100 STROKES OF THE BRUSH BEFORE BED

Melissa Parente, Author, Lawrence Venuti, Translator , trans. from the Italian by Lawrence Venuti. Grove $22 (167p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1781-6

A scandalous bestseller in her native Italy, Melissa P.'s avowedly autobiographical novel recounts a Sicilian schoolgirl's erotic adventures. "I want love, Diary," she writes just before her 15th birthday. "I want to feel my heart melt, want to see my icy stalactites shatter and plunge into a river of passion and beauty." Love may be hard to find, but sex waits at every turn, and Melissa seldom says no. In calmly vivid prose, she describes the varieties of experience, beginning with her introduction to oral sex: "I now had it before my eyes, it smelled male, and every vein that crossed it expressed such power that I felt duty-bound to reckon with it." This same sense of duty mandates sex with a woman, sex with an older man, sadomasochistic sex, group sex. Although her mother tells an ill Melissa a fable about a princess, Melissa tells herself no fairy tales—and therein lies the odd, potent purity of these pages. Agent, Anna Stein at Donadio & Olsen. (Oct.)

Forecast: When the author turned 18, she revealed her family name of Panarello. But Melissa P. she is here (think The Sexual Life of Catherine M). Readers who recall the impact of 18-year-old Françoise Sagan's Bonjour Tristesse may prefer to shelve her with that other prodigy.

Reviewed on: 09/20/2004
Release date: 09/01/2004
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Compact Disc - 978-1-74093-798-6
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