The back says: Translated into over thirty languages, One Hundred Strokes of the Brush Before Bed has sold over two million copies: on publication in
, its readers received a ‘remain chaste’ warning from the Pope. Melissa P.’s autobiographical novel recounts a Sicilian schoolgirl’s erotic adventures. ‘I want love, Diary,’ she writes just before her fifteenth birthday. ‘I want to feel my heart melt, want to see my icy stalactites shatter and plunge into a river of passion and beauty.’ Love may be hard to find, but sex waits at every turn, and Melissa seldom says no. Told with brutal frankness, mixing the coming-of-age novel with Gothic romance, Melissa P.’s narrative is a frustrated search for love in a pornographic world: it is The Story of O for our times. Italy
I say: First of all, I don’t really get calling this “The Story of O of our time” because it’s nowhere near it. I’m inclined to think that the comparisons stem from the straightforward nature of the revelations and the elements of sexual submission and dominance.
Few things in this short novel shocked me. In fact, more than anything it left me feeling sad.
I mean, Melissa describes her first sexual encounter as such:
“I lost it between sheets that were too cold and beneath the hands of someone who devours my very heart, which has now stopped beating. Dead. I do have a heart, Diary, even if he doesn’t notice it, even if perhaps no one ever will. And before I open it, I shall give my body to any man who comes along, for two reasons: because in savouring me he might taste my rage and bitterness and therefore experience a modicum of tenderness; and because he might fall so deeply in love with my passion that he won’t be able to do without it. Only then shall I give myself utterly, without hesitation, without restraint, so as not to lose the tiniest scrap of what I have always desired.” – p 19
I don’t want to turn this into a comparison, but O in The Story of O wasn’t dealing with the same issues as Melissa – as far as I know. The foundation of D/s relationships (and I’m no expert, so don’t quote me) is built on trust and mutual respect (even though I was shocked when I first read The Story of O, it was always made clear that O knew exactly what she was getting herself into – and welcomed it). The reason Melissa starts giving herself to any man who shows interest is because the very first man she ‘loved’ only wanted her body, and so she thinks that the only way she can access love is through her body.
This is my high school psychology kicking in.
The reason why I find this story so sad is because it’s so very common. I went to school with Melissa’s, I even still know a few Melissa’s. The heartbreaking thing is that she thinks that she is in control – and a lot of the times, she is – but these men push her to do things that she admits later that she wasn’t really willing, or wanting to do. It’s the constant search for love in all the wrong places that leads her further and further down a path she knows she doesn’t really want to walk.
“A touching scene at the cinema never touched me, a powerful song never moved me, and I’ve always only half-believed in love, thinking I could never actually experience it. Yet I’ve never been cynical. No, the fact is that nobody ever taught me how to express the love I kept hidden inside, concealed from everyone. It was somewhere, it needed to be tracked down. I tried, flinging my desire into a world from which love was banished. And nobody, I mean nobody, blocked my path, saying, “No, little one, you can’t enter here.” – p 116
Sure, this is an erotic novel with candid details of her encounters with men (and a woman), but it doesn’t read in the way erotic novels usually do, i.e. barely any plot and just smut. There is a story in here, and reason I love it is because of the journey that Melissa takes. She’s neither naïve nor stupid - but actually intelligent and mature - just very misguided, which is all extremely evident in the way that she describes her emotions, encounters, and dreams for the future.
And also what makes this all the more sad for me.