Posts Tagged ‘Insatiable’

Interview with Gael Greene

February 4, 2008

Here’s the latest in my interview series of Best Sex Writing 2008 contributors.

Gael Greene wrote “The Insatiable Critic” column for New York magazine for more than thirty years and remains on the staff, writing a weekly “Ask Gael” column. The author of Blue Skies, No Candy, Doctor Love, and other books, she is also cofounder (with James Beard) and board chair of Citymeals-on-Wheels, an organization that delivers 2.2 million meals a year to elderly housebound New Yorkers. She lives in New York City. Visit her at www.insatiable-critic.com.

What prompted you to write your memoir, Insatiable: Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess, and who would you say is your intended audience?

I wanted to tell the story of how New York City and America fell in love with food from my early days as a foodie-ahead-of-the-times, before I forgot it and before people who weren’t there rewrote it. Feeling that the sexual revolution had prepared Americans for the food revolution by seeding sensualism, I wanted to tell that story too. In each decade what was happening culturally, on the streets and in the stock market, affected what we ate.

What has the reaction to the memoir been like? Did you get any flak from people who primarily think of you as a food critic for writing about your personal life?

There were some passionate food lovers who were offended by the erotic memoir. Some of the men in my life were pleased to be left out of the book and a few I neglected to mention were hurt. One wrote asking if we could meet for lunch so he could audition for the second volume.

The excerpt in Best Sex Writing 2008 (“The Prince of Porn and the Junk-Food Queen”) is about your dalliance with porn star Jamie Gillis. Looking back on that time of your life, is there anything you’d do differently? How did it feel to relive that era while writing Insatiable?

It was emotionally draining to remember all the sad times and mad times in the book but what fun to relive the great moments. I could almost taste the astonishment of dinner at Fredy Girardet and memories of incredible times in bed were so vivid.

Since you cover both of them extensively in your memoir, what do you see as the connection between food and sex?

Obviously, two of the greatest sensuous pleasures consenting adults can share. It seems so obvious…we use the same senses in both eating and making love — the eyes, the nose, the ears, the sense of taste. The more in touch one is with one’s sensuality, the more pleasure, and the greatest pleasure is in the moment. The ability to enjoy the moment is a gift.

Has he been in touch with you since Insatiable was published or have you seen him recently?

Jamie Gillis is living with Zarela Martinez, the restaurateur — she met him a few years ago at my birthday. They seem quite together and happy. The four of us had dinner two weeks ago.

What does the word “insatiable” mean to you?

Literally, “insatiable” means not being able to be satisfied. I have never found satisfaction elusive. New York magazine’s creator Clay Felker thought Insatiable Critic was amusing and my then husband did too, so it’s on my New York magazine column and my web site.

For me, too much of a good thing is just barely enough.

You are now writing for your own website, Insatiablecritic.com, in addition to your New York magazine column and other food writing. What’s different about writing on the web vs. print? Has being able to update the site whenever you want changed how quickly you write your reviews?

The big difference is I decide what I want to cover and how long to write. Alas, another difference is I have no determined fact checker on the site as I do at New York, although I do have two editors who read for typos, grammar, spelling. Everything is faster now than it was in 1968 when New York magazine was born and I came on as the critic; nobody waits for a restaurant to settle in. The competition is huge, beyond imagining. Most of my blog postings are about first visits to new restaurants, although some of the stronger pieces are rediscoveries of places and chefs I have admired.

Do you get more feedback from readers from the website vs. your New York magazine column?

The instant feedback of an email to the site is apparently very tempting.

What’s your favorite recent restaurant find?

I loved the food at Dovetail on the Upper West Side. Bar Boulud is a great gift to the Lincoln Center area. Chop Suey in the Renaissance Hotel will be good if it stays consistent. The Smith is better than it needs to be for the NYU students it draws and the amazing low prices.

You did a roundup of 2007’s Best Dishes on your site. In general, do you prefer to revisit old favorites or try new places?

After three or four new places that aren’t wonderful, I desperately need to go back to a restaurant I love.

What can visitors to Insatiablecritic.com look forward to in the near future?

I’ll keep up with what’s new. I hope my readers will feed me more good food world gossip. Every week, we post more vintage articles from the earliest days of New York magazine, not available anywhere else on the web. I think they are fun to read for those of us who were there, and newly obsessed foodies who want to know what it was like.

Best Sex Writing 2008 will be out in December 2007!

November 5, 2007

Best Sex Writing is an annual series publisher by Cleis Press. For the 2008 edition, to be published in December 2007, Rachel Kramer Bussel is the editor.

