Unmastered: A Book on Desire, Most Difficult to Tell by Katherine Angel ****

Reading dates: 20 February – 23 March 2014

Being part of reading groups is hard work. You have deadlines, have to read in a way that will enable you to discuss (with a lot of attention) and risk choices of titles that have nothing to do with your life. If you find yourself in this situation, you have joined the wrong reading group. Being part of Sick Sick Sick has made deadlines and reading attentively a pleasure precisely because of the choices of books. These are titles I would never have chosen and yet I have loved every single one of them.

The 22 of us who met on Thursday to discuss Katherine Angel’s book started our contributions with ‘I thought I was not going to like this book but …’ We appreciated the courage it took to write from the personal but to take it beyond. We praised her work on grief; we (I, most certainly) recognised the Mr Pornography talk episode and the lassitude at asking certain questions, especially as a woman. We (I most certainly) was grateful for the breath in the page. We wondered about the editing process, about what was taken out, about the choices of what she gave us; we praised her discipline. Yes, there are problems (problems? maybe questions raised?) with the book, of course: sometimes, it reverts to the binary, there are many stifled discussions, not least about sexuality. I wondered what it was like to read it in relation to Anaïn Nin. But this is a book about when words fail. In it, Katherine dances free and yet, at times, she writes choked (see pages 281 and 330). I really, really understand that.

I don’t want to make demands of this book, I don’t want answers from it about female subjectivity and desire. Through the act of reading, through the encounter, I established a special relationship with it. The book itself, the writing, let me be and think. It had space and a serenity that made me love it for what it is (moving, courageous, pleasurable yet withheld) and what it has given me.