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The Not So Invisible Woman by Suzanne Portnoy


A middle-aged friend once asked me, “What do you call a forty year-old man who has sex more than twice in one night?” When I admitted my ignorance, he said, “You call him an ambulance.”

It was a quip that revealed more than I wanted to know about the state of his unsatisfactory sex life. It also showed that my friend probably should never be trusted to write the jokes for Christmas crackers.

The quip reminded me that there is often a vast difference between the reality of a person’s sex life and their expectations of what it should be like.

Suzanne Portnoy’s original title, The Butcher, The Baker, The Candle Stick Maker, showed how one woman bridged that gap. Explicitly charting her journey—from being an unwanted wife, to becoming a liberated divorcee, and then triumphing as a satisfied swinger–The Butcher, The Baker, The Candle Stick Maker was the unexpurgated erotic memoir of Suzanne’s discovery of sexual freedom.

The Not So Invisible Womanpicks up Suzanne’s story after the publication of her first book. Suzanne still enjoys a lifestyle of sex without commitment. She has a gourmand’s taste for oral sex. She has a collection of sex toys that is rivalled only by Anne Summers. And she has a filofax of potential partners who are willing to come to her assistance at the drop of a text message. However, following the publication of The Butcher, The Baker, The Candle Stick Maker, Suzanne also has the notoriety of being the woman who wrote that book.

Not that Suzanne tries hard to hide her achievement. Signing copies of your book, then handing them to rock stars with poorly functioning equipment, has never been an advised way of maintaining a secret identity. The same can be said for public readings, publicity tours and appearances on the Howard Stern show.

But, away from her pseudonym’s salacious adventures, Suzanne is a media savvy professional publicist. She is clearly aware that successful authors are a lot like Scientologists—few people know who they are or what they do, and no one would recognise one walking down the street. Throughout The Not So Invisible Woman, Suzanne uses this balance of uncelebrated celebrity to her advantage.

And it’s the contrast of diametric opposites that makes this book as strong as its predecessor. For the majority of each month Suzanne is an iconic bastion of the feminist success story. She is a responsible mother and respected professional. It’s only on those alternate weekends—when her estranged husband has the children and she has capacity for freedom—that she casts aside the shackles of respectability and squirms with pleasure when a partner calls her “baby.”

Suzanne is clearly a competent publicist and can organise international media events for her clients with executive efficiency. Yet, The Not So Invisible Woman wittily shows the heroine having trouble organising her own gangbang.

And, while she gives herself freely to a lifestyle that deconstructs the familiar intertwining of sex and emotion, Suzanne invariably gets entangled in the emotional complexity of sexual relationships.

Suzanne Portnoy’s writing style is fun, accessible, undemanding and sometimes painfully honest. She writes chiefly to arouse and she manages that with consistent success. The Not So Invisible Woman shows Suzanne at her familiar haunts of Rio’s and Swinging Heaven and also follows the author through book signings with maid service as well as her escapades at “The Night of the Senses.” Aside from detailing an enviably exuberant sex life, the book also shows some profound insights into the conflicting contemporary attitudes toward those with a passion for promiscuity.

Suzanne Portnoy has bridged the divide between the mundane reality of a middle-aged love life and the urban myth of satisfying, swinging sex. For those who want to know more, The Not So Invisible Woman has to be seen to be believed.

The Not So Invisible Woman
(Virgin Books; April 1, 2008; ISBN-10: 0753513951)
Available at: Amazon.com / Amazon UK

© 2008 Ashley Lister. All rights reserved.

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