Below is the publisher’s blurb and interviews, updates and event info coming soon:

Do Jewish girls give better blowjobs? What does it mean to be a modern-day eunuch? Would you want to work in the pink ghetto or live in the glass closet? How “hung” are African-American men? What happens to a celebrity sex tape star in Iran? Best Sex Writing 2008 answers these questions (and raises many more) as it probes the inner lives of those on the front lines — political, personal, and cultural — of lust. From dangerous dildos to professional submissives, the erotic appeal of twins, sex work, pornography and much more, these authors delve into the underbelly of eroticism. Probing stereotypes, truths, and the tricky areas in between, Best Sex Writing 2008 opens the bedroom door and explores the complexity of modern sexuality with thought-provoking, cutting-edge essays and articles.

Introduction: One Little Word, Infinite Interpretations

Big Mouth Strikes Again: An Oral Report • Rachel Shukert
Double Your Panic • Kevin Keck
Battle of the Sexless • Ashlea Halpern
Kink.com and Porn Hysteria: The Lie of Unbiased Reporting • Violet Blue
The Prince of Porn and the Junk-Food Queen from Insatiable • Gael Greene
Tough Love • Kelly Rouba
Dirty Old Women • Ariel Levy
Stalking the Stalkers • Kelly Kyrik
Sex in Iran • Pari Esfandiari and Richard Buskin
Surface Tensions • Jen Cross
Sex and the Single Septuagenarian • Liz Langley
The Pink Ghetto (A Four-Part Series) • Lux Nightmare and Melissa Gira
To Have or Have Not: Sex on the Wedding Night • Jill Eisenstadt
How Insensitive • Paul Festa
The Study of Sex • Amy Andre
Dangerous Dildos • Tristan Taormino
Absolut Nude • Miriam Datskovsky
The Hung List from Hung: A Meditation on the Measure of Black Men in America • Scott Poulson-Bryant
The Glass Closet • Michael Musto
Menstruation: Porn’s Last Taboo • Trixie Fontaine
Buying Obedience: My Visit to a Pro Submissive • Greta Christina

Introduction: One Little Word, Infinite Interpretations

Sex. One little word, so much drama. One little word, so many interpretations, definitions, permutations. For some, sex means ecstasy. For others, it means procreation. For some, it means sin outside the confines of marriage. Many believe that only heterosexual penetrative sex qualifies for that hallowed three letter word; everything else is either foreplay⎯or forbidden. For a lot of us, myself included, sex is an ever-changing, ever-evolving set of acts, philosophies and identities. It teaches us, thrills us, empowers us, confuses us, electrifies us. Sex drives our lives and our lives drive our sex, in all sorts of complex ways. Pleasure and danger, as the famous Carole Vance anthology called it.

When I thought about the kinds of writing I wanted to include in this anthology, I knew I wanted to read about the kinds of sex that make the world, not to mention one’s head, spin. The kinds of writings that throw our notions of what sex is into disarray. The kinds of writings that will long outlast the chronological year printed on the cover of this book because their meanings and messages will continue to be read, debated, questioned, and answered. These pieces, taken as a whole, give a broader view of sex than you’ve likely ever considered, dealing as they do with biology, gender, crime, politics, the environment, health, religion, race, and much more.

Here you’ll find a wide array of writings about the state of modern sexuality, taking you everywhere from the front lines of erotic activism to insightful analyses of everything from sexuality studies to menstruation porn to naked college coeds. From large publications such as Playboy, Penthouse Forum, and Out to smaller indie outfits like $pread, Heeb, and Other, as well as online publications and books, each of these pieces contributes to a whole that shows that sex, the act(s) and the topic(s), is much more complex than most of us give it credit for. Whatever definition you currently have for sex, prepare for it to be shattered.

Best Sex Writing 2008 includes two pieces that are very near and dear to my heart. As a Jewish woman with a passion for cock-sucking (not to mention Monica Lewinsky), I found Rachel Shukert’s “Big Mouth Strikes Again: An Oral Report,” a fascinating look at the ways Jewish women’s mouths have come to be, in the popular imagination, permanently open. While she offers up a few jokes and puns, she bolsters them with a thoughtful essay that goes way beyond the conventional wisdom. Bloggers Melissa Gira and Lux Nightmare break down the meaning of “The Pink Ghetto,” a place where I and many of my peers find ourselves, whether we like it or not, simply because we’ve chosen to write about that vexing three letter word that’s always stirring up so much trouble.

I’ve also included several personal essays here because I believe they demonstrate some powerful lessons about how sex plays out in our lives. The sexual karma delivered to Kevin Keck in the form of twin baby girls, after a high school career spent lusting after his own town’s version of the Doublemint Twins, is deliciously twisted. Gael Greene takes us back to a headier, more hedonistic time when, freed from her marriage, she could seduce the notorious porn star Jamie Gillis, inching into his supposedly seedy world while reveling in his dirtiness, literally. Journalist Scott Poulson-Bryant, in an excerpt from his excellent study Hung: A Meditation on the Measure of Black Men in America, a mix of personal experience and impassioned journalism, asks whether the stereotype of the black man as America’s most horny, the one who by his very definition signifies sex, is true or even relevant. These pieces you might very well be able to relate to even if you’ve never been horny for twincest, had an affair, or been a black man, because their authors’ words go beyond their individual circumstances to shed light on the current erotic climate.

