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My Journey Through the Plant World:
a novel of sexual initiation
D. Patrick Miller
Paperback, 320 pages
My Journey Through the Plant World: a novel of sexual initiation is a deeply touching, erotic, and ultimately transcendental work of fiction. Written in the form of a first-person journal, this story chronicles the sexual and cultural evolution of Randall Kendricks, a young Southern stamp collector who awkwardly matures into the financially successful but unhappy owner of a West Coast game store. In the midst of his mid-thirties malaise, an increasingly authoritative “inner voice” begins to lead Randall toward a harrowing and hilarious journey into a metaphysical otherworld, where he will come to a new understanding of his responsibilities and possibilities.
With sustained and unusually sensitive portrayals of sexual intimacy from a masculine point of view, My Journey Through the Plant World is a “California coming-of-age” story that breaks new ground in erotic fiction while marrying themes of psychological reflection and spiritual growth. This novel also touches on the contemporary subjects of domestic violence, pornography, gay and bisexual relationships, AIDS, Jungian depth psychology, and “deep ecology” in a social context stretching from the American South to the West Coast. This is the second novel by a successful nonfiction author, journalist, poet, and independent publisher in the field of contemporary spirituality.
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E X C E R P T S
All flesh is grass, and all the goodlinessFROM CHAPTER 1:
thereof is as the flower of the field. — Isaiah 40:6
M Y O N L Y problem with sex is that it’s always so unexpected. I don’t mean that it occurs unexpectedly, which is sometimes true, or that the particular way in which it happens is not what I expect — which is nearly always true. I mean that the very nature of sex is a big surprise.
For example: When a person gets to know someone by talking to her face for hours, does that really prepare him for how her genitals will look? For that matter, does having seen genitals before really prepare a person for how genitals will look the next time? Not for me — and this is still true at age thirty-five, with eighteen-plus years of experience to season my grasp on the graphic facts of life . . .
Oh, Christ. Now that I’ve actually started, I’m even more uneasy about this. But June has been hounding me for weeks to start some kind of journal. The other day she said that my everyday malaise — the all-pervading boredom of my life — is “symptomatic of an inner chaos of psychic forces.”
“What psychic forces?” I asked dumbly, like I still didn’t get that kind of lingo after listening to her for three years, and she said:
“Grief, guilt, sexual sadness, all those things we’ve been talking about. We’re going round in circles because you’re expecting me to sort things out for you. You’ve led me to believe you have some writing aptitude, Randall. Now I’d like you to use it on your own behalf.”
“But, doc,” I replied helplessly, knowing that June resents all references to her academic credentials, “where would I start?”
“Start with sex,” she said so directly that I flinched. “In fact,” she continued with growing certainty, “let’s start with your sexual history, going all the way back, as early as you can remember having any sexual feeling or perception. You’re carrying a lot of sexual anxiety that you need to sort out. You need to know what’s past and what’s present, for one thing, and you don’t know that right now. It’s all happening at once in your head. So . . . Good. Let’s try that, all right?”
Instead of answering right away I looked at the top of June’s head, where her hair is both caramel and gray, and wondered why I felt like a twelve-year-old told to wash a heaping mountain of dishes from the grown-ups’ dinner party. I wanted to say, “That’s not fair!” Instead I whispered quizzically, “Let’s?”
So here I sit, facing the computer screen with the kind of foreboding I used to feel when facing inventory in my first store — only much worse. How does one inventory the contents of a personal Pandora’s box, after all? But I think I’m on to something already, this thing about the nature of sex. Maybe the whole problem of sex is nature itself!
Because the truth is that lowering my attention to the sexual territory of the body is like dropping out of human civilization, and down into the world of plants. Seeds, shoots, blooms, roots, juices — it’s all organic down there, raw and unsocialized. All our romantic ideals about sex are like flowers sliced at the stalk, prissily displayed rootless and truthless in cut-glass vases. The damp soil upon which real sex feeds is too, well, earthy for most people to contend with. And that’s why they’re never prepared for what happens next with sex....
FROM CHAPTER 10:
T H E A P A R T M E N T Lainie shared with her cousin and the witch in an old brick complex a few blocks west of downtown was everything she had promised, and then some. As I came in the door my eyes were drawn to a framed picture over the fireplace—a huge, ungodly yellow, red, and chocolate brown portrait of an African woman wearing mannish raiments and jewelry of royalty and magic. Stones, feathers, shells, animal skulls and random vertebrae were piled on the mantle, littered on a coffee table, even scattered over the kitchen counters, competing for space with a few antique appliances and one brightly new Champion juicer. It was the first time I’d ever been in a place that was both so decidedly feminine—a literal no man’s land—yet staunchly unfrilly. Remembering Carolyn’s pink, girlish bedroom back home, I chuckled out loud as Lainie led me down a shadowy hallway, giving me a tour of the realm.
“What’s so funny?” she asked.
“Nothing,” I replied, shaking my head. “This is kind of a weird place, isn’t it?”
“It’s all right,” Lainie said neutrally, pushing open the last door on the hallway without going into the room. “My room ain’t weird, is it?”
I entered, taking note of an Atlanta Rhythm Section poster on the far wall over a cheap, four-drawer dresser, and replied, “Nope. Looks normal. No skeletons in here.” Suddenly I felt trapped; I was inside a small area with no chair, the only comfort being a thin mattress on the floor with a yellow bedspread tangled up with two pillows. Except for the poster, I might have been in an anonymous, underfurnished motel room.
Lainie was still standing out in the hall, saying nothing. I looked all around one more time, shrugged my shoulders and said, “I mean, it’s nice.”
I was beginning to feel so awkward that I was thinking up excuses to leave when Lainie asked, “Do you want anything to drink, Randall?”
“Sure,” I said happily, relieved at the opportunity to get out of the bedroom.
“Help yourself to anything in the fridge,” she replied, backing away from me as I came out and turning to another door. “There’s all kinds of fresh juices in there ’cuz Jeanna hardly drinks anything else. Or eats anything, for that matter.” Now Lainie was speaking from behind a closed door: “I’m gonna take a shower, okay? You can take care of yourself for a minute or two. Jeanna and August won’t be back til later.”
That last bit of information seemed unwarranted, but the tingle returned to my lower region. I opened the refrigerator door as I heard the water start in the bathroom across the way, and I couldn’t say to this day whether I saw a jar of carrot juice or an elephant’s head inside that appliance. All my awareness was focused on the muffled sound of water spraying behind a closed door. I was wondering if I had the nerve to go in there, announce myself, and draw back the shower curtain....
COPYRIGHT 2008 D. PATRICK MILLER. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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