Monthly Archives: January 2013

Textual or Sexual?

English: Portrait of Virginia Woolf

English: Portrait of Virginia Woolf (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of my great interests in reading matter is how desire is handled.  After the huge sales of “Fifty Shades of Grey”, I had begun to wonder if readers needed their sex spelled out more nowadays, if so, does that mean that many readers are missing out on playful texts as titillating as Orlando by Virginia Woolf?  In this written piece, I hope to persuade readers to interact with text such as “Orlando” for a deeper and potentially more sexually satisfying read.

I have taken chapter 3 from Orlando (Great Classic Library, 1994) to demonstrate that often it is not what is said that conjures up fantasy but what is not said.  Also, I use the constant ‘she’ but this refers to both sexes, it is simply to keep the text tidy.

Cover of "Orlando"

Orlando by Virginia Woolf with the talented Tilda Swinton on the cover. She played Orlando in the film.

If we can imagine a courtship between reader and text, then it becomes obvious that the text (Orlando) is using details to entice the reader as love object.  Whilst the reader is consumed with the desire to see and know the text, it encourages fevered requests for knowledge by constant teasing.  It attempts to keep the reader interested by manipulative and provocative tantalisation which never allows the desire for textual knowledge to be fulfilled.  Subsequently the reader continues to endeavour to explore and undress the body of the text.  In other words, the text uses a playful strategy which depicts an innocence by using understated sexuality to allure and provoke the reader into the commitment of interpretation.  The signals are there, the reader merely needs to be seduced.

The text displays constant symptoms of needing the reader to become its love object.  Consequently, in order to overcome this, it must attain to interest its love object; therefore it is only by seducing the reader into the position of desiring to know the text that it can attempt to fulfill the desire for unattainable completion.  To initiate interest, the text suggests that it will become love slave to  the reader’s fantasies but only if the reader will respond by opening her psychic space.


“There was a hole in the manuscript big enough to put your finger through …. but it has been necessary to speculate, to surmise and even to use the imagination.” (page 54)


The language cleverly entices the reader to visualize that which is being suggested.  The beckoning finger attempts to coax the reader into penetrating the written sign and being seduced into allowing her repressed fantasy to filter through.  It invites the reader into its existence with a manipulative proposition which offers a text lacking in language, subtly suggesting that the reader fills in the gap for herself.  Subsequently, the text is pertaining to reach unity with the reader by a language of denial being impregnated by the reader completing the gaps.  However, the fantasy must remain fragmented as the text’s constant denial of knowledge defies fixed interpretation.

As the suggestive finger tempts the reader, so the text uses thresholds to tease and control the reader’s access.  Windows are used to allow a connived amount of voyeurism.


“The windows of the Embassy brilliantly illuminated.  Again details are lacking.” (page 57)


Windows are used to set a scene to draw the reader in.  They are used as a controlled promise of an insight into the text.  The text manipulates a sense of deviant excitement as the reader anticipates the fantasy of voyeur as illicit views through the windows suggest that the reader should not be in attendance, that she will be witness to a scene which is too prurient to be written about.  However, the text denies the details the reader is hoping for; in essence, the text leaves spaces for the reader to mould it into whatever is fantasised about.

As opened windows are used to lure the reader into the ranks of hopeful voyeur, so the closing of doors is a carefully operated device which causes the reader’s mind to engage itself in a frenzied thought process which hungers for knowledge of the text.


“The Ambassador was seen to go to his room, still wearing the insignia of his rank, and shut the door.  Some say he locked it, which was against his custom.” (page 59)


The narrative content of the text draws the reader in by locking her out.  The concept of the text as love slave is being played as the reader is only provided with alleged details.  The text essentially offers the reader the chance to create her own fantasy within the text.  In other words, the text is again using denial of details as a promise of adaption in order to satisfy the reader’s fantasy.

English: Entrance to Freuds consulting room

English: Entrance to Freuds consulting room (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a never ending craving to complete the cycle of lack and desire the text successfully employs the device of ellipsis to create more gaps to encourage the reader to allow her repressed fantasies to surface.  The use of ellipsis suggests events which are too shocking to mention.


