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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Juliette, or Vice Amply Rewarded (Historical Fiction)

By The Marquis De Sade

Publisher: Grove Press; 1st Complete American Edition (January 31, 1994)

Softcover, 1205 pages

“I proceed to compare the pleasures vice and virtue procure; I start with virtue, I sample it, savor it thoughtfully, thoroughly, critically. How dull, how vapid! How tasteless, how bland! It leaves me cold, nothing moves me in this, nothing stirs me, virtue makes me listless, the pleasure has gone to whom I have served and, in return, for reward, I have nothing but his distant and aloof gratitude. Now I wonder: is this pleasure? And what a difference between this virtuous exercise and the next one of vice! How my senses, my nerves are brought alive, how my organs bestir themselves! I have nothing just to caress the misdemeanour I am plotting and lo! The divine sap starts up and rushes through my veins, I am all afire, fever assails me; the thought hurls me into ecstasy, a delicious illusions spreads aureate across the whole landscape of this world I am about to conquer through a crime.” Originally published anonymously in several parts between 1797 and 1801, this is the companion novel to Justine, or Good Conduct Well Chastised which is about a young girl who constantly clings to her ideas of morality and chastity and is abused in every conceivable manner. Julliette is her sister whose travels take her down an opposite route. She becomes a nymphomaniac libertine, who has no regard for any philosophy, morality, or individual. She lives entirely for her own pleasure, which eventually leads her down the path of criminality, murder, and cannibalism. It is considered one of the most provocative (to put it mildly) and condemned works of literature ever penned. Not putting his name on the cover did not save De Sade from public scorn. Napoleon himself demanded the arrest of the author. He spent the last thirteen years of his life in prisons and insane asylums. Paying for his art with loss of freedom. 
Only known portrait of the Marquis De Sade
The general flow of the story has the titular character bounce from one type of libertine to another, learning that there is no limit to the depravity she can reach, nor any reason for her to feel shame in her actions. The cadence of the book follows a standard routine: she finds herself in a new place, a libertine does something horrible, then spouts a long diatribe on how the morality around the act is wrong, followed by an orgy. The sex scenes become increasingly weird and less credible from an anatomical standpoint- the arraignment of bodies and animals seems completely ridiculous. De Sade leaves no stone unturned in his assault on what is considered to be moral. His main focus is to demonstrate the base hypocrisy of morality, especially when so many successful leaders seem to ignore such conventions. The descriptions are often extreme. For example, “Cunt-fuck was all I had time to do. For I did not foresee you would wish to stop so soon; twenty fours hours is my usual stint at that house, and do not swing my ass to the fuckers until they have made a hash of my cunt. A hash, yes. Transformed it into an open wound.” or “this particular libertine’s delight was, upon nearing the spilling of his seed, to rip open part of his victim’s chest, cut a hole into the heart, and discharge into the valve.” This novel has revealed to me some new words relating to various sexual acts. Leave it to the French to have a rich lexicon in this manner. To add to my list of nasty terms, we have the verb “encunt” and “encunting” which means “to penetrate vaginally with some sort of object; a penis or otherwise.” Then we have the adjective “sapphic”- derived from the ancient poet Sappho of Lesbos, where we also get the term lesbian- this refers to women sexually enjoying each other. And so we don’t leave the men behind, there is the term “Socratic” which refers to anal sex. “Buggery” or ass-fucking is the sexual position of choice for De Sade’s libertines, with either men or women. Coprophagia (shit-eating for sexual pleasure or due to mental illness) seems to be a major source of arousal for the truly demented and libertine. There are many passages describing this activity. I’m not one to automatically ascribe the actions in a book to the author, but DeSade discusses this relatively obscure type of sexual pleasure so often and with such zest, that I am driven to believe he indulged in it himself. Nowhere, however, does any of his numerous libertines indulge in urolagnia- the drinking of urine for sexual pleasure. Why? I’m not sure. It certainly fits in his list of outrages. Several historical figures are mentioned and a few show up to take part in the action. The most notable being Pope Pius VI, the current Pope at the time of publication and an enemy of Napoleon. His scenes are the longest in the book. The Holy Father indulges in several bizarre orgies with Juliette involving apes, five year old boys, ninety year old women, goats, and all manner of instruments. At one point he impales himself in a turkey’s anus, then climaxes when the animal’s head is cut off, claiming the sphincter’s death contractions were the greatest sensation of all. He proceeds on a long diatribe on that murder should not be considered a sin, as it was part of the cycle of life. One needs death in order for more life to grow and that the idea of sin was ridiculous. After which he plants a communion wafer on the end of his penis and bangs Juliette on the high altar of St. Peter’s Basilica. As you can imagine this portrait of the Holy Father does not exist anywhere else in recorded history. Whether it was based on De Sade’s own gathering of rumors during his time in Italy, or just another example of how the powerful are all truly corrupt, is open to interpretation. Although I would choose the latter. 
