karen's Reviews > Story of O

Story of O by Pauline Réage
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's review
May 08, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: bore-rotica, for-that-bodice-ripper-group, distant-lands
Read in May, 2012

i am not going to write a serious review of this book. if you want to talk about why bondage erotica is bad for women or how negation porn makes its readers complicit in the victimization of women halfway across the globe or to sip tea and talk about depersonalization or dehumanization or anything even remotely intelligent - more power to you, but this book bored me so much i don't even care to elevate it or grant it any sort of intellectual discussion. i am really only interested in talking about why this book is boring.

i have said it before on here, but it bears repeating: despite my recent fascination with monster erotica, i personally find reading about sex boring. but even more boring than reading about sex? reading about non-sex. which is basically what this book is.

despite the lingering on the violence and the restraining, piercing, branding, whipping, the sex act itself is glossed over to the extent that at one point o has taken on several lovers, to completion, in the span of three sentences.

for example, the last line in the book:

it was only after daybreak, after all the dancers had left, that sir stephen and the commander, awakening natalie who was asleep at o's feet, helped o to her feet, led her to the middle of the courtyard, unfastened her chain and removed her mask and, laying her back upon a table, possessed her one after the other.

penthouse letters, that is not.

and it's all like that.

but sir stephen's hands pried open her loins, forced the buttocks' portal, retreated, took her again, caressed her until she moaned.

obviously, this is intended to be a sadean experiment in impersonal and objectified sex, but more detail is given in this book to the construction of dresses than to the sex act. and that's fine, like i said, i have no regrets at not reading about "glistening honey-pots" or "man-roots."but at least that would have gotten a giggle out of me.

and why am i the only one reading lactation porn and wondering who is supposed to clean up after it? and reading this and completely focusing on the hygiene?? the fact that her lover will not permit her to wear underwear. fine. but then he will also not let her sit upon her dress, so no matter where she is: on a bar stool, at a restaurant, in the backseat of a public conveyance, she is always bare-assed, and bare-"bellied" directly on the seats.and that grossed me out more than any of the more violent tearing and whipping and piercing she undergoes.do you know where that barstool has been? then don't go rubbing your open bits about on it!seriously. why would your lover/master want you to get scabies? it is contagious!

and don't go bloodying up the good towels after a rough session of buttsecks.it's so nasty.

this is what i took from story of o and i apologize, but i have my hang-ups same as anyone, and i just feel like a place like roissy, with all those bodily fluids squirting everywhere and all the blood all over the floor and how often do they clean those riding crops??? is all i could think about.

it is interesting that the bodice rippers chose this book to read during the height of fifty shades of gray mania. here are some pictures from the fifty shades event at my store:

seriously, do you see how many people are there?

insanity. i wasn't able to get a good photo of the author, just the woman interviewing her, but she was there, i swear.

as you can see, female-penned BDSM erotica is insanely popular.(is that redundant??is there BDSM that is just casual and unerotic? yes! and it is this book!) and i get why this book (story of o, i do not yet understand the shades phenomenon)is a BIG DEAL because at the time, it was unprecedented that a woman would have written such a violent and debasing novel. but i read it now and i can't help but think, "is that all??"

incidentally,this fifty shades phenomenon is out of hand. little old ladies reading bondage porn has got to be one of the signs of the end times.

but even fifty shades is having troubles:


and of course i am totally anti-censorship, but if that book is as dull as this one, who's to say that they aren't dodging a bullet here by not being allowed to read it.

full disclosure: i read a shitty translation. i am sure manny will come out and say it is better in its original language, and of that i have no doubt. but i honestly don't feel that i would have enjoyed it any better in french, even if my fluency in that language had not been severely compromised by years of disuse.

i read this first when i was in high school, when i thought that subversive literature would be cool. i read some de sade and i read story of the eye, and i read this, and honestly, it just bored the crap out of me. but i thought i still had my copy lying around. turns out, i did not. and i wasn't going to buy a new copy when the bodicers chose this book because i figured, quite rightly, that i wouldn't enjoy it any more the second time around than i had on the first. i read the introduction of the hard copy on my break at work, and i ended up borrowing a nook so's i could read it without having to shell out the whopping 8 bucks for it. and the introduction is worth reading, if you are interested in the history of its translation:

there exists an earlier translation of o, made in paris several years ago. i trust i shall not be accused of a corresponding lack of generosity if i say (and i am not the first, and far from the only one, to say it) that this earlier version is less a translation than an adaptation. it reads somehow as though the adapter-translator were in fact embarrassed by the work: certain parts are glossed over; whole descriptions, nonexistent in the original, are written in; and, indeed, much of the book is paraphrased rather than translated directly. as one who had read the work in french when it first appeared, and admired not only its contents but the extreme felicity of the style, what troubled me mostly about the earlier english version was its seeming disdain for this obvious style. subsequently, i learned this translator was a man, and it seemed to me that this fact alone sufficed to explain both the embarrassment - male embarrassment manifest in his version, and also why pauline reage had gone out of her way to comment favorably on mine: story of o, written by a woman, demands a woman translator, one who will humble herself before the work and be satisfied simply to render it, as faithfully as possible, without interpretation or unwanted elaboration. faced with a work such as o, male pride, male superiority - however liberal the male, however much he may try to suppress them - will, i am certain, somehow intrude.

