What If Your Grandmother Wrote Erotica?

July 26, 2010  |  

“Page Flipping” is Madame Noire‘s weekly column on books. Stay tuned for more topics, comment or write us at editors@madamenoire.com if you have suggestions!

Anderson Cooper’s mama is a hoot! At 85 years old, Gloria Vanderbilt released an erotic novel in 2009 called Obsession.   While most octogenarians are knitting, plotting strategies to win at bingo and chewing caramel squares, Grandma Gloria has a few other things on her mind—namely kinky sex…

Obsession begins with Priscilla Bingham as she endures the death of her husband Talbot during their 10th wedding anniversary celebration.  Childless by choice and living in a lavish home designed by her now deceased architect husband, Priscilla happens upon a stack of letters from a mistress named Bee. Shocked by her husband’s actions, Priscilla becomes, well, obsessed with reading every letter.

Much of this short book (only 144 pages) is composed of the letters that the mistress Bee sent to Talbot over the years. The letters reveal a fantasy land called the Janus Club that is best described as an adult version of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.  At the Janus Club everything is made to touch, fondle and pleasure. There are emerald studded collars, golden Areola clamps and chocolate sprinkles delicately placed on ample breasts.  The women, referred to as goddesses, come in all shapes and sizes and refer their married lovers as Master.

Vanderbilt, who is a noted designer and heir to her father’s railroad empire, is no stranger to luxury.  In the descriptions of the Janus Club and Bee’s magical estate know as Akeru, Vanderbilt speaks knowingly and confidently of sensuous Botticelli paintings, an exotic malachite bathtub and private yacht excursions to far flung islands with unspoiled blue lagoons.

The reader becomes unsure whether the Janus Club and Bee are real. Is it Priscilla’s alter ego? She admits to being frigid and not particularly interested in sex.  Perhaps Bee is a persona she slipped into for her husband. Maybe Bee is someone she created after her husband died to make it seem that even though she never satisfied him sexually, someone else did, so he lived a fulfilled life.

Obsession is not a typical erotic novel. The narration slips from third person to first person as Priscilla and first person as Bee. All of which adds to the air of mystery about what is real and what is fantasy.  The decadence of the lavish material is matched only by the carnal pleasures indulged by the main characters.

The fact that Vanderbilt is in her ’80s and capable of writing such a book, reminds Madames that sexual desire does not diminish as soon as an AARP card arrives.  Makes you view your grandmama in a whole new light.

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