Call Me A Cab

THE TAXI by Violette Leduc. Published by Hart-Davis/MacGibbon, £1.40

The Taxi is the last book by Violette Leduc, the author of La Batarde and Ravages. It was written shortly before she died from an illness which spoilt the last few years of her life. It was sad that her constant bad health began so soon after she had finally been internationally-acclaimed as an important writer.

Violette was one of the most eccentric and fascinating ladies Paris has ever known. All her life she was an adventuress – a sort of outlaw – long before it became fashionable to be so. She always described herself as a “bastard”. Her lesbianism, which I would rather call her homosexual-orientated lifestyle, was always less than a secret, and her mini-skirts and wigs were forever shocking the ‘good taste’ of Parisian society. She was born in 1908, but always adopted the fashion and looks of teenage girls.

To me it seems that she put all of this into her last work, which is also one of the most wonderful fantasies one could have dreamed of. Unfortunately, no mere review can do justice to her extraordinary imagination. The story is simply told by means of the dialogue between an adolescent sister and brother who decide to spend a day making love to each other in the back of a luxuriously fitted out taxi. They have been able to realise this forbidden dream by stealing a jewel from the aunt they both hate and despise, and then by paying people to initiate them into the arts of love-making.

First they meet a gorgeous whore, Mademoiselle Cytiese, a lady from Pigalle, who teaches the brother. She then introduces the adolescents to a pederast, Dane, who gives lessons to the sister.

The tale begins when they are at last in the taxi, racing across and around Paris, protected from the driver’s eyes by an orange curtain. They make love, eat pâté, drink champagne and talk.

They talk about what they are doing to each other, what they learnt from their strange teachers, and how they were led to this peculiar situation by some kind of irresistible fate. The most enjoyable aspect about The Taxi is that as well as being a long erotic and fantasising poem, it also succeeeds in involving the reader in depths of feeling and passion that are at times almost frightening. It is important to add that the translation from the French by Helen Weaver is excellent, as it accurately matches Leduc’s unique style.

The Taxi will be performed as a play on the Paris stage soon and I look forward to seeing it staged in London in the near future. Through this kind of interpretation, it will not be so much literature, but a more sensual experience that all can indulge their fantasies in. Art is life, and life, when mirrored in Violette Leduc’s The Taxi, is one long, liberating orgasm.

The Other Love

HERa novel by Anonymous. Calder & Boyars, £2.50.

I shouldn’t say it but at first I wasn’t especially attracted to this heterosexual pornographic novel, that is a best-seller in the States and written by a “world-famous” author into the bargain. In short, I expected the worst kind of sexist prose when starting to read Her, rather reluctantly.

But the atmosphere of the novel caught my attention from the very beginning and the very brilliant style encouraged me to carry on further than the third page.

The story begins (and ends, like all good cliches do) exactly like a Hollywood musical. Somewhat like the worst of Jacques Demy’s heart-breaking stories. The scenario is carefully undated because, I imagine, of the eternal language of love, and the social context — a small college town in the south of the United States. This places the intrigue on the right level. There is nothing extraordinary or unreal about the two heroes, both of them are middle-aged and free from any emotional ties. They try to forget the social frustrations they have in common by intense sexual activity.

Just a word about Anonymous, whoever he is. For there is never any doubt that the author is a man. And the story’s narrator, who is allegedly a fictional character, is a good old-fashioned male chauvinist all through the novel. Fortunately he is gifted with sensitivity, which allows me to feel some sympathy for him, as well as fascination. Of the female — sorry, the woman – we don’t know very much, except that she has “very good legs” and has a lot of trouble in reaching “real” orgasms. And as she’s forty-two, I found it surprising that she hadn’t tried it with a girl, but she definitely “loves” her lover’s penis, deliciously calling it “Irving”. Her own sex she simply calls “Matilda”.

Despite its limitations, the book is a very complete sexology manual and dictionary. The descriptions are numerous, precise and accurate. Anonymous allows himself several pleasant fantasies about sodomy, neatly packaged and not too kinky.

In fact there is nothing very disturbing in Her. It is only a few hours of pink-jacketed titillation, for everything is very conventional. It’s a lot better than David Reuben’s Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex and there is a good deal of celluloid romance too.

The Beardsley Book

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The above is The Lacedaemonian Ambassadors by Aubrey Beardsley. It is taken from Beardsley a well documented biography recently published by Pelican at 5Op.

Fascinating, if academic history of one of the most interesting Decadent artists. At times it is bewildering, especially about Beardsley’s sexuality. But the pictures are nice.

On the Heath

Body Charge by Hunter Davies. Weidenfield & Nicholson — £2.

I really enjoyed Franco’s companionship for two or three nights. Franco is not a new boy-friend of mine, but the true hero of this novel…

He has a very fashionable job as an unlicenced mini-cab driver, but he is always wearing at least one part of his football gear even when he is working. For Franco doesn’t seem to like anything better than this sport and spends all his time off playing it on London’s Hampstead Heath with the first people who come along; a hobby which makes his grandmother ashamed of him. If he lives and shares his nice flat with her, it’s only because it’s more convenient. A very simple kind of life, indeed, and at first Franco’s character could appear as a kind of strange thirty-year-old school-kid, chatting about his contemporaries’ fantasies from a lucid although rather camp point of view.

Then he unfortunately gets involved in a fairly complicated adventure. Protagonists of this special drama are Zak, a sort of university drop-out, his sexy wife and small children, and Joff who is an unbearable BBC producer, who finds it’s not easy to share his life with both his young lover Eddie and his very straight wife.

A naked and strangled body is found in the Wild Pond one sunny morning on the Heath. Then a police inspector turns up, who asks Franco some very insidious questions about his way of life, and tries to make the amateur footballer admit he is a “homosexual”, a word which doesn’t echo in Franco’s head at all … while the police continue their investigations, he later discovers that his mate Ginger’s favourite sport isn’t football as he naively believed, but rather the high excitement of “fag hunting” in Hampstead Heath bushes.

I saw the book as a very professional “zoom”, to use a photographic term, on a guy completely lost among quotidian events who is led to find out his actual identity. But I wonder why such a “straight” – if the biographical information on the cover of the book is true – writer as Hunter Davies has decided to give us a rather honest explanation of “queer bashing”, and how he managed to write a few good pages of his novel about the Gay Lib Street Theatre …

Anyway, it’s time for straight literature to abandon its long-lasting stereotypes and cliches about gayness, isn’t it? Most of the time we are amazed to see the almost total ignorance of the subject when treated by so-called heterosexual authors, completely unable to go beyond the fascination/repulsion that homosexual relationships exercise on them. But then a “straight” reader could be disappointed not to find the usual emphasis on the stigma which must put a strain on all queers lives, but he has very little to lose really except a few misconceptions on the matter by reading “Body Charge”.