New publisher The Pigeonhole is making a name for itself with it’s unique approach to book publishing, and it’s Open Pen Issue Five’s Jamie Collinson that writes the latest ‘stave’ in the publisher’s new short story series Sex Staves.
Phil Clement writes for Open Pen, in review of ‘The Sex Disease’ by Jamie Collinson, available now at The Pigeonhole.
I felt a surging desire to fuck her, to transform her from this aloof, pristine being into a gasping, grunting thing before me, my dick deep inside her and the dank smell of her cunt in my nostrils.
It is often said that, with the advent of social media and other digital distractions, we are experiencing a significant lapse in our levels of literacy and concentration. In the grip of a moral panic, social commentators and technophobes direct their condescending predictions at a generation of readers who are imagined to feel ill-at-ease when introduced to the classic sepulchral tomes of Dickens, Tolstoy and Hardy.
Those writers, the bulk of whose oeuvre largely consists of texts published by instalment during the frenzied literary free-for-all that was the nineteenth century, marked the beginning of something special. At that time, original fiction was habitually published in a serial form that made expert use of period technology and played with notions of musicality in its construction.
Flash forward to 2014, and visit The Pigeonhole to witness a similar reading revolution. Here is a platform that aims to showcase the best voices from genre, literary and non-fiction through bite sized introductions to their work. Their approach takes inspiration from the golden age of serialisation to challenge existing models of publishing and use our phones, tablets and computers as a means of transforming the way by which we interact with our literature.
Jamie Collinson’s contribution to The Pigeonhole’s sensual autumn anthology, The Sex Disease, is an erotic confessional narrative that imagines a romantic dystopia reminiscent of P.D. James’ Children of Men. Here promiscuous men fall victim to a moral plague. The narrator, Patient F, a heroic sybarite and “serial abuser of sex” is reduced to ‘a papery set of symptoms, pathologies and hypothesised prognoses’, and relates the circumstances leading up to his infection and impending death in an attempt to “add the colour back in” and justify the indulgences that brought about his suffering.
The culture wasn’t on the lookout for another sexual disease. It was more concerned with concoctions of the jungle, with fear-inducing African names. With terrorism; mosque-brewed fanaticism in grim English towns and hot Arab ruins. Sexual diseases weren’t the zeitgeist, before this one appeared.
The Sex Disease of Collinson’s bleak novella is, rather like The Pigeonhole itself, a new and more potent manifestation of something we’re used to. A uniquely personal disease, TSD is ‘a scourge only to men’ and results in a heightened apathy that is described as being ‘akin to dementia’. Most interestingly, TSD is transmitted to males who participate in a specific type of sex: “namely, any other than [with] your ‘own’ [woman]”. This root seems to suggest a biblical predestination; inspired by the Genesis story, it appears that men are susceptible to the disease by acting unfaithfully, while women are inevitable carriers because they are disloyal.
You cannot love two women at once, is what’s become clear. To put it bluntly: once you love a woman, you cannot fuck another.
What follows is a series of flashbacks to the sexual conquests that resulted in Patient F’s eventual infection. Each erotic episode is built up with sensationalist language that reminds the reader of that grand exponent of moral eroticism, Oscar Wilde. Like Wilde, Collinson is not afraid to employ starkly graphic terminology to achieve his end.
Aware of the misogyny that threatens to stalk his written confession, Patient F is at pains to remind the reader that he was (consensually) as often abused as he was the abuser and indicates that though he may have disrespected relationships (and later the imagined sanctity of marriage) he never disrespected women:
If I cheated love, I always played fair by sex. If I ejaculated on to faces, didn’t I encourage my own to be smeared with vaginal fluid? If I inserted toys into arseholes, didn’t I allow them to be inserted into my own in turn?
Sex here is never for procreation, always for pleasure. Indeed, as is indicated in the extract above, much of the sex had by Patient F is unlikely to ever beget children. This is sex as drug. Sex in spite of and because of the dangers. Like an addict indulging himself or a smoker submitting to habit, Patient F returns consistently to his ‘sweetest perfume’.
But, in case you go running off in search of The Sex Disease (and you should, not least to experience The Pigeonhole first hand) looking to satisfy your slimy desires for literal onanism, be warned Collinson’s is not just the latest in a slew of page-porn. Unlike most of the titlerature on the market, Collinson is unafraid to mix social commentary with his sensations, exploring themes of loyalty and fidelity in modern relationships As a result The Sex Disease holds an erotic lens up to our world and projects an image of society that is symptomatic of a distracted world and more delectably depressing than Hardy’s Jude the Obscure.
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“There is no cure…” – view the teaser trailer here: The Sex Disease trailer (Facebook)