“Thank you for letting me flog my book,” says author Ernest Greene to a small crowd at the kink-friendly Pleasure Chest marital aid emporium in West Hollywood. Greene is there with his wife and partner, Nina Hartley, to read passages from his excellent “Master of O,” a massive kink-noir update of Anne Desclos’ 1954 “Story of O,” but told from a different point of view.
Full disclosure: I took an editing pass at this book and enjoyed the experience immensely. Greene himself, in his own tastes if not the extra zeroes in his bank account, is easily mistaken for the character Steven, the book’s eponym. Around the time I began reading the draft of “Master of O,” I had just finished a 2-year reading of “Moby Dick,” little knowing that I’d be immersed in two epics in a year.
And make no mistake, “Master of O” is an epic book. It immerses the reader in a fully-realized, existing world — one that mingles with and parallels our own — and its characters go on a journey. A sexy one, sometimes a brutal one, and ultimately a poignant one. As I emerged from the wreckage of the Pequod with a new appreciation and maybe a little love for life on a whaleboat, “Master of O” really made me want to up my game in clothing, home furnishings, and submissives.
“It was bigger, thicker, and longer in the first draft,” Greene tells the crowd, “but I’m happy to say that ‘Master of O” is now just a third longer than ‘Moby Dick.'”
Yeah, “Master of O” is a long book.
Before Greene and Hartley embark on a reading, Greene, 62, talks about his history with the original.
“Being kinky is like being gay,” he says. “You’re born that way. I remember there were emotionally resonant aspects of ‘Story of O’ even when the sex was unknown to me.
“But Desclos was not one of us. She wrote it like a poison pen letter.”
Writing as Pauline Réage, Desclos wrote “The Story of O” (O is a submissive to two men, “Sir Stephen” and his brother René) as a bet with her lover, Jean Paulhan, who admired the life of the Marquis de Sade (and from whom we get the term sadism). Paulhan said that no woman could write an erotic novel.
“But O became for Desclos what Sherlock Holmes was for Arthur Conan Doyle,” Greene says. “She didn’t like her characters. And all her characters come to a bad end.”
Desclos kept her pseudonym secret for forty years (she died in 1998). Meanwhile, “Story of O” became wildly successful.
Greene had already made a trio of hit movies for Adam & Eve with the “O” update theme when the blockbuster “50 Shades of Grey” came out.
“…and I was not prepared to have ’50 Shades’ be the default representation of the dominant male,” he says, adding that there can be no default representation, because “if you’ve met one of us — you’ve met one of us.”
He just doesn’t want the “one of us” people identify to be Christian Grey.
Greene and Hartley met on a porn set a quarter century ago and have been married for 12 years. She thanks a generation of submissives for Greene’s demeanor.
“If he hadn’t met them first,” she says, “he wouldn’t be the man he is.”
After the reading (Greene read about Ray’s presentation of O to his brother, Steven, and Hartley read a steamy girl/girl/girl passage), the couple takes questions. One is from a woman whose boyfriend, she says, is a little uncomfortable being dominant with her.
“I hear you, Sister,” says Hartley. “I grew up in Berkeley with feminism and I thought I was throwing all that away — ”
“But everyone’s got a wicked side,” says Greene, eyes glinting.
“And you have to let him know that you want him to let that out. Not necessarily 24/7, but right now.”
People should buy this book (a beautiful edition released by L.A.’s Daedalus Publishing) like they buy the Bible — it’s a thrilling work of fiction and craftily disguised history. But after the Q&A I wondered if Greene and Hartley shouldn’t go on the road to dispense excellent advice like this, sell the book, and make lots of cash.
“There’s a history of no one paying for the things I know,” Greene says.
That is a sentiment that must be whipped into submission. Buy “Master of O” here.
Previously on Porn Valley Observed: The Ross Sisters, Pictures of Lily, Tom Hagen’s Trip, Calling Your Daughters like They’re Pigs, And Having A Crush on People Who Are Probably Dead
See also: “Master of O” official site