C Magazine Review of How to Train Your Virgin



This is a great article about the New Lovers books, specifically about the first three of which How to Train Your Virgin was one.126

Excerpt: (a not entirely loving one, but that’s all right, it’s erotica, not literature. 🙂 And really, this just makes all those nightmares I had in MFA grad school about my sexual performance being workshopped by a class — more real than ever.) :

“The first in the series, How To Train Your Virgin, by the pseudonymous Wednesday Black, takes place in a fictional landscape separated from our own by human dream space. Its queen is the book’s narrator.

There, physical laws depart from our own (the populace is immortal, and we see the bodies of its members slip mercurially between chosen and natural forms) but the organic elements that make up the book’s visual register are nonetheless recognizable: dogs, birds, eggs, trees, flowers, fields. There is a vine girl (“a willow tree made female flesh”) and a vine man (“a hoary chap with face almost entirely occluded by the vines that grow from his skin. His body is shaggy with tendrils and leaves, and at the base, the thick genitals are petrified erect”); a “Baby Garden” where trees bear “orbs made up of curled fetuses of all species—fairies and nixies and gnomes, winged piglets, bearded unicorns, toothpick-haired unicorns”; a ghost woman with a leopard’s head and an “athlete’s body” that’s “Amazonian in its hardness”; and a centaur, whose species is described as “loyal creatures, being made of the stallion’s lust and the man’s intelligence and deliberation.” And there are others. As you can imagine, these bodies are all introduced in order for them to have sex with each other. And remarkably, despite their radical structural deviation from human bodies, they somehow fall under the very human hegemony of penis-in-vagina, mutually orgasmic sex.

The novel’s plot is motivated by the narrator queen’s desire to sabotage an affair her husband, the king, is on course to pursue. The targets of his affection are two human virgins – one male, one female – and the queen tries desperately to reach them before he can, in order to take their respective virginities and, in turn, nullify their appeal. Normally, she can reach the humans during their dreamtime, though with M – the girl – her attempts are “stymied by tinctures for depression, anxiety, suffering,” which prevent uninvited nighttime visitors. Peter – the boy – “does not take pills of forgetfulness” but rather dreams nightly of his memories of an unplaced war zone where “rockets crash, women shriek under the rapine attention of beings of clotted ash and fury,” and this trauma keeps the queen at bay. However, she manages to reach the virgins when they are vulnerable – Peter when he is sick, M when under the influence of MDMA.

The prose is peppered with structural and lexical anachronisms in the vein of “I run from the Hall and through the moors to the borderlands where the Realm gives way to a sandy, bemisted void.” It has the same effect as listening to characters in fantasy movies and television shows set in ancient or alternative worlds who uniformly have British accents and a formal syntax: that someone is awkwardly trying to affect aristocratic class or status through their proximity to history and archaic usage. It seems that even in fantasy, there’s a limit to what can be imagined…” — Tess Edmunson, C Magazine

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