The Crimson Petal and the White

 I am very uninspired today, so since I’m doing the whole NaBloPoMo thing, I thought I     might as well nip over to their website and check out the prompt of the day. Today’s prompt is:

“Which character would you most like to meet?”.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind about the character I would like to meet. It would be Sugar from the über-talented Michel Faber‘s novel “The Crimson Petal and the White“.  Those of you who have been reading my writing for a while should know that I am a cynical, jaded miserabilist who’s impressed and excited by very little. Oh, but this book! It’s 894 pages long, and yet I finished it in two days.

If you only ever read one book again before dying, then it has to be this one!

I’ve also read “Under the Skin” by the same author , and I’m constantly amazed by his ability to write from the point of view of a woman and by the fact that he actually does it well. He understands women so well that I would easily have imagined both of these works to be written by a woman if I hadn’t already seen a man’s name on the front cover.

Why would I so much like to meet Sugar? Well, she’s a self-educated, feisty nineteenth century London prostitute. Those of you who know about me and my past will surely understand why this alone would appeal to me.

The following passage isn’t about Sugar, and the thoughts aren’t hers; this is actually Carolyn, another London prostitute’s point of view:

“Responsibilities, responsibilities. To get enough sleep, to remember to comb her hair, to wash after every man: these are the sorts of things she must make sure she doesn’t neglect these days. Compared to the burdens she once shared with her fellow factory slaves, they aren’t too bad. As for the work, well…it’s not as dirty as the factory, nor as dangerous, nor as dull. At the cost of her immortal soul, she has earned the right to lie in on a weekday morning and get up when she damn well chooses”.

As a former sex worker myself, I can relate to the above passage wholeheartedly. Now that I am no longer an erotic masseuse, I guess that I’m now earning my living “honestly”. People would consider it a “good decision”; that I’m doing the “right thing”. The only benefit I can see to having a regular job is that I’m guaranteed a regular income – that was something I could never be sure of with sex work, especially after the economy went pear-shaped. Apart from that, though, what’s good about it? I earn less money; I’m doing a dead-end job in which I’m not really appreciated; I have less time for myself; I barely make ends meet. And, oh, don’t forget that I’m a contractor, so I’m not entitled to any benefits (that means health insurance, my European friends) or any sick or holiday pay. I could be fired at any point, and once my contract is up next February, I will have to find a new job because the company can’t legally hire a contractor for more than a year – although they can wait six months, and then hire me back for another year of benefit-less joy!

If you’ve got the stomach for it, then, hell, sex work really ain’t that bad in comparison to that. Quite frankly, I miss it.


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6 thoughts on “The Crimson Petal and the White

  1. rafgeymir August 6, 2011 at 5:57 am Reply

    Back from Nürnberg! And very excited to read a new entry in your blog. Thanks for the book recommendation- I’m reading the whole “Sookie Stackhouse” series by Charlaine Harris (Great books (RECOMMENDATION!!) and the TV series “True Blood” is even better.) In the US the 4th season is on air at the moment (lucky you!!), I’ll have to wait….
    I’m sure having a sex job is more exciting than cubicle work, I think I’d never have the guts, so- thumbs up to you! You should write a book about that (some women already did and I think many of them are quite succesful with it.)
    Now, I’m going to buy these books- they really sound like they were totally my cup of tea.
    Many thanks!

    • petrichoric August 6, 2011 at 11:18 pm Reply

      “Sookie Stackhouse”, eh? I had to look it up, but I see that she’s a “telepathic barmaid”. After one too many drinks in a bar, I’ve also thought that I had telepathic abilities, but it was usually just the tequila talking. Yes, I know about “True Blood”, but I haven’t seen any of the episodes because I don’t have a TV. Also, I refuse to watch any modern Vampire series because nothing – and I mean NOTHING – can ever surpass “The Lost Boys”.

      By the way, are you a woman, or a man? I was thinking a man at first, but now I’m not so sure. If I had to choose, I’d say you were a dude, though.

  2. williamx August 9, 2011 at 12:12 am Reply

    You rule.
    I read ‘Under the Skin’ and it left an impression on me. I’m pretty sure it creeped me the fuck out.This Crimson Petal book looks to be more of the same if the writing is in any way as evocative. Especially since I hang out with strippers and escorts and la la . . . So I’ll be sure to check it out. After I get done reading Zero History, by William Gibson. I am not quite sure what to make of it yet.. Airplane reading and I was a couple whiskey’s in at all times, crossing the country.

    • petrichoric August 9, 2011 at 11:21 pm Reply

      “The Crimson Petal and the White” is a *million* times better than “Under the Skin”. It’s the best book I’ve read in ages. William Gibson sounds good. It’s embarrassing that I’ve not read anything by him.

      • williamx August 10, 2011 at 3:47 pm Reply

        Gibson is kind of old news these days and this book is . . . meandering. I’d recommend the Sprawl books : Nueromancer, Count Zero and Mono Lisa Overdrive, plus a collection of short stories titled Burning Chrome. But only if you like the ‘cyberpunk’ style

        • petrichoric August 12, 2011 at 12:53 pm Reply

          I’m not entirely sure what “cyberpunk” is but I briefly skimmed a Wikipedia entry about it. I’m not terribly into science fiction, to be honest, although I sometimes think I should write a science fiction novel just because I hate the genre so much. I’m more of late 18th century, early 19th century novel person, myself.

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