Pope Pius VI
Part of what fascinates me is the reactions from critics towards this work and how dismissive of they are of the actions of the characters in order to embrace the philosophy. His idea of “total freedom”, that is freedom to act and freedom from any sense of morality, as laurelled by Camille Paglia, is always displayed by De Sade’s characters in the most vicious of manners. For example in the first book, the titular character is corrupted by the Abbess of her convent boarding school. The height of their depravity involves deflowering a nine year old girl with a twelve inch strap-on dildo. At the end, Julliette and her lover, Noirceuil, take turns destroying their own children. The man sodomizes his son, then cuts the boy’s heart out and eats it. After which Julliette tosses her twelve year old daughter into a fire and they take turns jabbing her with a poker while she tries to escape, driving her back into the flames. The philosophy of total freedom presented in Julliette means stripping yourself from all constraint placed upon a person by religion and society, or at least those portions that go against what he calls “Nature”. Essentially this Nature is what others would call “Natural Law”, IE acting similar to animals. Look at animals in nature, do they worry about killing, or incest, or theft, or rape? Do they hesitate from giving in to their desires or impulses? Then why should we? That’s our natural state. In reality, it is barely even a philosophy. It is more a half-assed justification for a person to commit whatever depraved act pops into their skull. De Sade attempts to demonstrate his ideas with some sketchy examples on how these concepts are already embraced by various other cultures. I say sketchy, because several of his examples are either misrepresentations or outright lies. For example he writes, “Every American is much addicted to theft” and “American women enjoy being buggered by monkeys.” As most Americans will agree, that is nonsense. Other snippets come from antiquity, such as “In Athens, in Sparta, hospitality was forbidden; those who implored were put to death.” Which is the exact opposite of any source I’ve read about the ancient Greeks. Others I had not heard of, but I presume that anyplace which lauds thievery, rape, or incest is not a place one would want to live if they can help it. 
1791 edition of the sister novel Justine
DeSade certainly does not shy away from the inevitable horrific end of the idea of “total freedom”- murder, rape, cannibalism, bestiality, pedophilia, incest. Only those at the top can enjoy “total freedom” because they have the power, money, and influence to get away with it- not much different from today’s world. The concept of total freedom means misery for the majority of people. It is difficult to know how to take De Sade in his writing. Does he believe it? Is he explaining a mentality that is pervasive throughout his social class? Or did he just feel like taking a giant dump on society? It could be that we are mistaking the man for his work. A person who writes about serial killers, usually is not a serial killer himself. But the whole of his work (not just this book, several more thousands of pages) revolve around these themes, which seems on the level of obsession. So did he truly endorse these concepts, or was it all for shock appeal? Most writers who are trying to peddle an alternative societal lifestyle try to upsell their views, giving them a utopian appeal. De Sade does not. Perhaps his personal views are not important. Perhaps it is all political opinion after all. For one message is consistently clear in his writings. That is, the people who are supposed to protect you from such atrocities are the ones who are inflicting them. And if those who are supposed to be the paragons of society are false, then all ideas of morality must be a farce as well. Thus indulge yourself as much as you like, it won’t matter in the long run. Perhaps the message is even simpler than that. “Might as well be bad, because being good will get you nowhere.” 