“Wondrous… utterly beyond description… gold plates…candelabras…negroes in plush breeches…” (page 58) ( please note that I do not agree with racist labels and I am not suggesting that Virginia was racist either; I am merely quoting the text)


The language which is used paints a decadence to indicate indulgence; to add ellipsis creates a subjacent meaning for the reader which arouses the most dormant of fantasies.  Fundamentally, the text works the reader’s mind.  The lack of language in the text encourages the reader to search the decadent language which is present for signs which indicate what the reader is hoping to locate.  As ellipsis in the text intimates a joining of language and absent language, the marriage must result in a lack desire interchange which can never be fulfilled as both are always acting as chameleons in search of each other.

The text uses Orlando as bait for the reader’s desires.  The sexual titillation concerning Orlando’s body is ambivalent.  The denial of details can be interpreted as writing which is vaguely aware of sexuality but unaware of how to work it; similarly it can be interpreted as the love object who attempts to lure the reader by a provocative indication of sexuality.  The interpretation will be open to the reader’s own exploration of the text but it is ultimately a stimulation used to attempt satiation of the reader’s psychic erotic space.


“Going indoors again, withdrew to his bath.  An hour later, properly scented, curled and anointed.” (page 54)


The reader is denied access to the bathroom in order to fantasise about Orlando having his body prepared for the events of the day.  The connotations of the above quotations are erotic by denial of detail.  It is probable that nudity and genital washing is involved, but it is purposely ambiguous as to whether he is vainly paying homage to his body himself or whether another is used to cleanse and cream the crevices of the protagonist’s person.  The innuendo is perverse as the use of the two sentences allows the reader to act as voyeur (which can be regarded as a perverse act in itself) to the most personal erotic bathroom fantasies desired.

If the text entices the reader with suggestions of being voyeur to Orlando’s personal moments, then to have Orlando in position of ultimately any fantasy is the pinnacle of invitations for the reader.


“And still Orlando slept.  Morning and evening they watched him.” (page 60)


The text deigns to give details as to Orlando’s long sleep but using sleep is an indication of death which can be an interpretation of orgasm.  According to Sigmund Freud in “The Interpretation of Dreams” sleep also is a signal for repressed fantasies being released in the form of dream.  Therefore the written sign becomes cohesive with the code of sexuality which encourages the reader to embark upon a scenario of being the mistress of Orlando’s body.  In actuality, the text as love slave is seducing the reader into being the love object by stimulating the fantasy of control for Orlando’s sleeping body.

Finally, as Orlando undergoes metamorphosis from man to woman:


“THE SOUND OF TRUMPETS died away and Orlando stood stark naked.  No human being, since the world began has ever looked more ravishing.  His form combined in one the strength of a man and a woman’s grace.” (page 62)


The reader is denied details of Orlando’s perfect form except the fact that he/she is ravishing.  This implies that the text is again using Orlando to capture the reader as love object.  In other words, Orlando is there to be moulded and created into the reader’s version of that which would be desirable, a Frankenstein’s monster made in the form of beauty to the eye of the reader.  The denial of details are cleverly used to incorporate whatever the reader desires in the way of physical features.  Therefore, as details of Orlando are lacking, the reader will write the body of Orlando herself to portray her own fantasy of loveliness.  Subsequently, by continual denial of detail to the reader, the text ensures in a controlled and intelligent manner that the reader commits an interest to it by being whatever she desires.

In conclusion, with a text as fluid as Orlando, we can write our own sexual fantasies, in essence, this means that the text can be read as a sexual fantasy or simply as a fine story; fundamentally, it adapts to what its love object – you the reader wants – can this be said about text like “Fifty Shades of Grey?”




Filed under Literary Criticism, Reading

This is one of Will’s interviews. I am quite tickled with this interview with Gary Russell as he played Dick in the 1978 television version of the Famous Five – truly scrumptious!

The Consulting Detective


To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, I shall be conducting several interviews throughout the year with members of the Doctor Who team past and present. The second in the series is with Doctor Who writer, script editor, producer and all ground good egg, Gary Russell.

Hello Gary. You have written several different excellent Doctor Who books for different Doctors. Do you think your approach to writing them differs with each Doctor or is there one set formula that only needs tweaking from book to book?

