Welcome to the first instalment of Par Femme Book Club: a ~safe space~ for well-read women to reveal the titillating, back-arching, lascivious literature that's been ruling their worlds. We're kicking things off with our staff writer, Mel Kenny, who names sincere poems, a silly picture book and buck-wild, era-spanning illustrations among her current favourites.
1. 'Erotica Universalis' by Giles Neret (1997)
A wicked bible of sorts. This 573-page compendium of erotic artwork traverses the Adam and Eve era through to more contemporary fornication. The work of Rembrandt and Picasso coalesces with Dalí and Matisse, and themes range from very absurd (for example fucking atop a horse, one partner poised on big toe) to very childish (a haphazard line drawing of a woman, hands threaded through gargantuan penis-shaped puppets). Some of the earliest depictions are rock drawings from 5000 BC – again, featuring oversized phallus.
2. 'Breasts' by Genichiro Yagyu (1989)
An absolute tit of an inclusion, unearthed from piles of rubble in an op-shop for the low, low price of $2. Really, though, this is a children's educational tool comprising very simple illustrations matched with profound, revelatory information about the function of breasts. It's also very inclusive. Case in point: 'Our teacher doesn't have a baby. But she still has big breasts.'
As you can see, everything within the book is very useful.
3. 'Selected Poems and Letters' by Arthur Rimbaud (2004)
Arthur Rimbaud had a short life that ended heartbreakingly (at the hand of cancer) when he was 37. He wrote voraciously in his youth and by the age of twenty-one, was done with the whole affair. Here are two stanzas from my favourite poem in this treasury, First
She sat in my big chair,
Half-naked now, and clasped her hands;
Her little feet – so fine, that fine –
All astir on the floor: pure pleasure.
I kissed her pretty ankles.
She gave a sudden laugh, pealing
And sweet, in bright trills.
A laugh like faceted glass.
Over 130 tidy pages, a collection of protagonists examine themselves through the lenses of lipstick, money, velvet, the curtain and more. These objects become obsolete, as each comes to recognise paintings as truer illuminations of the self. In another word, depth. Not an exploration of sexuality inasmuch as it is a sensory investigation, this novella was first published in German in 1987, by artist and writer Jutta Koether. It's also available on Par Femme.
5. Mixed Fruit by Masuo Ikeda (1977)
As you may be aware via your Instagram feed, the fetishisation of fruit is a popular avenue — one that long preceded hashtags. I bought this book of fruit-themed lithographs and poems in a used bookstore in Tokyo. There are nine drawings and matching poems in total. I like that each expression is so different from the next: quietly content, a little suspicious, completely unhinged.