It is interesting to note that many of the views he takes (wild and blasphemous at the time) have become embraced by various liberal causes. Abortion is constantly toted by De Sade, though he goes further and says women should have the right to kill their child at any time if they tire of the brat. Atheism is another example. Apparently his belief is that barely anyone believes in the religious myths, but are afraid to say anything. “To what then must we ascribe the existence of this dogma amongst this particular people? Either to the people’s fancy or to the plotting of its priests; these being the sources of superstition, how can you allow them any substance?” And with both of these in hand, comes the general sense that the individual (in this case Julliette) is the center of the universe, and the narcissistic impulse to treat all other people as objects for their sexual gratification. 
The world presented here is a jaundiced view of reality. There is no love, or warmth, or care. It is simply absent. People are there to be used then thrown aside by the powerful. Children are either burdens or instruments of incest for their parents. You are either treated with respect if you have money or a title, or are the dirt beneath the powerful feet. Narcissism is the common denominator. Perhaps this was the way that world was in the privileged upbringing of the Marquis de Sade. In a very real sense this is look at the world view of Hollywood and the entertainment industry. Where else does the aspect of libertinage, as described by De Sade, thrive. Where else are rape, sexual assault, pedophilia, substance abuse, and self-involvement viewed as business as usual as in Hollywood?

           For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Foot Doctor Letters (Horror)

Here is chapter one of the new novel The Foot Doctor Letters: A Serial Killer Speaks Out. The plot probably seems self explanatory: a serial killer describes how he became one.  It is available on Amazon in paperback and digital format. Enjoy and Caveat Emptor!

1 - Dear Dan

It’s been awhile. How are you? I suppose you might not want to hear from me, but I have a few things I want to explain. You’re my oldest friend. As far back as I can recall you’ve been in my life. I don’t even remember how we met, you were just always there-in the best days.
I have no real memories from my early life, just sensations. The sounds of screaming and cursing, and breaking glass, and dull thuds of flesh on flesh. The smells of blood and vomit and pungent alcohol. The feeling of a hard slap and the ache of a solid fist. All of that filled me up before I could walk.
My first solid memories were those days of kindergarten when you and I would run around, up and down the block, playing hide and seek, and freeze tag, and horse, and shoot the badger. There was that one time when I slipped while scampering up a tree and my ankle got caught on the crotch of a forked branch. Remember the sound of the snap, loud as a pistol crack? I hung there one foot straight up, like the Hanged Man from a tarot deck, until your mother came out and got me down. She stayed with me as I whimpered and pushed my head into her fat breast, until the ambulance came and I was whisked away to the land of the antiseptic.
Then there were the lazy summer afternoons when the sun beat down and the water boiled up and stepping outside felt like walking through soup? It must have been around kindergarten or first grade, when we played in your driveway and our green army men committed massacre after massacre. Over all of the normal neighborhood sounds, we could hear the jingle-jangle tones of the Mr. Softee truck as it shuddered onto our street. Everything stopped immediately and, tongues lolling about our faces, we galloped to beg for a creamy treat. Your mother always had an extra dollar for me to buy a cone.
Life drifted on; it seemed so long then, but so short now, and we were forced into those horrible days of elementary school, where three times five was a complex mathematical equation. There was that time when we were playing on the seesaw in the park and the Hand of God overtook me. I became flushed with fear and fell from the ride in a rhythmic, frothing fever. My temperature was one hundred and three degrees. No one in my house would get off their asses to pick me up, so your mother volunteered to take me in and be my nurse.
I spent those two weeks in a primordial state, with the Bearded Saints crowded around me, praying to Christ on the Cross for my immortal soul. Their halos glowed and their beards flicked down and tickled my nose. All the while, winged seraphs and barbed devils battled in the background. Your mother stayed with me the whole time. She wiped my nose, wiped my ass, and mopped up my puke. Without her I would have died. No one at my parents’ house seemed to notice my absence.