I think you would be doing a massive disservice to the actors and production teams if you believed each one was that easily interchangeable. So no, each Doctor and each companion has be treated as indivduals. Similarly there are tropes and cliches for each Doctor’s era that I reckon should be stuck to. Yes, obviously the Doctor is the same person in…

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Here is one of Will’s interviews with writer, Paul Cornell who interestingly enough gets lots of good ideas from Tesco! To find out more, read on.

The Consulting Detective

Hello Paul. Thank you for agreeing to talk to us. Your most recent book, London Falling, has been very successful with readers and critics alike.  Can you tell us a bit about it?
It’s a modern urban fantasy about a team of undercover Metropolitan Police officers who accidentally gain the ability to see the magic and monsters of London, and decide to use actual police tactics against them.
You have written for both Marvel and DC comics. Is there much difference between the two comic book giants? Do you approach the writing of DC in a more gritty manner than that of Marvel?
No, they’re pretty much the same in terms of content.  The two organisations have different quirks and shapes to them, different cultures you might say, but one writes the same way for both.
Do you approach the writing of television in a different way…

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The lovely Nisha Moodley is talking about Turn of the Screw. I adore Henry James, even if he does have convoluted sentences. If you are not familiar with this story, read on, it might just be what you are looking for.


Welcome to Classic Friday with Nisha Moodley, your monthly journey into  Classic authors  and their Literature!

Nisha MoodleyNisha is a South African writer, blogger, amateur historian, mystery-chaser and former ghost-hunter who, with a completed collection of short-stories under her belt, is currently working on her first full-length novel.

I hope you enjoy this ‘Classic Friday’ entry and I’ll be back on  Friday 22nd February for some more…


The Turn Of the Screw - PenguinTITLE: TURN OF THE SCREW




NO. OF PAGES: 133 (my copy : Vintage Classics/Random House)

It’s been mentioned in numerous popular TV shows including CSI and LOST; it has been the inspiration for many Hollywood movies like Deborah Kerr’s The Innocents (1961) and Nicole Kidman’s The Others (2001). Oscar Wilde described it as “a most wonderful, lurid and poisonous little tale.”

So what is it about Henry James’ Turn…

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For all you readers and writers out there, we are pleased to give you Will’s interview with none other than the author, Darren Shan. This is off our sister site

The Consulting Detective


Hello Darren. Your first book was Cirque du Freak published in 2000. Did you expect it to take off as it did or was it a surprise?

I was hopeful that it would do well when I wrote it, but then 20 different publishers all rejected it, so I started to wonder if I was wrong! When HarperCollins finally bought it, they didn’t pay a huge amount for it, and it took them more than 2 years to publish it, so my expectations were not super-high. But then, in the run-up to publication, things began to change – in-house staff read the book and loved it and started to push hard for it. A movie company got interested and optioned the rights. Other publishers around the world began to bid for it. So, by the time it came out, my hopes were back up high again – although it would…

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This is one of Will’s interviews with author, Alex Scarrow – from our sister site – I could read about Alex as a delicious bad boy in a novel going off Alex’s top photograph – great pose!

The Consulting Detective

Hello Alex, TimeRiders is a popular time travelbook series about a group of teenagers who have cheated death and are now working for an organisation to combat others from changing history. Where did you get the idea for the series?
ALEX – I’ve always liked time travel as a story telling device because it gives you an infinitely large canvas to work with.  I was a big fan of the Terminator movies and the Back to the Future movies in the 80s, mainly because of the idea of alternate versions of the present day that could be the result of an altered past.  Great stuff; at once familiar and at the same time so very different.
Why did you decide to set the series base of operations for the first five books in 2001 on the day of 9/11? Is it not rather risky to set it in…

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Will was busy over the Christmas holidays interviewing the editor of the Doctor Who Magazine, Tom Spilsbury – this is from our sister site

The Consulting Detective


Hello Tom, thank you for agreeing to the interview. Doctor Who Magazine has been going since 1979 and has always been popular. What do you think is the secret to its success?

