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Author Topic: EP150: This, My Body  (Read 24713 times)
Russell Nash
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« on: March 21, 2008, 05:34:22 AM »

EP150: This, My Body

By Jeremiah Tolbert.
Read by Stephen Eley

I am the lover. I am the chef. I am the preterite priest.

I am the secret, unknowable ingredient. You may taste me a thousand times, but never hold my essence on your tongue or capture it in your memory.

I am the flavor of ecstasy. Taste me and know God.
–Prayer of the Assaisonnement Saints


Rated X. Contains graphic sexual and culinary scenes.


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Talia
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« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2008, 02:46:05 PM »

I liked this story a lot (it vaguely brought to mind a story from a while back about a dolphin falling in love with his trainer.) Sexuality and food are concepts that go hand in hand very well;  both are/can be sensual things, engaging many of our senses. At some restaurants in Japan, you can even order a sushi meal that will be served on a woman's body (although I'm pretty sure you're not allowed to eat it directly off her Cheesy). I found the concept of a human body engineered to enhance food flavors quite spiffy as well, and the blending of sexuality and religion brings to mind Jacqueline Carey's 'Kushiel' books.

I sometimes have a problem with a high degree of sexuality in a story because it comes off as gratuitous and sometimes ends up dominating any other plot lines. (Laurell Hamilton, I'm lookin' at you). In this case I think it worked out OK exactly because the narrator was so blase, even bored with it; it served as a good medium for demonstrating the degree to which he had been dehumanized.
He trying to be human, trying to feel, but didn't know how, exactly, nor how to read other people properly, and in doing so caused his own outcasting.It seems to me that at it's core the story is about identity. The desire to know onesself and be known as more than just an object. And despite his errors, I daresay the ending was even hopeful, as he seemed determined on adjusting to his new physical and emotional freedoms.

I also enjoyed the story's language; it was a fairly eloquent, perhaps even lyrical, piece, which kind of fits in with the religion angle, I think.

I would have, perhaps, liked a bit more detail about the motivations for the Contessa's behaviors. I felt like I was missing part of the story.

Oh, and huzzah for reaching episode 150! Cheesy
« Last Edit: March 21, 2008, 02:48:02 PM by Talia » Logged
djdj
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« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2008, 08:20:08 PM »

Wow.. great story, but reading it as an asexual person was pretty disturbing. I realize that the main character isn't asexual in the sense that we know it today (see www.asexuality.org for more info) but there were enough parallels to make it deeply, deeply creepy. Rather than taking things personally and getting offended (which rarely helps matters) I'll point out some of the differences this character to and a real-life asexual person:

- Asexual people aren't robbed of our humanity just because we don't like sex. We have the same emotions, the same need to connect with people, etc. A lot of this dehumanization could be explained by this character's religious brainwashing, but the image of asexual automoton (or near-automoton) is one that shows up a little too often.

- The fact that someone finds sex boring doesn't mean that they're cool with being institutionally raped. Again, the story's religious brainwashing may have had something to do with this, but the extent to which the story celebrated the eroticism of what (to me) read as rape was pretty disturbing.

It seemed like the point of the story was that the main character was food (in the sexual, spiritual, and literal sense). The human-to-food transition was accomplished largely by taking away the main character's sexuality, and the notion that people who don't like sex should be treated as less than human wasn't really challenged as much as I would have liked it to be.

That being said, it's not a story about me or asexual people in general and I'm not going to take it personally. Just sayin'....
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Darwinist
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« Reply #3 on: March 22, 2008, 12:13:16 PM »

Great story.  It kept me in rapt attention for the whole time.  Excellent. 

Loved the idea of a guy who was a food / sexual / and spiritual need all-in-one.  Like Talia mentioned, it reminded me of the meals that are served on a naked body, which have been in the media lately.  The part that felt odd to me was the religious aspect of the main character.   I didn't quite understand how people would worship such a person or how he could be considered a priest.  But I guess when you consider the eccentricities of real world religions that shouldn't be so surprising.   And when the guy was having so much sex with the attractive Contessa that he was sore and aching all over - yow! 



....
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Kronikarz
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« Reply #4 on: March 22, 2008, 09:03:20 PM »

Holy crap, Steve Eley's narration of a human food ingredient/sex toy made me gay.