Then, after first grade, we went to summer camp. Well I almost didn’t because there was no money for little me to stay in the inn. No penance or appeals above or below would shift the wallets of my parents, until your mother offered to help. She scrimped and saved, and cut down on the Fritos and orange tinged soda pop, to raise the money. Do you remember? I hope you do because it was one of the best times in my life. It is special to me and I want it to be so for you too.
And oh, oh, oh remember all of the impromptu sleepovers which happened whenever my mother was having one of her little spells and needed some “special alone time” and my father was out doing whatever. They usually happened when my brother was in prison. One time in particular sticks out. It was when my brother was locked up for public indecency and corruption of a minor, I’d had some very special bad dreams and ended up peeing all over my sleeping bag. I went to your house crying at two o’clock in the morning, my Underoos soaked and stinking. Your mother woke up and saw me and changed my clothes. She held me close and said, “Everything will be all right, baby.” Then I asked her if she could be my mommy and she just smiled and hugged me again. How silly we were then.
For a while I lapsed and stopped believing in Angels and God and the Bearded Saints, because my every wish wasn’t granted. We talked about it, with our small understanding of how the world worked, and in the debate you made an excellent point. Just because we couldn’t see them, doesn’t mean the Angels aren’t there, like those insects who live in your eyebrows. It made so much sense that I slapped my forehead over and over again, until you made me stop. Don’t you see? You restored my faith in God and his plans.
There is a confession here I need to make. Something terrible I’ve done to you. I’m telling you this so you will believe what I say later is the truth and we can have a clean slate. Remember the cat you had, Poxer? The calico with orange stripes across its face and the weird pattern in the fur on the left side, like a black heart. Why was he called Poxer? I used to know, but I forget. I think it was some word you mispronounced as a child and everyone thought it was cute.
You thought he ran away, except he didn’t. I wanted to know. I was curious and thought, “Why not?” Or perhaps the idea wasn’t really as coherent as that. It was more of a sensation I gave into. Whatever the result, I knew the cat couldn’t tattle.
I took a Swiss army knife my uncle Dick had left in the couch. It was dull and rusty with a cracked brown waffle covering. Looking back, I’m surprised it even worked it was so old. I took the cat behind your garage and cut him right through that black heart. He cried and clawed, and I yelled at him until the blood ran out and he stopped. I looked and saw a few things, then buried him behind the garage and washed myself down with the garden hose.
It was quite a disgusting experience actually. I didn’t like it. Very messy and smelly, with all sorts of slimy things sliding about and getting the blood out took forever. I had a sense of myself very early on and this was not me.
Later on, when you were all looking around for it, I said, “Did you look behind the garage?” and giggled. Your mother gave me a sidelong glance, as if something about me bothered her. I never forgot the look.
Then a turbulent time came upon us. We all graduated to sixth grade and had to go to a new middle school building. And I hated it! No more naps or free time or fun. It was all just class, class, class, then lunch. You had lunch, I didn’t have lunch. They wouldn’t give me a free lunch because my mother wouldn’t send in the paperwork. She said she didn’t want people to think we were poor, so she got me a yellow plastic lunch box and told me to fill it with something in the mornings. The first day I piled Oreos into it and when my mother found out, she hit me with the belt because those were her Oreos. Your mother later noticed the welts on my back and asked why. After that, there was always some food for me in your lunch box, but I think you kept the desserts for yourself.
When we moved from sixth to seventh grade and were put on separate teams, which was even less fun. They stuck me in the “remedial team” or as all the other kids called it, “team retard”. I had no friends in this new group of people. They were all deformed, spacy weirdos. The teachers hated us. Maybe they thought they were wasting their time. The worst was having to deal with that one evil woman, the vile cunt, with all her ugly smells and warty face. You remember her? Mrs. Brockington, the math teacher, and her bad temper.