now, i don't know about all that, but i do know that the translation i read was atrocious. it was boring. and at one point, it cuts off abruptly, and i was like "weird," so i went to the hard copy only to find that eleven "pages" were missing in the electronic version! what the hell?

as grateful as i am that lulu press exists, because they gave semen recipes to the world, i do not think they have the best copyeditors.not only were the ELEVEN pages missing, but there were roughly a million typos, which are terribly distracting when you are trying to focus on the buttsecks. and those pages were the whole part about her and jacqueline and the command sir stephen gives o regarding jacqueline, and is kind of a big deal, plot-wise, and is followed by one of the only interesting sections in the book, where she contemplates her role in sir stephen's orbit, and speculates upon his intent and his feelings blah blah. but stephen is such a douche ,who cares, right?

but so why am i not going to go back and read the "better" translation? because that sums it up: i really don't care. i just wanted to let everyone know that if you are interested in reading this book, DO NOT read the version on the nook or kindle or the POD lulu press one. because from what i can tell, it definitely is just an adaptation, and since you probably aren't going to go learning french just to read this book, if you are going to read it, READ IT.


i wrote all that part yesterday, but i didn't post it because i wanted to do a side-by-side comparison of the text on the nook and the text in the hard copy, so i had to wait until i was at work to take notes and everything and I WAS WRONG! they are exactly the same. so this is not just an adaptation-mistranslation. this is the one that is supposed to be "good". that reage praised.

holy hell.

this ruins my whole review, but i do not care enough to rewrite it and this may well be my worst review ever, but i don't even care because this book bored the shit out of me TWICE and that should not be rewarded.

in more personal news, (because the rest of this review has been such intensive impersonal lit-crit, i know...)i read this on the new glow-y nook.

which is pretty cool. were i ever to buy a device for myself, i would probably buy the glow-y one because i like to read while i am walking and it is much easier to read on a nook while walking than a book because you can do it all one-handed (LGM) but the problem i was having was with night-walking, and the light-em-up feature solves all of that. i can also late-night read without the lights on. i want to read something scarrrry on it, all alone in the dark, and see what happens.


even maggie approves:

and, no - barnes and noble is not making me say this. i actually like this thing. and if i could get one for free and get all my books on it for free like i do when i borrow one, my life would be awesome. as is, it is just mediocre. like this review. no - this review sucks. like the book.

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Comments (showing 1-50 of 84) (84 new)

message 1: by Mike (new)

Mike Lester You just think it lacks giant octopi or a sasquatch. :p

karen oh, it would have been sexxier with octopi!

message 3: by Mike (new)

Mike Lester Everything is sexier with tentacles!

Bonnie This book ended up on the list of 1001 books to read before you die. I have no idea why.

karen because you want to die afterward?

message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

This would definitely be better with monsters. Arguably, it is already peopled with aliens, so that angle is covered.

Bonnie karen wrote: "because you want to die afterward?"

I know I did.

message 8: by Joe (new)

Joe The only thing I know about this book is that it's quoted in a Tori Amos song from, like, 13 years ago.

karen no tentacles.... )<

karen UGH.

Maureen i think this review is very astute. i like reading dirty stories. i like penthouse letters. i like to read about fucking. but there's not a lot here because it is "about non-sex." i remember being SO BUMMED OUT when i read this, especially with all the hype. it's like reading those victorian stories and stumbling on a run of birching stories where the "sex" is just whipping somebody's ass with twigs until they bleed. BORING.

i like your spooky face. are you saying "ooooooooooo"? maybe you should read m.r. james on the borrowed nook? I LOVE MAGGIE. :)

i have been using my phone as a flashlight lately...

karen i love you to, elizabeth! i knew you would hate this book...

maureen - is mr james good?? i have a couple of collections here, but i thought they might be "dated" and unspooky the way algernon blackwood was, to me.

karen i was totally saying "oooooooo"

karen the first one, i was saying "oooo" like "looky here!" and the second one i was saying "oooo" like a ghostie.

message 15: by B0nnie (new)

B0nnie great review Karen, this book is just silly - and the fifty shades of gray...underwear

