Once, When We Were Innocent – My Pre-Internet Pursuit of the Forbidden

Back when I was growing up, in the dark days before the Internet, there were very few ways to learn about sex.

There were, on occasion, a few glimpses of nudie pictures –  usually someone’s older brother’s Playboy. But these pictures were inert and added to the mystery surrounding sex, instead of offering illumination.

As a child of the eighties, I looked to TV for entertainment, for knowledge, for guidance. I shunned all books. In fact, I never noticed any books in my house, though I now know there must have been books, my father being a reader. Who needed books when they had TV? But TV never spoke of sex. At least not directly. Obliquely maybe, cleverly, but I was a boy who had no finer senses. Even as a grown man subtlety is still somewhat baffling.

It was my best friend who first drew my attention to the strange rectangular objects grown ups and dorks read. He was the first to show me that there was a link between books, reading and sex.

His father liked to read big, fat, trashy novels, which he left about the house when they had revealed their secrets and were useless to him. My best friend would have to move these spent entertainments from chairs before sitting, tables before eating and in the bathroom he would have to kick aside an overfull basket of novels to do his business.

It was in the bathroom that he made his discovery.

At twelve my best friend was my confidante, there was very little he did not know about me and little I didn’t know about him. By thirteen, however, there were secrets. One of which was knowledge of what was contained in these books. My best friend did not share his forbidden fruit with me.

Overnight, my best friend became a reader. This felt like a betrayal. Wasn’t TV good enough for him?

Every time I saw him he was reading a new book. I only lived two doors from him so I saw him at least five times a day. Five fat books a day? Boy! that kid could read...

Then I began to notice him using a patronising tone whenever our discussions turned to the subject of girls and sex. We were thirteen, all of our discussions turned to girls and sex. This tone was annoying and would have lead to a complete rupture had not his secret been revealed.

“I know because I read about it!” he said, in the midst of a heated of a dispute about the mechanics of sex.

“You read about it? There is sex in books!?”

To prove his point he had to find the book and the particular passage. We went into his house and wandered from place to place picking up this book and that. Each time he would do the same thing. He’d hold the book in his palm and let the book flop open by itself. He’d scan the open pages and then say, “No, that’s not it.”

Finally, he discovered the passage and showed me. Mamma Mia! My eyes almost popped out of my head. Here, in print were all the words we were told were forbidden. Here, in words, were all of the acts we were told were forbidden. The rudest, filthiest practices known to mankind were between the covers of these seemingly innocuous objects.

And my best friend’s father left them around the house for the whole world to see!

There was a book called The Godfather, another called Shogun, and books by James A. Michener, Wilbur Smith, Sidney Sheldon, Harold Robbins and on and on and on. Some opened easily on the pertinent passages, some hid their lessons deep within pages of boring clap-trap, and some made you feel like a prospector panning for gold, sifting through the mud and the slime for a few lines of smut.

And then suddenly you’d discover a copy of Clan of the Cave Bears and a cry would ring out of the mountains – Eureka! (Just imagine if our parents were more imaginative and owned copies of Story of ‘O’, Henry Miller’s Sexus or the Marquis de Sade?)

I certainly looked at adults differently after the discovery. Is that why they were always trying to get us to read?

And apparently, we were both slow on the uptake. We soon learnt that his sisters and my sisters had known all along that there was sex in books. Their books had sex in them. Virginia Andrews, Jackie Collins, Jacqueline Susan.

Even Judy Blume!

Years later, some of these books and their detailed accounts of sex lead to problems. One girl I knew had read in a Harold Robbin‘s novel that a girl will know she has lost her virginity because her lover will bite hard on her earlobe at the crucial moment. Another friend had almost ended up in traction trying to re-enact a favourite scene from an Eric Van Lustbader novel.

My best friend’s discovery lead to me reading. True, this was an inauspicious beginning to my reading life. In fact, it was years before I read an adult novel in its entirety, from cover to cover. And when I did, the choice, Jaws, did not encourage further attempts.

