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.
How to acquire it
[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." . . .
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 crowdbecause 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 endswell, 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-goddessTashartristhat 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 . . .
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 dictionariesyetis
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
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
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:
or more fully:
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.
. . .