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Lusty Lady

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Book review: Live Nude Elf by Reverend Jen

I wrote this on, hence some of the blanked-out words. More info at publisher Soft Skull Press.

Catch Reverend Jen reading from Live Nude Elf on August 20th at In The Flesh Reading Series!

My review:

Live Nude Elf breaks the mold of sex writing and sex columns, not only because its author dons elf ears, lives on the Lower East Side, and is a self-proclaimed "art star," but because her wit, sense of humor, offbeat friends and mix of earnestness sans materialism are something we've seen unfortunately little of when it comes to sex writing. Based on her "I Did It For Science" columns for, Reverend Jen Miller gives her life story, as a misfit, artist, New Yorker and lover, without devolving into the same old clich├ęs we've seen a million times.

Miller can get away with saying something like her a--hole is "smiling," because she's already walked us through all the research she's done to get to that point. She tackles her assignments not like they are acts from another planet, but with genuine curiosity, whether it's working as a nude housecleaner or doing a stint on a porn set. The people she meets along the way are more than just "subjects" or fodder for her writing; they are given room, here, to be as crazy, funny, obnoxious, and sexy as they want to be.

One of the most tender moments here happens when Jen is trapped inside a balloon at a fetish party. First, she's alone, then she's joined by a young man. "We stared at each other like we'd just climbed through a wardrobe and found Narnia. It was hard to believe the real world lay just outside the latex."

What I liked best about this book is that Miller doesn't have an agenda. Though she certainly gains sexual skills along the way, she's not looking to offer sex advice or flaunt anything. She admits to being just as messed up about love as anyone else. After a breakup, she writes in a chapter entitled "I'll Never Wash This Vagina Again," about her broken heart. "I was lonely and he was a good lover. And a good lover, no matter how cruel, is hard to give up. I needed rehab for my addiction to Nick's penis."

She dates musicians, enters her very own Sex Toy Olympics, hunts for rich older men and fresh young ones, watches the entirety of Sex and the City (the TV show), and learns to squirt. For much of the book, she has an affair with a bisexual couple (who both are into her, not so much each other). Love is as much as a part of Live Nude Elf as sex, and her artistic passion extends into the bedroom.

This is an excellent, funny, wild, yet also heartfelt book. It's a far cry from Carrie Bradshaw and company, who I highly doubt would ever want to associate herself with being an "art fag." Reverend Jen is a sex columnist for all the freaks, misfits, and artists who don't give a ___ about Manolo Blahniks, who wouldn't buy them even if they could afford them (which they can't). Her humor is intelligent, rather than simply playing sex for laughs. Take this book to bed and you're sure to get off, in more ways than one.

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