Maureen two different kinds of "oooooooooooooo"? i should have known because of placement of a) device and b) eyebrows. :) you are the awesome. :)

i really really love m.r. james. and i like him more than algernon blackwood, but that is because i think he is a much better writer. but i am not sure he would scare you. you might read "o whistle, and i'll come to you my lad" and see what you think of that? because if you don't like that, you won't like him. i think count magnus might have scared me the most? and the mezzotint really iggs me out. but the stories are usually more creepy than outright terrifying. i like his little antiquarians seeking out old relics, and latin inscriptions, and train schedules, and little inns, and the ambiance. i like it when he's read aloud to me... that's sort of my olde schoole litmus test. maybe you ought to enlist someone? :)

have you ever read the beckoning fair one by oliver onions? what do you look for in a ghost story? as opposed to a horror story...

karen i don't know. i think that i am not scared of ghosts in stories, but i am scared of them in hotel rooms all by myself. but this is a good question - i am always bitching that "i can't find anything scaaaary to read" but i'm not sure what really scares me. in books. i know what scares me in life. lemme ruminate. you are my girl, though, maureen.

message 18: by Nicole (new)

Nicole This book sounds super blerg, although I'm tempted to try to read it in French because bland erotic fiction seems like a good way to brush up on my skillz.

message 19: by Mike (new)

Mike Lester The Ash Tree by James is another good one. Hi mo! :)

message 20: by Bill (new)

Bill so you're saying that if you could get a nook for free, and get all your e-books for free, you'd stop buying real books???? KAREN!!! i thought you hated e-books and their readers!!

message 21: by Trudi (new)

Trudi "but i don't even care because this book bored the shit out of me TWICE and that should not be rewarded"

hehe, you slay me.

Written sex is permitted to be everything and anything straight up, twisted, imaginative, hhhot, titillating, instructive even ... but never boring or what is the jeezly point? You might as well go and watch paint dry.

Re: 50 shades -- maybe I've missed the debate, but I'm curious as to why the very nature of its existence isn't being challenged on some level -- not for its insipid prose or "naughty bits" (I've read much filthier) -- but the fact that it started its life as a piece of fanfiction, and I thought the unspoken "code" was that fanfiction writers will use and abuse your copyrighted material for the entertainment of themselves and others, but never shall they profit from it.

Wassup with that? Alright, it's an AU story where Bella and Edward are living different lives and hook up in a much different way and setting ... but it's STILL Bella and Edward (a rose by any other name), and fans of the Twilight series have told me both characters have a lot of "tells" that are lifted straight from Stephanie Meyer's material. Though it certainly isn't that driving sales. I would imagine the average reader who picks the books up -- all mommies and grannies -- have no idea (or would care) about the dubious pedigree.

Has Meyer even weighed in on the ridiculous popularity and the gobs of money being paid to the "author"? I'm wondering how J.K. Rowling would feel if suddenly Harry (just call him Tex) and Hermione (just call her Hussy) were suddenly featured doing the nasty using foodstuffs and animals all over the south western United States? Hmmmmm...

At what point does a story built upon / "inspired by" a copyrighted piece of work become "your own"? How many details have to change? I'm sure lawyers would have a field day coming up with an exacting formula ... which they may have to, because this entire 50 shades explosion has likely given hope to many fanfiction writers of getting their very own dirty ditties discovered (and laughing all the way to the bank).

eh...just wondering is all. Now I'm going to go watch paint dry.

karen that's interesting because the people i know who have read both thought it had no real connection to twlight and she had just written is as "t fanfic" so people would read it. (before she published it) and then once it took off, well, i don't know enough about fanfiction, but tonight i will be working with tho of its monsterfans, so i will get the skinny.

oh, bill - i will never stop buying books. but there are a ton of things that are now only available as e-books that i only casually want to read, and if i could just read 'em on this thing, i would. i am torn. and changeable. i do like this one. and i am getting more adept with it. and since i never got onboard with the cellphones and the ipods and all that, and everyone looks at me funny, i feel like i have to make at least one concession to the modern world. but maybe not! i will never stop buying books.

karen i know! no one wanted to read bear shapeshifters but me. i think i am all wrong for this group.

message 24: by Traveller (last edited May 12, 2012 05:12AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Traveller Actually the last line in the book is not:
it was only after daybreak, after all the dancers had left, that sir stephen and the commander, awakening natalie who was asleep at o's feet, helped o to her feet, led her to the middle of the courtyard, unfastened her chain and removed her mask and, laying her back upon a table, possessed her one after the other."

The last line was removed from publication. What you are reviewing here, is a censored version. The book exists in several censored forms. Its original last chapter includes the heroine's voluntary death.