But by then I didn’t need books in the same way. So, after reading Jaws, I gave up reading for a time.

The beginnings of my other reading life, which began a few years later, had nothing to do with sex… well, not as much to do with sex. So I’ll leave that story for another time.

It all must seem a little quaint to modern kids who gain a thorough knowledge of the ins and outs of sex the first time they search for images of the Wiggles on Google or look up Enid Blyton‘s series of novels – The Adventurous Four, or watch music clips on Rage on a Sunday morning. But in the eighties if you wanted to know stuff, you had two options – TV and Books.

If you wanted to know forbidden stuff, however, there was only one option, the trash your parents read.

Booktopia’s Christmas Clearance Sale – Our Biggest Yet

Prices Seriously Slashed

OUR BIGGEST SALE YET!

This has been a big year for Booktopia – we’ve experienced incredible growth, we’ve moved into massive new premises, we’ve revamped all of our systems, and we’ve won more buying power than ever before, which means we can offer you even better discounts…

In short, having come so far, so quickly – we want to celebrate.

As this is the season for giving, we have decided to share our success with you, our customers, by having a Clearance Sale on a scale which would have been impossible a year ago.

Let me repeat – this is

OUR BIGGEST SALE YET!

We have been busy buying up stock – buying in bulk – so that we can bring you bargains all year round  – our massive new warehouse in filled to the roof – but starting this afternoon all of our bargain books will be further reduced – some to ridiculously low prices.

These bargain books are well known authors and popular titles at dramatically reduced prices.

Romance Fiction, Crime Fiction, Thrillers, Sci-fi, Literature, Adventure, Action, Classics…

And in Non-Fiction… well… every subject under the sun – from Web Design to FengShui, from Battle Cruisers to Stamps, from Sailing to Noodles, Candles to Dreams.

Gardening, Cooking, Travel, Art, Self-help, Craft, D.I.Y

I’ve just been in the warehouse and have been walking up and down the aisles… so much good fiction

I saw great light holiday reads for women (and some men) like Catherine Cookson, Johanna Lindsey, Sheila O’Flanagan, Danielle Steel, Virginia Andrews, Katie Fforde, Marian Keyes, Cathy Kelly, Barbara Taylor Bradford and Joanne Harris.

There is great literature there too! Modern writers like : Anita Shreve, Alice Sebold, Douglas Kennedy, Tony Parsons, Philip Roth, Thomas Keneally, Hilary Mantel, Ann Patchett, Tom Wolfe, Carol Shields, Irene Nemirovsky, A.L.Kennedy, Roddy Doyle, Anne Enright, Edward St Aubyn, Anne Tyler and Paullina Simons.

And Classic Literature : Arthur Conan Doyle, Tolkien, Margaret Mitchell, John Galsworthy, Edith Wharton and Charles Dickens.

With so many books I could only note down a few in each section… (check the website for more…)

So much crime!

Shelves and Shelves of Crime!

I saw some of the best names in the business:

Mystery writers likeDick Francis, Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, RD Wingfield, Peter Robinson, Minette Walters, Val McDermid, Andrea Camilleri, Colin Dexter, Henning Mankell, Lindsay Davis and Ian Rankin.

And Thrillers like - James Patterson, Kathy Reichs, Karin Slaughter, Peter Temple, Janet Evanovitch, Robert Crais, Michael Connelly, Sidney Sheldon, Dean Koontz and Greg Isles.

Everywhere I turned there were more and more books…

I found a section with great adventure stories – perfect for the holidays too! Patrick O’Brian, Bernard Cornwell, Alexander Kent, Jack Higgins and Chris Ryan.

All of these fabulous authors, and many more, will be radically reduced in our sale.



But be quick.

Last year many people missed out.

These titles are available until stocks run out.

Get in early to ensure you get all the books you want.

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