And somehow I wish it would happen more often.
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« Reply #5 on: March 23, 2008, 12:34:56 AM »

This story made me hungry.  Not horny, but hungry.
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« Reply #6 on: March 24, 2008, 09:41:52 AM »

I both liked and disliked the story.  I think it was fairly formulaic in that we KNEW he would end up meeting and doing something wrong with the daughter.  But the idea was very strong, and the descriptions, and the fact that he cooks with various body parts... both interesting and mildly unpleasant (to me) at the same time.

So, not bad.  Not great, but not bad.

And how I am the first person to post this?Huh??

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« Reply #7 on: March 24, 2008, 09:59:08 AM »

I didnt like this story, it was a weak story idea from the start and then having it stretched to an hour just made it boring.
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Planish
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« Reply #8 on: March 24, 2008, 10:26:11 AM »

I'd like to comment on Steve's opening remarks about Arthur C. Clarke.
So ... I will.

Quote
Heinlein was the writer who made us say "Wow. this is neat!"
Asimov showed us that logic and reason could make good drama and strong story.
Clarke is the one who taught us awe.

*polite golf clap*
Very nicely put.

If it was me saying it, I'd tack on "Bradbury is the poet".

Quote from: Listener
And how I am the first person to post this???
[lolcat image]

Well, it it could all too rapidly get out of hand.

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« Reply #9 on: March 24, 2008, 10:40:29 AM »

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this story, and how rapt it kept me.  Considering it was an hour long, that's no small feat.

I didn't quite understand how people would worship such a person or how he could be considered a priest.  But I guess when you consider the eccentricities of real world religions that shouldn't be so surprising.

The first thing I thought of with the religion/sex aspect was temple prostitutes.  That's not a perfect analogy, because I think the story works better when religion and food both feed a similar appetite.  Still, I'm pretty sure that back in the day having sex with temple prostitutes was considered a sacred act.  Maybe not evangelical, but one of worship.  (Someone with more knowledge can correct me if I'm wrong.)
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ajames
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« Reply #10 on: March 24, 2008, 05:16:48 PM »


I just didn't have the stomach for this story.
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stePH
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Cool story, bro!


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« Reply #11 on: March 24, 2008, 07:16:48 PM »

And how I am the first person to post this?Huh??

[lolcat image]

I HAS A FLAVOR came to mind the first time I heard the narrator say "my flavor".
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« Reply #12 on: March 24, 2008, 09:43:54 PM »

Like Pressure, I found the distortion to human anatomy strangely disturbing. Both surprised me at the amount they made me uncomfortable. But as for the rest of the story, I just couldn't get into it. I lost interest pretty early on, fast-forwarded to the comments only to discover there were none. I did like Steve's commentary on Clarke, though, even though I can't say I've ever read anything by him (I usually say I like to read fantasy and watch sci-fi… about the only SF I've read that I got as absorbed as fantasy was the Dune series).
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Thaurismunths
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« Reply #13 on: March 24, 2008, 10:01:16 PM »

FOOD PORN!
I enjoyed this story. There weren't any great hitches in the flow, and the eroticism was handled very well. Anything sexual and erotic in nature is difficult to do well on paper. Often is is over-the-top graphic when simple suggestion is more than enough.

I need more background on the religion presented for me to really 'get' the story. I felt unfulfilled when the end came because I had no real context for, what seemed to be, the main fulcrum of the story: God moving in mysterious ways.
I first took this religion as a riff on Catholicism, given the monastic ways and corporate nature of the inner workings, but just couldn't make it stick. So, next I thought it might be something Hindo-ish, where there is a belief that the stomach is the ultimate enjoyer of all things much like Vishnu is the ultimate enjoyer, and so pleasing the stomach is doing homage to Krishna.
What I really needed to see was some of the worship that went in to the meals. Where was the prayer? The ritual?
With out these I'm having a hard time grasping the kind of world the Assaisoma (sp?) was coming from, and just what the Contessa was hoping to get from him.
Shwankie, and she may weigh in on this more herself, saw sex with the Assaisoma to be like sex with a temple prostitute, and while I can see how they were being treated similarly, it doesn't really explain why the Contessa was so obsessed with him. It seems like anyone who made use of the temple prostitutes, whatever the century, would know it was a sham.
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« Reply #14 on: March 24, 2008, 10:47:19 PM »

I'm not a big fan of stories about food or faith, but I really liked the author's earlier story, Instead of a Loving Heart, so I stuck it out and quickly found myself in touch with the main character.  Both stories have strong imagery and emotion -- you can taste "lonely" when this story ends.  Great selection, Stephen!
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wakela
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« Reply #15 on: March 25, 2008, 01:43:43 AM »

I really cared about this character and found the world and religion fascinating.  I agree that the eroticism was handled with effective subtlety.  As a listener I shouldn't get excited over a sex scene being narrated by someone who doesn't like sex.