Well, I think it’s because a number of loyal readers keep buying it, the TV show is popular and the magazine can’t survive without the TV show.  Also, because of the cleverness of Gary Russell, Alan Barnes, Gary Gilliat and Clayton Hickman who kept the magazine going while the show was off air and that inventiveness enabled it to keep going. It has done better than any other TV based magazine and I think that is because it has always been very funny and very inventive. Also, we have tried to always please the hard core fan base as well as doing something new because a lot of things have been done one way or another; so…

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Interview with Edward Russell (Account Manager for the Doctor Who Brand)

This is from our sister site The Consulting Detective. It is a really interesting interview and Edward Russell gave two of the photographs from his own collection – one with Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill – one with none other than Kylie Minogue.

The Consulting Detective



To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, I shall be conducting several interviews throughout the year with members of the Doctor Who team past and present. The first in the series is an interview with the Account Manager for the Doctor Who Brand, Edward Russell. Extra thanks to Edward for letting me use some of his personal pictures!

Hello Edward. Some of the less “in the know” readers might wonder what exactly a brand manager does. How would you describe it?
My job is to oversee all of the “off screen” activity. By that, I mean everything to do with Doctor Who that isn’t the 45 minute show that goes out on BBC One. So, I work with the teams who do the publicity, marketing, photos, websites etc. and make sure they have everything they need to do their jobs. I also work alongside colleagues at BBC Worldwide…

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Kindle! Kindle! Little Star!

English: Third generation Amazon Kindle

English: Third generation Amazon Kindle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s been a strange Christmas in many ways but also one where I have been shocked to find out that I have been totally wrong about a strongly held idea.  I’m open minded about most things, but my mind had been firmly closed about this issue for about sixteen years.  If I say that I received a Kindle for Christmas which I hadn’t asked for, things might become a bit clearer about where I am going with this.

Roland Barthes

Roland Barthes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It might be a good idea to explain where the distaste for the electronic reading device came from.  Sixteen years ago, I was on a writing course and attended a lecture about writing and the future.  A guest speaker gave the lecture and as the evening wore on he made me more and more depressed as his discourse consisted mainly of threatening my whole way of life as a reader.  As Roland Barthes had written in his famous essay that “The Author is Dead”, so this speaker seemed to be saying that the book was dead.  He gleefully wittered on about how we would not sit reading physical books anymore but would have these electronic reading devices which would send books down a type of telephone line.  I came away from that lecture feeling as depressed as if a lover had ended our affair and I hoped desperately that the chap giving the talk would physically get sent down someone’s telephone line.

Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So why did the idea of sitting looking at an electronic device instead of holding a book alarm me so much?  Reading is one of my greatest pleasures and therefore the atmosphere when reading a book has always been important to how I feel about life.  For instance, I remember sitting by a coal fire at about thirteen years of age having just picked up my very first Agatha Christie murder mystery.  The room was silent apart from the very loud ticking of the clock and the odd hiss from the fire.  My grandmother had developed a need to hoard confectionery after the food rationing of the war and had a long sideboard in her bedroom full of packets of Tate and Lyle sugar and boxes of chocolates.  She’d given me a box of Milk Tray and the chocolates lay open on the arm of the chair as I devoured the details of the delicious murder by the safety of the fire.  As my hand wondered into the chocolate box to find my favourite strawberry flavoured one, my eyes left the book for a moment to glance towards the window.  The moment my eyes met the ones leering in at me, the book fell to the carpet and momentarily, I was in my book.  I stared at the nose with huge hairy nostrils pressed up against the glass and after my initial fright, I become furious and stamped to the front door to berate the middle aged man who was peering in at me.  It turned out to be someone with learning difficulties who had wondered off from the house he was visiting and decided to look at what I was doing.  However, that feeling when I was lost in a murder in a vicarage with a face peering through the window at me will stay with me forever when I read a cosy murder mystery.

(Sir Henry Irving was a real-life inspiration for the character of Dracula.)

So have my opinions changed since I have owned a Kindle?  I have to say that they have.  This Christmas, I have sat by the fire with Mildred, the cat stretched out on my knee, a box of chocolates on the arm of the chair and reading Agatha Raisin on my Kindle.  I have to admit, I was just as transported as if reading a physical book.  I’ve also been reading “Dracula” and when Jonathan Harker was being taken to the Count’s castle in the coach with the wolves circling it, I was there.  It’s a strange way to begin a new year, admitting that I have been wrong all these years but hey ho, it means that I can now carry a full library with me wherever I go!


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