There was the one terribly bad day, when the clouds blackened in my head and every other second I felt as if I was going to vomit up the handful of stale Cheerios I had scarfed down for breakfast. Mrs. Brockington was unhappy with how messily I had written my multiplication problems. She grabbed my arm and yelled at me. Her disgusting hot breath hit me and sparked a storm in my brain. Like lightning, the idea struck to stab her with the Swiss army knife. Then apparently, I did. I don’t remember really doing it, but it happened, about six or twenty times. I’m not sure. I went at it until I was pulled off her, saturated in blood.
 I was surprised to see they knew who I was down at the police station. I had never been there before, but then I realized I was known via the other members of my family who got out more than me. The cops called me by my first name and had me phone someone. I knew no one would show up from my house, so I called your mother. She came down very nervous-like and brought me some new clothes, as the police had taken away the ones I’d been wearing. She didn’t give me a hug, only stared with that same look again, as if scared by something around me. She just put her left hand kind of near me, so I could feel the heat, but would not make actual contact.
She went into an indoor room with windows and talked to the police for a long time. When they came out, she smiled briefly and then hesitatingly patted me on the arm. For a second, I thought everything would be all right and I could go home. Then they took me away. Now you won’t remember this because you weren’t there, but I wrote lots of letters to you about what happened, which were sent on. At least they told me they were.
After a brief stay in a prison cell where I received no visitors, we went to court. There were lots of talking and sitting around and standing. The people all doing this looked really creepy, like windup toys. A monkey banging his symbols. A plastic dog stiffly walking forward. The clerk briskly rattling off the charges. The stenographer with her teased-out hair lightly tapping in response to the slightest sound.
To keep me quiet, the lawyer gave me some crayons and a few sheets ripped from a coloring book, so I don’t remember much beyond the general stale atmosphere of the room. It was dull, lifeless. Everyone was going through the motions, not really interested in what they were saying or what was being said. The coloring was much more interesting and I spent a relatively happy afternoon carefully shading in between the lines of Donald Duck and his three nephews, and Charlie Brown and Snoopy.
The only specific words I remember are when the lawyer came over and practically stuck his finger in my eye. I don’t think he noticed because he wasn’t looking at me, but gesturing for semi-dramatic effect while mechanically clipping, “Your honor, this boy isn’t here because of what he has done. He’s here because his family is poor. Too poor to afford the help he needs. Can we punish him for that?”
I guess so.
Over the two days we were in court, I looked around and didn’t recognize anyone. I didn’t expect to see anyone from my family, but I didn’t see your mother either. I had assumed she would show up, but nothing.
No one was there for me at all. Then or later. No one but evil faced boys with pink lips who had been beaten and raped their whole lives. They waited inside, just counting the time until it was their turn to get some. No one but droopy-eyed, minimum wage guards who didn’t care what the hell happened as long as it was quiet. No one but exhausted and exasperated social workers with one thousand and one child inmates on their plate. No one but ragged-looking teachers, not good enough for even the ghetto public schools.
All these authority figures said the same thing. They raged and recited platitudes about ideas and morals and themes and pledges. All of them meant nothing. They said the words because it was the official party line. None of them seemed to believe it. Pure regurgitation.
“You are here to fit in with society. So, you can go out and get a good job and have a good life. Do as we say and everything will be all right,” they told us.
I learned very early liars were in charge and the world is rotten because everyone’s too lazy to change it.
The memories keep flooding back. What comes up next is when I was released after a year in the pen. There was no one to meet me except some wrinkly-faced, sour-mouthed battleaxe from Child Protective Services, who coldly dragged me off in a broken-down Honda. She put me into the car seat like I was a thing, a dirty ragdoll instead of a person, and would not look at me the entire trip.
I could feel her disgust towards me. She acted as if not looking at me would cause me to disappear. I wanted to cut her throat. I wanted to stab her eyes. I wanted to make her go away. The whole trip I burned and thought of nothing else.
