Chapter One: The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty
With the very first sentence, Anne Rice takes ownership of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, one that has been told and retold countless times in storybooks for children (and Rice's version is not for children!) and twice done by Disney: Sleeping Beauty and Maleficent.
Rice does not pretend that the Sleeping Beauty tale has not existed prior to her writing it. Instead, she actually opens with the Prince knowing about the story, and then seeking his own conquest. In a sense, we step through a curtain of a different sort of reality. One of the characters of the tale hearing about the tale, wonders if it were true, and discovers for himself it was true, and then becomes an integral part of the tale. In this way, Rice does not negate what has already been written about Beauty (she is called Aurora in the Disney cartoons), but propels it in a totally different direction. This spawns three books of full adult enjoyment, with one more coming out soon on 21 April 2015.
Yeah, Rice is a genius.
I first encountered Claiming back in college, when all I did to them was to masturbate after each hot scene. It was, after all, pornography. And I was raging with testosterone. I didn't know what the story was about, except that my friend, Joan, told me to read them, that they, too, were written by my favorite author under a pseudonym.
At any rate, I'm thirty-three years old now, and I plan to mine these books for their literary merit.
So, let's begin!
We meet an intrepid Prince, who goes beyond other Princes who died at the rose vine wall that enclosed the castle as part of the curse. Hm... a rose vine. Thorny, but beautiful. A fitting metaphor for the woman's beauty and allure!
The Prince finds Beauty, and Anne describes her breasts and hints at the shape of her sex under her gown. And immediately we know this is a different type of story, an erotica, but tastefully written, and a standard by which newer erotica ought to be written.
The Prince uses his sword to slice open Beauty's gown--the same sword with which he hacked open the vines outside. A woman's beauty is truly worth the conquest. And is not the sword a phallic symbol? But who needs symbols in this book? Prince gets to use his penis in many ways that brings men envy.
The Prince was going to rape Beauty. And reading this, it made total sense. It's almost as if this were the real story behind the fairy tale, and the one Disney showed us was truly fantastical and sanitized. Of course the Prince was going to wake a beautiful girl with is penis more than his lips. He does a bit of foreplay and "He sucked on her lips, he drew the life out of her into himself, and feeling his seed explode within her, heard her cry out."
That exchange of life for life. Sex, I heard a cynical sixth-grader once comment, is the great democratizer. We all need it as human beings, and when people engage in great sex, who cares about social status. Man and woman. Life for life. And Beauty awakens.
(And who cares about morning breath? Beauty hasn't gargled mouthwash for one hundred years!)
This is quite a fantasy. Okay, something about me. I'm happily married, and a father of a five-year-old girl. But during my less conventional years I was a bisexual. I sometimes think I still am, because I still get attracted to beautiful people, although I don't act out on these attractions. I think beauty is beauty, regardless of gender. One of the joys of being bisexual is being able to appreciate beauty in both sexes, and you get double the pleasure in the sexual act, or even in reading pornographic novels. You switch from the many perspectives. The Prince's, Beauty's, and imaginatively enjoy both.
What a fantasy it is to be taken by a Prince in one's sleep; as it is to take a Beauty in her sleep. What a thrill this book has given us, and we're not yet done with the first chapter!
In spite of Rice's flowing prose, it can get really uncomfy to read her erotica. It is unabashed in its description of the characters' anatomies, and we blush as Beauty herself blushes. We blush at the things that the Prince does to her, and yet, intrigued, we read on. Won't you blush at the images that form in your mind when you read words like, "He liked to think of himself as a sword--light, straight, and very deft, and utterly dangerous."
I see Beauty as blond, shapely. I don't have someone in my head cast as her. Maybe because in the story I want to be her. I don't know. Maybe soon I'll find someone in my mind that I can cast as Beauty. Maybe Jennifer Lawrence? Here she is on the cover of GQ. Beside her is the photo of Daniel Matsunaga who is the Prince in my mind.
I hope these celebrities won't sue me for using their images or likenesses in my mind as the characters in Rice's erotica! I guess the joy of reading erotica as opposed to watching porn is simply this: that you can imagine yourself or some other beauty in your head and you can make him and her as exquisite as you like.
The Prince has "gotten to the core of the accursed castle." And what a pleasurable core it was! Where the fairy tale ends in children's books is where Anne picks up the story, and so Beauty's new life as the Prince's property begins.
"...he told her firmly that she was to wear no clothing." Of course I would never risk arrest by daring to go about my life naked! And after the horror stories I heard about local prisons were men are raped on a nightly basis, and if you happened to have smooth skin like I do, the prisonmates would practice their tattoo art on you, I'm not so eager to go into jail.
I can certainly experiment, with my imagination, how it is to be naked. I will imagine myself, not a scrap of clothing on me, and walking out on the streets and going to work. I wonder how differently I would behave if I were successful and complete in my imagining. I wonder, too, if I keep up with this for several weeks, if I begin to become comfortable with the idea of being utterly naked (just imaginatively) in front of people. More reasons to work out I guess. Roll out that yoga mat!
"He could see her shame before the servants. But he brushed her hand away from her sex." Okay, here we go. It is, as society brought us up, natural to be ashamed of nakedness. Men sneak into their computers for magazines for porn. And even when advertising has filled our avenues and boulevards and television with images of scantily clad models to sell their wares, we are told to modestly look away, and not enjoy these pleasures.
Why are we ashamed to enjoy watching physical beauty? And while most of the advertised beauty we see is photoshopped and has impossible standards for most of us human beings to attain, I think the Prince makes a point here: we shouldn't be ashamed of the inherent beauty in our bodies. The Prince presents his case extremely, yes, he enslaves Beauty, that's clear. But I don't need to conform to what Calvin Klein or Bench or Men's Health magazine thinks my body should be to be admired. My body has its own integrity and beauty, and I can enhance it by eating right and exercise.
Recently, a showbiz website showed photos of Justin Bieber's allegedly touched up photos. I'm not defending the talentless brat, but any man would desire to be bigger and bulgier because of society's pressure for every real man to be a veritable Adonis. Bieber doesn't help any by conforming to this pressure, although he denies (and his army of agents and fans back him) that the photos were altered to make him look desirable. Bieber does not have the confidence the Prince has.
I really wonder what it is to have a Prince direct you. To tell you how to respond, be respectful, be eager to please. To have someone put words in our mouth, to take away our freedom, or any sense of equality. In 2015, that would raise all sorts of issues with the feminist movement, or even with the Catholic movement. The world of fiction, the realm of the imagination, allows us to explore these ideas. When you think night and day and every moment only of pleasing me, things will be very easy for you.
The Prince demanded total surrender. No holding on to any sense of dignity or mental shield. Absolute and complete submission. And to have a handsome Prince demand this of you. Oh!!! Zero resistance.