And then we’ve got some more unique territory. Out of all the pieces here, Ashlea Halpern’s exploration of the lengths today’s eunuchs will go to remove their genitals, “Battle of the Sexless,” makes me squirm the most, with equal parts fascination and horror, yet I’ve reread it now numerous times. There’s something appealing and at the same time appalling about this state of affairs that Halpern delves into with a sympathetic eye.

Many of the authors here directly address the politics of sex, and demand that the status quo give way for a broader vision of sexual inclusion. Trixie Fontaine’s discussion of piss and menstruation porn is one that, like Halpern’s, may make you uncomfortable. And that’s exactly her point: while some may find her work abhorrent, others are equally turned on by it, and the fact that capitalism doesn’t trump human blood is indeed worth investigating. Tristan Taormino looks at the important issue of phthalates in sex toys, while Violet Blue takes mainstream media to task for its biases when it comes to porn reporting. Ariel Levy’s “Dirty Old Women” explores relationships between adult women and teenage boys, asking what it means to be molested when you’re male: “For many Americans, being a real grown-up requires a penis. And if you’ve got that, even if you’re only fifteen, you must have the maturity and the manliness to know what you want to do with it—even if that involves intercourse with a forty-two-year-old. Who among us would say the same thing about a fifteen-year-old girl?” Her exploration of the motivations of these teenagers and their seductresses (she calls Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau “the poster couple for pedophilia or true love, depending on your point of view”) makes us reexamine our assumptions about male sexuality. It’s no surprise that Levy’s piece also surfaced in a volume of Best Crime Writing; the intersection of sex and the law has countless permutations, and it’s often to the legal system that we look for answers to help us define what “acceptable” sex is. Elsewhere in this collection, in “Stalking the Stalkers,” Kelly Kyrik examines real attempts to catch pedophiles in the act of luring children via the Web.

One of the great new frontiers of sex writing is college newspapers, where sex columnists are starting with a base of knowledge I wish I’d had when I arrived at the University of California at Berkeley, helping educate their fellow students and working out the logistics of sex in print. This new generation is bold, brave, brash, and ballsy, and one of the best and brightest is Miriam Datskovsky, who wrote the Columbia Spectator’s “Sexplorations” column. Here, she takes us inside the phenomenon of naked parties on campus, calling bullshit on them, in those precise terms.

For all the jokes, hand wringing, and ink spilled about Paris Hilton, even her recent jail time, we are a country whose consumers made 1 Night in Paris zoom to the top of the porn best-seller charts, resurrecting an interest in celebrity sex tapes that’s seeing burgeoning sales once thought to have gone the way of Pam and Tommy. But what happens when you’re an Iranian actress caught fucking on film⎯or possibly fucking on film? Pari Esfandiari and Richard Buskin investigate the case of Zahra Amir Ebrahimi, who’s embroiled in a sex scandal about a tape in which she may or may not star, offering insights into the changes in Iranian culture which have made sex both more and less taboo. The situation has seemingly worsened in recent months; in June 2007, Iran’s parliament, in a 148-5 vote, approved a measure saying “producers of pornographic works and main elements in their production are considered corruptors of the world and could be sentenced to punishment as corruptors of the world.”

As for the word “Best” in the title, I’m the first to admit that this is a fully subjective call. Sex is everywhere, and I encourage you to read more about it on the growing network of sex blogs and mainstream and alternative publications, or take pen to paper (or fingers to computer screen) and write your own sexual manifesto.

I thought I knew a lot about sex when I started working on this book. I’ve had dozens of lovers, I wrote a sex column for the Village Voice for two and a half years, I’m on staff at an adult magazine, and I have listened to countless confessions of sexual peccadilloes and adventures. But when it comes to sex, we can all learn something, as you’ll see from even a brief perusal of the table of contents or by skimming any of these chapters⎯I certainly did.

Sometimes I think sex is a code word for every dirty, naughty, perverted thought anyone’s ever had. For some it can be encompassed in a kiss, for others a flogging, a performance, or an intense masturbation session. For others, like that famous maxim about pornography, they know it when they’re doing it. Sex is broad enough (and powerful enough) that we will continue to write, talk, and debate about it for centuries to come⎯when we’re not busy engaging in our preferred version of it. When I tell people I write about sex, I can see immediately whether their judgment about me has changed in the second it took me to say it. Most of the time, I don’t have time to sit and explain how complex a topic we’re talking about. Now, I can just hand them this book, which asks just as many questions as it answers, and hopefully does what good sex should do: leave you wanting more.

Rachel Kramer Bussel
New York City