Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Book Review: THE PURE AND THE IMPURE by Colette

THE PURE AND THE IMPURE is a book written in French in the 1930s that teaches you about how love and sex works. I read the whole thing (translated into english) and I still feel like a love and sex novice, but it did two of the things I'm looking for when I read a book: it articulated some things that I've observed and felt, but never told anyone, and it broadened my horizons by showing me the world through a different brain.
Two things that it didn't do is make me laugh or have any lesbian sex in it. Which is OK. Neither of those things are "deal breakers" for me. A book called "The Pure and The Impure" is just not going to be funny. (Plus, French people aren't that funny. Except Marcel Marceau and Le P├ętomane.) The lesbian sex thing was a bit more of a letdown, since this looked like the type of book that was going to have a lot of lesbian sex in it, but that's fine too. I don't read to get aroused. I just thought I should warn you.
The format of the book is basically a big rant. Each chapter is about a person or couple who Colette has known, who was queer or promiscuous or both. Like a lot of rants, it can get tedious, and sometimes you want to shake the ranter and say "what the fuck are you talking about?" but as a ranter myself I found it all kind of endearing. Sometimes Colette seems to be overthinking things, and sometimes she seems to be painting with a broad brush, and that's how I am too.
The most relatable part to me was when she said, of herself and one of her male friends, "He and I and others like us come from the distant past and are inclined to cherish the arbitrary, to prefer passion to goodness, to prefer combat to discussion." AMEN, sister!
Unfortunately, since she's French, Colette also comes across as a know it all. She'll say things like "I am alluding to a certain hermaphroditism which burdens certain highly complex human beings" and you just want to smack the cigarette out of her hand. Really, Colette? Are you and your friends really so highly complex? Passages like this, for me, evoke Leonardo DiCaprio's slave owner character in DJANGO UNCHAINED, who talks in a refined, intellectual voice all the time to mask the fact that he's dumb as shit. But, like I said, I'm a ranter too, so I can forgive these things, as long as you're not measuring people's skulls.
The most horizon-broadening thing for me was the "sensuality" of the writing. I don't mean this in the erotic sense (remember, there are NO LESBIAN SEX scenes in this book) but in the sense of talking about the senses. Colette, since she is French, is very in touch with the smells and tastes of things, and reads into what people are wearing. I never describe smell, taste, or fashion in my own writing, and this book made me feel a little "basic" for that, in a helpful way.
Overall, I'm going to have to give this book a 0/1, because it got a pretty tedious at times, and probably should've just been an essay, but I'm glad that I was forced to read it. (It was this month's selection in my book club.) I like Colette, and in fact I think I have a crush on her. The description of the acoustic qualities of the word "pure" at the end was fantastic, and tied the whole thing together. (The word "pure" in French is "pur," so it translated well.) Also, this book looks good on my shelf. It makes me look like a "highly complex human being." Maybe--hopefully--the kind of human being another human being would want to have sex with.

COVER: 0/1
SMELL: 1/1


  1. Collette seems like one of those thotties that you just want to shut the fuck up but you let em keep going because there's a possibility you might screw someday

  2. What a complex and thoughtful review! ;)