim in the White House pool, where the handsome, 45-year-old president swam daily to ease chronic back pain. JFK slid into the pool and floated up to her.

“It’s Mimi, isn’t it?” he asked.

“Yes, sir,” she said.

“And you’re in the press office this summer, right?”

“Yes, sir, I am,” she replied.

Lightning had struck. Later that day, Mimi was invited by Dave Powers, the president’s “first friend” and later the longtime curator of the Kennedy Library in Boston, to an after-work party. When she arrived at the White House residence, Powers and two other young female staffers were waiting. Powers poured, and frequently refilled, her glass with daiquiris until the commander-in-chief arrived.

The president invited her for a personal tour. She got up, expecting the rest of the group to follow. They didn’t. He took her to “Mrs. Kennedy’s room.”

“I noticed he was moving closer and closer. I could feel his breath on my neck. He put his hand on my shoulder,” she recounts.

The Post continues the scene, in breathy detail. Alford, who is now 68, was Mimi Beardsley when she went to work at the White House as an intern. Her name came up in the 2003 book "An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963" by Robert Dallek, after which she decided to tell her own story.

White House staffer Barbara Gamerikian, who worked in the press office, was asked about Mimi in an oral history kept on file at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. In 1964, Gamerikian recounted an incident in Nassau and another in Palm Springs where the president and Mimi were spotted in circumstances that made reporters and staffers suspicious. "I don't know what the relationship was," she said. "It is one of these areas where I'm not anxious to know and I hadn't many opportunities to inquire."

Mimi Alford will appear on "Rock Center" on Wednesday night to talk about her book, "Once Upon a Secret: My Affair With President John F. Kennedy and Its Aftermath."


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Stephen King follows Don Delillo and Oliver Stone into JFK myth

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: John F. Kennedy in California. Credit: William S. Murphy / Los Angeles Times.

The Bad Sex in Fiction Award goes to David Guterson

Edking_davidgutersonDavid Guterson has won 2011's Bad Sex in Fiction Award. The tongue-in-cheek prize was presented at a  ceremony in London on Tuesday. As in years past, the award-winning author was not in attendance.

Guterson was awarded the prize for writing a marathon sexual encounter between a son and his mother in "Ed King"; the novel is a modern retelling of the Oedpius story. Guterson, who is best known for the novel "Snow Falling on Cedars," took the award in stride. "Oedipus practically invented bad sex, so I'm not in the least bit surprised," he wrote, Bloomberg reports.

The Bad Sex In Fiction Prize is presented by the Literary Review, a British journal. Past winners have included Tom Wolfe, Jonathan Littell and Norman Mailer.

"Nobody wants to win that award," Margaret Atwood told Jacket Copy in 2009. "It's very easy to overwrite a sex scene, at which point it becomes comic."

Others in the running for the 2011 Bad Sex in Fiction Award were Haruki Murakami's "1Q84," Chris Adrian's "The Great Night," Lee Child's "The Affair," James Frey for "The Final Testament of the Holy Bible" and Stephen King's "11/22/63."


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Margaret Atwood on green rabbits, writing sex and Twitter

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Happy banned books week!


Banned Books Week officially starts today, ending Oct. 1; it will feature a number of events in libraries nationwide that point out how wrongheaded it is to ban books. Look for the latest most-challenged books list, which in recent years has been topped by the award-wining picture book "And Tango Makes Three," based on the story of two same-sex penguins who raised an adopted chick together. Also frequently challenged are books from two supernatural series for young adults, Twilight and Harry Potter.


Attempts to keep "undesirable" books out of the hands of young readers, as silly as it seems to some, haven't  stopped. This year, the Sherlock Holmes mystery "A Study In Scarlet" was removed from a Virginia reading list for its portrayal of Mormonism. In 2010, Laurie Halse Anderson's "Speak," which deals with sexual abuse and rape, was targeted in Missouri for being "soft porn." And Sherman Alexie's young adult novel, "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian," has been challenged for its language, explicit sexuality and racism -- despite having won the National Book Award in 2007.

Other banned books come with literary pedigrees. James Joyce's "Ulysses," parts of which were published in the U.S. in The Little Review from 1918-1920, was banned in this country until a trial stemming from a 1933 import, in which a judge ruled it was not obscene. Henry Miller's "Tropic of Cancer," published in France in 1934, spurred an obscenity lawsuit after it was finally published in the U.S. by Grove in 1961. Lawrence Ferlinghetti was arrested and tried in 1957 for publishing Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl."

As a reader, it's easy to see how our literature and libraries are made better by the inclusion of all these works. But what about "Mein Kampf"? Do we have to stand up for it during Banned Books Week? In an essay for the Times in 2008, David L. Ulin wrote:

Banned Books Week offers up the sort of toothless, feel-good spectacle that makes us less likely to consider the actual ramifications of free expression.

The basic message here is one of astonishment: Why would anyone ban books when literature is such a positive and ennobling force? Yet while I agree with that, I also believe that some books truly are dangerous, and to ignore that is simply disingenuous.

Lest this make me seem an apologist for the book banners, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I'm against restricting anything other than material that graphically portrays certain illegal acts.

Yet it's foolish, self-defeating even, to pretend that books are innocuous, that we don't need to concern ourselves with what they say. If that's the case, then it doesn't really matter if we ban them, because we have already stripped them of their power.

Books do change things: Just think of "Common Sense," which lighted the fuse of the American Revolution, or "Mein Kampf," which laid out the blueprint for Hitler's Germany.

These are very different books -- one a work of hope and human decency, the other as venal a piece of writing as I've ever read -- but what they have in common is a kind of historical imperative, the sense that, at the right place and time, a book can be a galvanizing factor, for good or ill.

"Mein Kampf" is a title you don't hear a lot during Banned Books Week; the focus is more on classics such as "Song of Solomon" or "The Catcher in the Rye" that have been challenged in libraries and schools.

That's understandable, but again, it reduces the territory of censorship and free expression to something neatly clarified, rather than the ambiguous morass it is. What happens when our ideals require us to defend a piece of writing that is reprehensible, that stands against everything we stand for?

Feel like celebrating the banned book? Playboy and PEN Center USA are holding a celebration of banned erotica Sept. 30 with writer Jerry Stahl, burlesque from La Cholita, Kitten Natividad and Penny Starr, Jr., "The Story of O," "Madame Bovary" and more are on the bill.


Sherlock Holmes book banned in Albemarle County, Virginia

The expurgated "Huckleberry Finn"

Why do gay penguins make people so mad? "And Tango Makes Three" tops banned books list -- again.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: J.K. Rowling, in green, with the cast of "Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows - Part 2" at its world premiere in London in July. Credit: Ian Gavan/Getty Images



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