Universal Workshop

Daedalus ascending



Adventures of a Naked Girl

by Song Courson

We take a risk in publishing this extravagant novel (sent to us on the pretext that it “is really about the Moon”), but it does have the qualities mentioned in the review below.

6 x 9 in., 304 pages. 2010, reissued 2013. ISBN 978-0-934546-58-4.

How to acquire it from Createspace



[from Michal Drawwater's introduction]
Reading this too-short novel is an activity less like reading than like taking a swim, strolling on a sunny hilltop, sprawling on cushions, eating a chocolate . . .
    It has been circulating since, apparently, late 1987 in paper and electronic versions. One reader of my acquaintance called it "maybe the sexiest book ever, but certainly the richest, deepest, funniest, most beautiful, most civilized, most good-natured sexy book ever." . . .
Applepeel dozing in the horse-chestnut tree over the river     Exaggerations, and there are less friendly comments to be made too. But I had the feeling that you can't compare this with the run of good novels that make minuscule points about modern American life: you have to compare it with Rabelais for license with reality, Shakespeare for rhythm and luxuriant vocabulary. The springs of the delight are laughter, shrill eroticism, daring and ironic use of language, and, above all, the girl herself. She'll become a universal darling, the latest heiress of Helen.
    There is no kidding about the hair-raising title. Applepeel is an eighteen-year-old with enough sex appeal to cause "social and climatic consequences" even before she finds herself wandering the world without her clothes. (Actually, through most of her adventures she is only half naked.)
    Her adventures come thick, fast, strenuous, and improbable. They include being communally tickled, auctioned in a marketplace, tied up in a cat's-cradle of ropes, scrubbed by washerwomen, having to pose as the statue of a goddess, undergoing a public "Bellywedding" to a god, and walking naked yet unnoticed through a crowd—because they are staring up at balloon effigies of herself. She fights three "Battles of the Britches" or bluejeans (stealing them from a boy, struggling to pull them on, and begging for help in stripping them off because she imagines they are on fire); she is immured in a school that is a caricature of perversity; in one epic night that leaves the strongest reader breathless, she is chased around a red-light district, snatched up in a helicopter, dropped from the sky into a duckpond, punished with "detailed spanking," abducted by pretended parents, and locked in a traveling coach with her "long-lost enemy" (result: the longest stripwrestle in history). Constantly in peril from ravenous males (in a prison cell, a restaurant, a state brothel), she achieves hairbreadth escapes almost every time, by wit, luck, pluck, and sheer gymnastics. She yields her virginity only when she chooses, and ends—well, let's not tell it all, but she ends on top.

Yet the text is far from naked action. One can imagine generations of students finding material for dissertations in the motifs from which it is woven.
    For instance, names. Names are rich and thematic and strengthened by their variations. Applepeel herself has no name but "I" until well on in the story, yet eventually she gets called, fairly naturally, by more than fifty! (Not counting the personal names that her devotees apply to parts of her body.) Her "real" name is Felicity Jane Pepper, or Fristy for short.
    There are chains of sound-association that run through the book, sometimes mingling with each other. One, for instance, is built around the syllable og and includes the hilarious neologism oligogamous.
    Another small motif involves the words shade and side. There is no flab in the writing: words are repeated as little as possible; sentences, though dense with material, are stripped to their material only; particles, modifiers like "very" and "rather" and "maybe" and "usually", padders like "there is" and "the fact that", even auxiliary verbs, are almost absent; rhythms are definite and assertions simple. This economy is set off by an exception ("one of the exceptions that improve the rule"): Applepeel has a speech-tic, a slight retreat into understatement, wordiness, and empty idiom: too many times to be accidental, she says (e.g.) "a shade rash" or "on the intimidating side."
    And there are the motifs of moon-lore and moon-worship (Applepeel's fate becomes so entwined with her guardian moon-goddess—Tashartris—that she seems to become the goddess's statue, daughter, impersonator, successor); of a species of art called Hearthstoppers; of internal thoughts that turn out to have been spoken or at any rate understood by others and, conversely, startling things said aloud that turn out to have been mercifully inaudible; of the language of bodily noises used by the Mongers (the quasi-human tribe of peddlers to whom Applepeel is sold); of anatomical miracles caused by the stress of lust for Applepeel ("Their own erections blocked their view"); of topology; of sculpture; of Eden and Lilith and Adame . . . 
clothed in names    But the themes most worth tracing are the many aspects of Applepeel's own exuberant personality: her resistance to her attackers in a spirit mainly of play, her inclination to yield to the more forlorn or unlikely or "bewildered" of them, her "Table-Turning," her forgivingness, her occasional rapid lurches of mood between laughter and sentiment and fury, her vegetarianism ("You've already been caned every day for refusing to 'eat corpse'"), her acrobatic vigor, her kid-like propensities (such as for getting muddy), the mysterious color of her hair and of a kind of apple called Arkansas Black, her need of sleep and ability to doze even in moments of tumult or peril, her love of fresh air and the depraved "heat-dreams" she gets if compelled to sleep under coverings, and her instinct that all is not far from being "okay."
    A story consisting of incessant narrow escapes from rape can scarcely claim to be ethical. Yet the welcome and radical difference between this and most pornography is that the female is in no way despised: she is cherished.

Applepeel's grammar takes some shortcuts, but the language she speaks is not that of the masses. You don't absolutely have to keep a dictionary at hand, but it is worth stopping to find out what she means when she says things like "the architraves of my breasts" or "the crunode where the curves collide."
    Not to be found in dictionaries—yet—is the sexual vocabulary she introduces: sitch, stalk, sweedle, lipple, supplaud, clevel (short for cleftveil), ool . . .  The invention that will surely stick is glush.
    There are sentences that will make their way into future dictionaries of quotations:

    It had been refreshed by rains like a plant. How neat a kit for living! [Applepeel contemplating her body]
    My head sank back, and my evemound rose, groved and grooved, like the world from the flood [Applepeel falling asleep in the bath]
    "Everywhere men, imagining her, are able afresh to swive their wives"
    And where is the mary, the essence-of-gender, the shehood, the hership?
    Why aren't there stronger words for laughing, and more voicy ones?—has no one ever really laughed before me?
    To raise me ever again from this bed was going to take an act of will, if not of Congress
    "Thou shalt not commit infantry, as the private said to the general"
    The rush of fright through my system had done it so much good that I wanted to go sky-diving again

—and others whose humor is prepared by what leads up to them:

    "Sir," I added, but it didn't do a whole lot of good
    He was desperate because I had been debagged but not Debriefed
    "But it might hurt, and that would be against the house rules"
    "Hardly," I said. "Useful, maybe"
    And there ahead, coming along the sidewalk, was a crocodile

And perhaps best of all:

    "Vitality," he grumbled

—or more fully:

    "Luck nothing. Vitality," he grumbled; "I should have known; you've got enough to keep any ten alive" [spoken by the suicidal lawyer who makes Applepeel take a death-jump with him]

That's it. Sheer shining vitality is what makes Applepeel so magnetic.

. . .