This "suicide ending", which is one of two possible endings mentioned in the book, serves as the final paragraph. It is essentially a footnote. As with the other "suppressed" ending mentioned in the paragraph before it, it was omitted and was never published.

karen the "two" footnote-endings are in this version, too, but they are not part of the "action," so they don't count, for me. does an edition exist where these two endings are actually written in their entirety?

karen actually, i think that one was for last month. this month it was just this, pimpernel, and shades. what were we thinking??

karen we need to step it up next month....

karen wait, they make books without monster sex??

karen oh, yeah - it is a sensation, man. and it is a trilogy. and it is everywhere. i flipped through it - it is way more graphic than this, but i still can't wrap my head around its demographic - they are such nice-looking ladies! who bring their kids in strollers to a bondage book signing! my mind is boggled!

i am writing my last monster review right now...

Traveller karen wrote: "the "two" footnote-endings are in this version, too, but they are not part of the "action," so they don't count, for me. does an edition exist where these two endings are actually written in their ..."

I've been searching, but I'm a bit pressed for time. (Ok, you wouldn't say so if you saw my amount of babbling on GR, but really, I should be studying) I made a note to keep looking, and will get back to you if I find a nice online version of it somewhere.

What would Karen be without monster sex, btw?

I think the pressure is going up to find more and more wild erotica out there, that will engage, instead of bore.

Will Karen be up to the challenge ?

Tune in for the next episode of : KAREN'S EROTIC MONSTER-MARATHON !

karen this erotica thing is really just a lark. and now i am going to go back to my comfort zone of appalachia-noir and YA dystopia because i fear i am getting a reputation....


thanks for the looking, traveller. now back to work with ye! whipcrack!

perhaps the wrong thread for that...

message 32: by Traveller (last edited May 12, 2012 07:05AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Traveller I didn't read much of 50 Shades, I was put off by the obvious lack of intelligence of the protagonist. Sort of a brain dead, even more dorky version of Bella. (If you ever believed that could be possible)

I wonder if the implication is that you must be dumb to enjoy BDSM? [[[Obvious trolling comment[[[

c_c Sometimes I love coming out from under my bridge, really, some books just bring it out in me lure me out...

karen i know - bondage does nothing for me. i am too squirrelly - i like to be active and involved in the experience....

message 34: by Sketchbook (new)

Sketchbook Ever been tied up w ropes of jellybeans?

karen they sell jelly beans in ropes!!?? is this easter bunny erotica????

please elaborate, because this might open new doors for me

message 36: by Sketchbook (new)

Sketchbook --or flayed w chocolate candies? As Bea Lillie once said, at start of a skit, "Let your imagination go."

karen nope - you lost me at chocolate. melted chocolate on the sheets? see- people rarely think about the aftermath when they are lost in the passion. 'm not a kid anymore, i have to think about consequences.

message 38: by Sketchbook (new)

Sketchbook Who said "melted" ? Not I--.

karen oh, well my experience with sex is that sometimes the body temperature becomes elevated. have i been doing it wrong??? oh no!!!

message 40: by Traveller (last edited May 12, 2012 09:02AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Traveller You eat it before it gets to the sheets, silly!
XD . .Evil grin.

karen ohhh i was thinking of chocolate restraints. those wouldn't stand a chance. now i am off to market, and i am going to have this conversation in my head.... great.

message 42: by Sketchbook (new)

Sketchbook Kerect.

Traveller ..and btw, who was talking about beds and sheets... - have yer no imagination, girl!
Do all your escapades take place in bed?

Now, if I were going to be playing with strings of jellybeans and naughty chocolate, it would be in the bath, the shower, or.. well- the possibilities are boundless, really.

Ok, ok, I'm studying!

message 44: by Sketchbook (new)

Sketchbook Macaroons.

message 45: by Trudi (new)

Trudi karen wrote: "that's interesting because the people i know who have read both thought it had no real connection to twlight and she had just written is as "t fanfic" so people would read it. (before she published..."

I found this article and thread of comments re: 50 Shades of Grey. Some of the points raised are pretty interesting, some maddeningly blasé or obtuse. I DO think Fifty Shades presents an interesting opportunity to consider more closely what constitutes copyright infringement, and when as readers/consumers/authors/human beings we should be decrying bullshit.

I really don't cotton to the argument that everything out there is lifted from something else anyway, that there are no original ideas left. No way. C'mon. That's too easy. Plots can be rehashed (there's supposedly only seven after all, right?) but characters can bear DNA distinctly their own -- even Bella and Edward.

message 46: by [deleted user] (new)

What's the FIN thing?

karen is just french for "the end"

message 48: by Gary (new)

Gary this review is great,and the pictures made me laugh my ass off. Karen, you are truly hilarious, hysterical, funny as hell. The whole nine yards. We should meet for coffee sometime,and yuck it up......

I bow in eternal reverence,and respect.......

karen aww thanks, man!

message 50: by Tuck (new)

Tuck those pictures of all those people ga ga over el james scared me. come on, there should be a warning or something about scary fucking dopes in pics (even if it IS the back of their so-called heads). lemmings

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