Monday, 30 January 2012

'…the relics of a world that progress threw away' (on Libraries and Sex)

OK, I'm not very good at erotica, but if libraries and porn go together in your filthy minds, this article in the Paris Review should be checked out (arf). I've no need to associate libraries with sex - they're sites of extreme pleasure without it. Though there's something masochistic about entering somewhere in which the books can only be handled, borrowed, but never owned. The teases!

I like the way he's holding on to the book. It's probably on short-loan.

Each year, new titles are added to the librarian-porn bookshelf. This past season’s crop included additions like Hot for Librarian by Anastasia Carrera; Lucy the LibrarianDewey and His Decimal 
Sadly, the author's conclusion is that modern library porn removes the action from the library itself: the stereotypical female librarian is the object of the fantasy (never the subject), rather than the location. She is assumed, with her spectacle and bun, to be repressed and needing sexual liberation: recognition is rarely given (I should confess I haven't read many of these) to the liberatory possibilities of the knowledge contained in the library, unlike the 18th-19th century library porn: for the Enlightenment, sexual and intellectual liberation were of a piece and so libraries were natural sites for discovery in both senses.

On the other hand, our author suggests that modern library porn enunciates the alienation found in sexual cyberspace: devotees and characters search for a more personal and more intellectual climax than the atomised and individual life of the sex-surfer:
Lucy’s very real encounter in the stacks is the modern library’s attempted rejoinder to the loneliness of life online. The physicality of the library space is presented here as a concrete alternative to the interminable virtualness of contemporary erotic imagination. It’s the last argument for the library’s continued relevance as a space and of the subversive potential of books—both of which are, ironically, called into question by the very existence of Lucy. This book, like all recent library-porn books, cannot not be found on any actual shelf in the real world. It lives exclusively in virtual space.  
The threat of extinction has become a mainstay of recent library porn: again and again, the neglected love life of the librarian is a stand-in for the doomed state of the library generally.
The library sex fantasy has, in other words, entered an apocalyptic period. “Throw me on my back in the dark room with the microfiche,” says the narrator of “Checking Out,” the final story of 2011’s Nympho Librarian. “Fuck me amidst the relics of a world that progress threw away.”  
This is certainly something that speaks to me. In this country, libraries are being closed every day, thanks to the philistine government's preference for bombs over books. Here's a taster from the age of Austerity Erotica.
Soaked to the skin through her clinging, low-cut silk blouse and short skirt, lissom Lisa scurried up the steps of the library, knowing that within its close and labyrinthine walls, fulfilment - in so many ways - awaited her. Grasping the smooth, hard knob, she paused a moment before taking the plunge into a world of self-discovery. But as she slowly turned the handle, she spotted a sign pasted on the window.
'This library is now closed to improve customer experience. Clients may now take advantage of the Mobile Learning Centre (Fridays 6 a.m.-6.33 a.m every other month) or follow us on Twitter'.
Her hand fell from the door and, shivering now in the freezing rain, she trudged home to a low-fat Horlicks and a copy of More. The dream was over. 
Of course, libraries are no longer up to it architecturally. Too much plate glass, too many 'talk zones' and 'group…study areas'. Coffee bars and computers have taken over from dark corners and wide sturdy tables. They're explicitly social sites now, rather than places in which individuals skulk, seeking enlightenment or furtive romance.


pravinjeya said...

As much as the architecture of libraries have changed, the best libraries are still the ones where you have to be quiet, for silent study, and there are rows of book shelves. And I agree, the librarians at my university certainly don't look repressed.

Blossom said...

I have to say, Nympho Librarian doesn't look particularly repressed, either. I'm impressed by her victim's ability to multi-task though.

And Dewey's Digit? Really? I'm going to have to track that one down!

Blossom said...

Ah, Dewey's Decimal. I was having a Freudian moment there, I suspect...

ed said...

I sometimes delve into our one volume of library-themed 'Black Lace' erotica whilst shelf-checking. I think it might be my happy place.