A collection of profound, hilarious, and sometimes disturbing short stories. “The Land of the Sperm King” is indispensable.
The many brief essays in A Driving Passion are transcripts from talks given by Marco Vassi in 1975 in a seminar format at a “human-potential center” in New York. They are chatty and confessional and still highly relevant. The topics center on sex, but range widely into mysticism, interpersonal psychology, and even a little politics. Vassi did admit (81) that most of his “novels”—as I suspected—are in fact erotic memoirs in a literary style.
The most original conceptual element in the talks is Vassi’s terminology of “Metasex.” He ceded the terms “sex” and the “sexual” to behaviors with a purely procreative goal, while he invented “Metasex” to denominate the various “sexual perversions” (including, say, coitus with contraception) that have erotic aims.
One of the final segments of the book gives Vassi’s views on the prospects for civilization, which he observed to have ended at the beginning of the 20th century—in the sense that the old value systems and grounding narratives had become bankrupt (163-4). As a result, Vassi held radicalism to be necessary, but he noted that there is an ineluctable conflict between the radical impulse to remove corrupt, obsolete systems, and the survival impulse that is invested in whatever systems have supported the radical’s existence in the first place. He was speaking, of course, at a time when radicalism had experienced a sharp and continuing decline. The same section also excoriates the myth of progress as a sort of historical provincialism.
Much of the book is very funny, but there is a lot of profound material here. All of it is offered in a lucid, accepting manner that is a pleasure to read. [via]
Is this a novel in the form of a memoir, or a memoir packaged as a novel? The New York City setting, esoteric interests, drug use, and bisexuality of the nameless first-person narrator all tally with Marco Vassi’s biography. But the book is as tightly choreographed as any novel, with some shifts of narrative backwards and forewards in time, while each of the fourteen chapters includes one terrifically detailed sexual episode, along with introspective passages that are sometimes positively grueling.
Written in 1970, the text is unselfconsciously composed in the now-extinct dialect of groove. E.g. “I got to rapping her old man and dug they were at a place where they could use a third to catalyze their mix” (60). The language alone makes the book a period piece, although it was clearly written with an acute sense of its contemporaneity.
Vassi’s narrator sees some sort of revolution as imminent, and himself in the vanguard as a mystic and sexual explorer, and there is a certain innocence to his sexual promiscuity. But he is also a harsh judge of himself and others. He mocks himself for playing at being Michael Valentine Smith (73), and his vigorous anathema against the Esalen Institute is full of bracing insight (174-176). Ultimately, the book delivers just the tone implied in the title: a mix of humane care and sorrowful condemnation. [via]
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