Book Review -
An Innocent Obsession
Erotic fiction by David Catesby
Published 2005 in England by Chimera, the imprint of Pegasus Elliot MacKenzie Publishers Ltd
ISBN : 9781903136324
UK Price : £ 7.99
Listed in 2010 as Out-of-Print, second hand copies may become available from time to time.
Reviewed by Tony Shaw
You are drawn to this book if only to identify the 'innocent obsession'. The cover depicts a nubile blonde lady wearing nothing but a thigh-length white overall. A stethoscope is around her neck, with its button held provocatively in her fingertips, signalling she is a medic. Behind her stands a suited, bespectacled male, looking on happily. Their cameo image is slightly blurred, being the reflection in an elliptically framed mirror. Across the mirror is the word NORWICH written in lipstick capitals.
Perhaps you have to be of a certain age to appreciate that acronym. This reviewer certainly remembers it as an inscription often seen on the back of envelopes posted to wives and girlfriends by conscripted UK military. Read the book if you need further enlightenment.
Here is a short erotic novel written by and set in the timeframe of a WW2 baby boomer. The author, David Catesby, is a retired professional man (a chartered accountant) with some very precise medical knowledge of a particular procedure. Although he doesn’t exactly confirm it, that procedure was presumably performed on him as an infant, much to the delight and appreciation of his late wife.
Prefacing his fiction with fact, we learn the author was very happily married to Kate until her death in an accident ended their loving relationship all too early. When grief subsided enough for David to look through Kate Catesby’s wardrobe, he found a file of nursing college notes from his late wife’s days in training on the wards. There was also her diary of their monogamous courtship, marriage, and subsequent parenthood. Those writings, for which Kate had a gift, were the inspiration for this unusual book, a one-off we gather, which has more than one purpose.
Do you know what an acucullophiliac is? No, neither did I. It’s hard to spell and even harder to say after a couple of drinks, but this book will inform you. In his excellent introduction we discover, as the widowed author did, that his dear wife Kate was one. Her disposition dominates the story you may care to read. Just where the legacy of fact from Kate’s papers ends and David’s fantasy and mission begins, only he knows.
Growing up contemporaneously with him, I can vouch for its authenticity. A long, largely italicised chapter, records Kate’s conversations with nursing colleagues on a particular subject. These pretty much match those my own wife reported from her days with office girly friends; same time, same topic. Events, opinions, attitudes, described do not stretch credulity. Then, unlike today, the 'obsession' wouldn’t really be considered an obsession, except if that was the only thing that mattered in their lives, which of course in the book it is.
Britain from 1940 to 1960 was very different from today. We were shocked then to be told that at least a third of all brides before the altar had already lost their virginity. The corollary being that two thirds saved themselves for their wedding night. Before teenage magazines, computers and mobile texting, there were fewer preoccupations for growing girls other than helping mum. Today’s girls live in worlds of their own, hardly eclipsing homemaking. Yesterday’s girls learned more of childcare from their mothers. Like Kate in this novel, they were involved in bathing and changing their younger siblings. In the case of brothers, opportunities for mother-to-daughter male anatomy lessons were not lost. Kate Catesby had even more from her mother; a theatre nurse, who moulded her daughter’s opinions on the book’s subject matter as firmly as she had formed her own.
There are two parallel debates that have run at least for the last fifty years. One is the headline-grabbing topic of abortion; concerned with cutting short a life in the womb. The other is male circumcision; cutting short a foreskin soon after its owner has left the womb.
Both arouse impassioned argument and fanaticism, but the latter is lower in terms of media copy; strangely so in an age when every intimate detail of sexuality can be well ventilated. To mention one’s circumcision status or ask about someone else’s is, even now, hedged with jokey embarrassment in mixed company. For most, it remains a frontier of personal disclosure not easily breached.
In this climate, ignorance has flourished. Something which cannot be discussed cannot be evaluated and the opponents of circumcision have seized their assault platform. As David points out, they have been fortuitously assisted by the bean counters of the National Health Service whose short term cost-cutting has resulted in far less foreskin cutting. Thus, in recent generations, circumcised boys have become something of a rarity, if not an endangered species. However, as with other time honoured and proven treatments, the benefits of circumcision are on the threshold of rediscovery. The fact that recent research is running along the Damascus Road is encouraging to proponents.
As anti-circumcisionists start to write even more dismissively, exasperated enthusiasts wonder what they can do to counteract their influence. A few respected doctors have published good books aimed at educating parents and blowing the myths which currently prevail in the fashionable 'collective wisdom' that circumcision is a procedure past its time.
David Catesby is set to line up with the pro-circumcision doctors. He feels he too has a book of circumcision advocacy in him. But, not being a medical man, his credibility would be suspect. However, his late wife was a trained nurse, who often assisted professionally with this procedure, and as a mother arranged the circumcision of their infant son. Her hitherto unshared writings are a personal outlet for her intense conviction that circumcision benefits males and their female partners in health, hygiene and sexual eroticism.
His only regret was that Kate died before she had a chance to share her thoughts with him, as she had one day planned. Realising they were kindred spirits in their wish to see the current UK thinking on circumcision reversed, David has seized an opportunity to evangelise and create a memorial to Kate. She would have approved of both.
Will it succeed? To write over 170 pages of fairly repetitive scenes, on a very restricted theme, is a brave attempt. As a circumcisee and advocate myself, I’m not sure an erotic novel is the best vehicle to further its routine re-adoption. “Too far into fetish territory”, some will say. “Obsessive” will be the verdict of others. But then the title tells you that, in all innocence.
To return to the previous page that you were viewing, please use the BACK button of your browser. Alternatively, choose another topic from the navigation panel below.
Copyright © 1992 - 2013, All Rights Reserved CIRCLIST.