The social worker took me to a house filled with broken children, both older and younger than myself. All molested and molesters. Each one on a different spoke of the same vicious cycle. The house “parents” were disinterested slobs who always wore dirty clothes. The place was bare, drab, and worn- the thinnest veneer of civilization draped over starvation bones. We had the basics-three hots and a cot. That’s all they had to give us and that’s all we got, and they were constantly annoyed at having to provide even the bare minimum. They took their low pay and let us do whatever we wanted the rest of the time.
I tried to call you, but I had forgotten the number. I walked around the streets a lot looking for your place, but all of the houses were strange and hostile. I wanted to hear your mother’s voice. For some reason, I thought just the sound of it would make the Angels beam down on me again. But that didn’t happen for there was a monster in the house.
His name was Jobiah and he was bigger than me. He had been forcibly removed from his crack whore mother, who had pimped him out since he was five. I remember the way he licked his stupid thick lips and the slow sideways glances he would give me out of his almond eyes and the ugly black birthmark, like a clover, by his left eye. The adults around never knew or cared what he did.
The first time was late at night when I had gone to the bathroom. He followed me out and kicked the door open as I tried to close it. He stuck a towel over my mouth and pushed my face hard against the wall. I tried to struggle, but he kept slamming my head until I was too dazed to fight back. He pulled down my footie pajamas and stuck his knobby penis up into my anus. I remember him grunting and groaning, until his filthy seed had been spent and he left his oily stink all over me. It was my first sexual experience, a homosexual rape.
That was not the only time. Whenever he got me alone and could threaten me with a knife, he fucked me. It got to the point where I stopped struggling and just let him get it over with. I learned to almost stop feeling anything. When he was in me, grunting and sweating, my mind would soar off and take tea with the Bearded Saints, who stroked me and told me it will all be good in the end, everything happened for a reason, and the lights would one day explode revealing the Lord’s smile. Then all of the karmic secrets of the universe would expose themselves for a split second and slip away.
I suppose I should have told an adult, a teacher, a cop, one of the lumps hanging around the group home, but I was afraid and ashamed. I also didn’t think anyone would care. It was easier to pretend nothing had ever happened and throw myself into a fairy tale world where things were nice.
Then one day I was told someone was coming to visit. A song sang high in my soul, because I was sure it would be your mother. I pictured her grabbing me in her arms, hugging me near to death, and holding a swinging purse overflowing with chocolate treats.
But no. Unfortunately, it was just my Mother, the alcoholic whore. Now she seemed different however. Clean and alert, not the dopey crag-faced woman I had seen all of my life. She carried a desperate hope in her eyes and swore to me things would be better. She had found Jesus, or the equivalent thereof, and would be taking me home soon. She hugged me and told me my life would be filled with joy, but I didn’t believe her. Still, I was happy to go for obvious reasons, not the least of which was I would be with you and your mother again.
I had to wait two entire weeks, which to a child is three lifetimes. Sensing I was going to slip out of his grasp, Jobiah increased his assaults, especially at night. I was near despair and half convinced it was all a cruel hoax against me.
Then it happened; the yawning house “father” took me to court and the judge officially remanded custody of myself back to my mother. I was talked about in court, but my name was never used once. My “care and well-being” was discussed as one would talk about raising a ferret, or weeds on the back of a chia pet. No one looked at me. Neither judge, nor jury, nor executioner acknowledged I was there. Except once, when my Mother turned around and saw me, and seemed almost surprised at my presence. She smiled quickly and turned away, back to the more important proceedings of listening to the lawyers drone on. When she smiled, her face crinkled with five thousand lines. For the first time I noticed the sagging flesh on her face and the red unhealthy splotches from decades of chemical abuse. I wanted to throw up right there, but I didn’t.
When it was over, my Mother took me by her puffy hand and led me out. She asked if there was anything else I wanted from back at the group home. No. It could all stay behind and burn. I needed nothing.
Speaking of droning lawyers, I’m going to have to stop here because mine is whining that I’m not paying attention while he’s going over his “strategy” with me. If you ever need a lawyer, do not get Laurence Sims. He’ll get one bad idea in his head and then won’t shut up about it. I’ll write again soon.

Hope you enjoyed it.