Sunday, March 04, 2018

Mind Blower (1970)

Are people still attempting to make something culturally significant out of selected instances of pornography? It looked like such a natural for a minute there, notably those movies by Gerard Damiano (Deep Throat, The Devil in Miss Jones). Marco Vassi, who took the first name of his pseudonym from Polo, the explorer, hails from Damiano's era (he died in 1989 from complications of AIDS). His fans included Saul Bellow, Norman Mailer, Kate Millett, and Gore Vidal. As literature, Mind Blower is not bad—I found out about it in a list by rock critic Robert Christgau of his 10 favorite genre novels. Vassi acknowledges both John Fowles and J. Krishnamurti as formative influences, which I guess would be good influences for literary porn. As porn—well, maybe. Different strokes for different folks, you know. I've been mostly immune to written word porn myself for a long time, so it's hard to tell. The story in Mind Blower is about a place called the Institute for Sexual Metatheater (ISM) where there is a lot of fucking going on. The narrator shows up at ISM, has oodles of sex, and learns interesting life lessons under the guidance of the ISM director, one Dr. Tocco. The novel works hard on the edges of taboo and sometimes, plainly, crosses over. It has gay sex early and often, which comports with the popular notions of bisexuality of its time. It has sex with children. Sex with children! That scene would be excised today surely—as a taboo, it has only become more dangerous, and Mind Blower piles on further with odd constraints around its sex with children, which only make it all more strange and disgusting. It taints the novel. More than anything this book is a historical curiosity, an artifact of the 1960s, enabling us to gauge how much things have changed since then. For the most part I think it has its politics right, including gender and gay politics, and race too, but it still feels dated. Not that we won't get back to its open and experimental sexual ideas someday. We're just not there now and probably won't be for some time, and it won't look like this. I admit I got tired of the sex scenes here even though it's a short book with a lot of variety. That's probably the main problem with porn generally. From intoxicatingly fascinating to can't turn away fast enough within a remarkably short span, and extremely difficult to gauge where the line of boredom will come. Sad! Vassi has written several more books, including a memoir called The Stoned Apocalypse, but I'm probably stopping here.

In case it's not at the library.

1 comment:

  1. Isn't literature and pornography a little oxymoronic? Or I guess I should more simply say I know a little literature and a little porn but haven't found them together much. I remember some Georges Bataille book I read once, a woman in a summer dress and a bowl of cat's milk and that was pretty hot. But many other scenarios that just struck me as goofy and awkward. For the most part I think I share your immunity.