My sticking point is that I wonder if all the food stuff was necessary.  It was very cool and interesting -- it seems like the armpits and groin would be the best places from which to impart flavor, but I'm thankful I was spared a description of this -- but I'm not sure that it did anything for the story besides window dressing. 
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Ocicat
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« Reply #16 on: March 25, 2008, 03:34:44 AM »

It's interesting to think about how people would react to this story if the main character had been female.  It really shouldn't make a difference to the character itself, but I'm sure people would react to the sex much more as rape.  Which, well, it was.  But somehow it's more okay if it's a male in that situation, even though we're told repeatedly that he doesn't want or enjoy it. 

That being said, I'm glad the author chose a male Assaisoma, so that the deeper issues can get examined without the kneejerk cultural response dominating the feelings about the story.  I do think the Assaisomas were supposed to be like temple prostitutes.  And I actually do think it's possible to get spiritual enlightenment or "know God" through Earthly pleasures like sex and food.  Though most certainly no one in the story was going about that with the right mindset to actually accomplish it.
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wintermute
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« Reply #17 on: March 25, 2008, 08:00:09 AM »

Interesting idea, but it didn't gel for me. I really didn't care for, or even particularly like, any of the characters except for the chef (Girard? Jeremy?), and I was rather disappointed when he turned out that he had been an Assaison (sp?) but hadn't bothered to tell Antonio about it, until they were never going to see each other again. Under the circumstances, it seems like the kind of thing you'd tell a friend. Especially when he's asking about love. That kind of changed him from the only person in the story who realised that other people might possibly have their own feelings into a dick.

And I was curious abut the parallel between the Contessa thinking that God owed her something, and using Antonio to try and find it, and the final lines in which Antonio seems to decide much the same thing. Is he going to use the same methods, despite knowing how toxic that could be for his own Assaison? Does this imply that the Contessa had previously been an Assaison?

Or am I reading too much into a casual similarity of words?
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« Reply #18 on: March 25, 2008, 10:55:03 AM »

I found this story both disturbing and satisfying in its twist on religious views.  Heavy eating and extraneous sex seems generally considered sins in many modern religions.  I considered myself rather liberal in my views, but somehow the rich depictions of the sacred and what may be considered profane bothered me more than I thought it would.  I also was not surprised by the emptiness the main character felt and identified with his lack of faith.  Nor was I surprised by the inability of the Contessa to find what she was looking for by attempting to satiate her desire.

I enjoyed the rich textures the author was able to wrap each scene in.  I found the characters believable and interesting.  The ability of the main character to misjudge each person he meets made him more human and likeable, despite his calculating and emotionless state.  I myself was fooled by the Contessa with his evaluation.  He reminds me of Pinochio, but not knowing he want to be a boy, only knowing he wants something more.

It seemed to me that the point of the story was how God could be just as likely to be found in the mundane as it could in the indulgent.  The former assasione chef turns out to be the character that brings the most purpose to the main character than anyone else.  He turns his mundane cooking work, with no genetic enhancements nor sexual eroticism, into an appealing and peaceful activity that brings true satisfaction.  He stays aloof of the main storyline until he is needed and then brings enlightenment in his final act which shows the assasione that there are other ways to find his fulfillment.  The author alludes to the more by the simple orange and the Contessa and Cound watching him leave.  Very subtle.
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Heradel
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« Reply #19 on: March 25, 2008, 10:43:10 PM »



To atone, my comments.

I liked it, especially the little throwaways giving some world-building (mainly the X plant is no longer available/rare).

I didn't find the religion/gluttony/sex thing that far off, though I was thinking of this instead of the more western-style religion that it was clearly based off of. And there have certainly been some pretty deviant Popes back in the day.
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