Virtuoso of fantasy and exponent of the multiple orgasm


Virtuoso of fantasy and exponent of the multiple orgasm

Miranda July's new novel diverted KERNEELS BREYTENBACH's attention from our country's comfortless politics and made him look at life with new eyes.


AFTER this, I'm going to avoid the resurgence of the bedroom novel, but first I have to confess that the best of the new wave of study material for the OMGYES generation, Miranda July's All Fours, has completely diverted my attention from our country's comfortless politics and made me look at life with new eyes.

The one thing you shouldn't do is read All Fours without prior knowledge. If you approach the book unprepared, you're going to think the woman is badly on the spectrum and that All Fours is just a curiosity. Which would be a mistake, because it's a novel that reacts to the gendered revolution of the past two decades and finally convinces you that the more things change, the more the disease of our time remains.

We're thinking in a new key, but it's the same door.

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Peeping tom

July is a feminist film producer, a screenwriter, an actress, and a writer of fiction who doesn't want to break free from nonfiction. In addition, she loves public performances in which she either performs monologues or does performance art. Everything she creates has a strong autobiographical slant. As a youngster, she found her feet on the frills of the riot grrrl movement in Portland.

To date, she has made the films Me and You and Everyone We Know, The Future, Kajillionaire, Nest of Tens and The Amateurist, made music with, among others, The Need and Calvin Johnson, been involved in a myriad projects as part of an art event, had her short stories anthologised under the titles No One Belongs Here More Than You and It Chooses You, and written the novels The First Bad Man and now All Fours.

July is 50. All Fours deals, as one might expect, with the sexual reawakening of an artist whose life and art correspond remarkably strongly with her own. It's not clearly stated anywhere, but one can't help making inferences.

I'm glad I'm not her husband (called Harris in the book). He's clearly not part of the narrator's secret sexual reawakening before her meno-P. Part of her awakening is a married young lad named Davey in a rural village, and a slightly more experienced woman named Kris. The narrator in the book is 45, which makes one suspect that all of this happened to July a while back and that she's eager to share the aftershocks with us.

I mention these things because I feel like a Peeping Tom who unexpectedly became part of the author's flights of fantasy. July approaches human sexuality as connoisseur of intimacy, a virtuoso of fantasy and an exponent of the multiple orgasm by one's own or another's hand. Sex lives in your imagination rather than in the body's response to touch.

It's a narrative packed with surprises. Example: what would you do if you're a 45-year-old woman, and the mother of the 31-year-old man with whom you have a boisterous clandestine relationship comes to tell you how she got her almost 60-year-old girlfriend to initiate her boy into the finer workings of things? You'll draw inspiration from it, like July. For she noticed that a country gasoline pumper was actually a dancer on the stage of sensuality — while he was busy cleaning her windscreen.

And if you think the previous sentence has an extra dimension, you should read Harris's philosophy on the difference between people driving cars and those who only park cars. All Fours is built on that foundation.

This, then, is my lesson in indecent reading.

All Fours by Miranda July was published by Canongate Books and costs R370 at Exclusive Books.


A Japanese detective story from 1949, newly translated into English by Jesse Kirkwood. It reads delightfully and is seemingly simple, deceptively so. A distinguished family is plagued by the curse resting on one of their art masks. Akimitsu Takagi pays tribute to Agatha Christie.

The main clue is planted in the prologue, and after that you are the detective, in a way. If you don't know the Christie reference (one of her earliest novels), this will be one of the most delightful detective stories you've read. A bit more than 300 pages, and they fly by.

The Noh Mask Murder by Akimitsu Takagi was published by Pushkin Press and costs R277 at Exclusive Books.


I have a lot of respect for Francis Spufford. It takes awe-inspiring concentration and imagination to place a detective story in an imaginary city along the Mississippi River and create a complete ethnic-religious-political sphere for it. I caught myself a few times trying to ask Google to explain the background of something.

The detective is Joe Barrow, a jazz pianist in his spare time, who is saddled with investigating a murder that may have been racially motivated. There is a lot of background which in a way helps the author to lead the reader astray. The novel is in many ways the absolute opposite of Akimitsu Takagi's, and requires much more concentration.

Cahokia Jazz by Francis Spufford was published by Faber & Faber and costs R285 at Exclusive Books.

♦ VWB ♦

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