I'm still trying to get used to the feeling that the porn book is finally finished. Well, that being said, finishing a book is rather like slaying the Hydra. Just as you think you've chopped off the final head, so another three more sprout from the wound. The manuscript has gone to the reader, but will return with a long list of revisions and alterations, and then after that there will be a host of editorial details to see to. So: not exactly finished then, but this is the beginning of the end, as Churchill said. For instance, when other academics ask me what I'm working on, I'll be saying fantasy and dream in twentieth century French literature and watching their faces glaze over, rather than being witness to the sudden spark of curiosity that accompanies the mention of graphic sex. It had a tendency to open the floodgates to people's personal revelations, however, and I won't be sorry to see them firmly shut again. One day at lunch an elderly and rather distinguished colleague posed the usual question about research projects. When I gave him my answer he said, 'What! You mean to say I've been reading it in secret all this time, and now people are actually studying it?' He'd been serenading his wife at night with passages from The Sexual Life of Catherine M. and couldn't understand why she would just yawn and tell him to go to sleep.
I can't imagine I will ever again find an area of research that will awaken such enthusiasm in my husband. Certainly he has never previously checked out my research materials before I have had a chance to look at them. This particular book has often been one of the things he's mentioned about me when my name comes up in conversations. However, he did fall foul of the difference between mainstream and arthouse cinema. He had happily agreed to watch a Bertrand Bonello film with me, entitled The Pornographer little knowing it is one of the dreariest, dullest, least erotic films in existence. I actually wrote quite a lot about it in the book because it's a sad fact of academic life that the films that are good for intellectual discussion are not necessarily those you sit back and watch with pleasure. As the credits rolled, my husband said carefully: 'If one were expecting pornography, one might be disappointed.' 'Ah ha,' I said. 'And was one?'
However, the good news is that I can once again talk about my research to my parents without making awkward circumlocutions along the lines of: 'the book that I'm working on at the moment'. It took me months to admit to my mother what I was writing about and although she replied 'Well, dear, I seem to still be standing', I wasn't about to do it again in a hurry.