Larry the Ostrich is responsible for more babies in the South East than alcohol, the Catholic Church and Ann Summers combined. Twenty-three stone of ever rumbling gas excreting bulk, Larry wears a standard uniform of stained jeans, torn Carlsberg t-shirt two sizes too small and a John deer baseball cap.
“Me auld fella used to say you’ll never get anywhere reading those auld dirty books ,” Larry tells me laying across a fresh display of science fiction, “But I’m after bringing more women in Wexford to climax than any rampant rabbit or studded vibrator and all without laying a single finger on them.”
Larry the Ostrich had reinvented himself in the dark days of the recession, leaving behind a stark world of lambing ewes to become the South Easts leading author of intense romantic erotica for ladies.
Larry was inspired by the EL James success story. Erika Mitchell was a middle aged British woman who, while writing Twilight fanfiction, fell upon the idea of writing erotic BDSM fiction for women. This little notion made her a multi-millionaire, top selling author and one of the most influential people on the planet for a brief time.
No wonder Larry decided to emulate her, under the pen name LO Divine, a more gender-neutral name than Larry the Ostrich. He wasn’t entirely sure but he had an inkling that women’s erotica written by a fat farmer might not be good from a marketing point of view. But LO Divine worked just fine.
“Tell us this Wally, do you reckon I put the sexy back in Irish literature?” he asks, as grease from his unwashed hair drips down onto my new books.
“Well you’ve certainly made a career out of publicising your illicit masturbation fantasies.”
“You publicised my masturbation fantasies in fairness, credit where credit is due,” he snorts. “God it takes me back to the days of St Paul’s Cathedral and the scores of book houses spread out around the grounds, under the signs of various animals and occult symbols. Aye be God, ancestors of lads like you hand printing William Shakespeare and the like. It’s romantic really, if you were into that sort of crack.”
“Except they weren’t writing filth.”
“Filth? That’s your opinion,” he answers, “I prefer to think of myself as a feminist libertine bringing passion back to the Irish bedroom with the cut and thrush of my words.”
“You’ll be banned if you’re not careful. The church might make an example of you. Or revenue.”
“Sacred cows make the best hamburgers sure. Religion, politics and the best of all – sex. That’s my libertine philosophy.”
Looking at Larry the Ostrich reaching down his tightly stretched trousers to reach an impossible itch makes it hard to believe that he is the spiritual successor of Petronius, Giovanni Boccaccio, John Cleland and the Marquis de Sade.
“You can’t be a libertine unless you’re rich.”
“De Sade was a libertine,” Larry the Ostrich cries.
“He was also a wealthy nobleman. And you Larry, like myself, are neither noble nor wealthy.”
The Marquis de Sade does share one significant characteristic with Larry the Ostrich – both have been disowned by their relatives out of a shame of what they imagined onto the white page. De Sades descendants tried in vain to suppress his legacy and Larry the Ostrich’s elderly mother tried to organise a book burning of his debut release but wouldn’t pay for even one copy to ignite.
De Sade was in another league of course, and it could be argued that what he wrote was less erotic and more horrifying. The words sadist and sadism are derived from his name and the cruelty that he dreamed up and sometimes enacted was obscene.
But he also broke from his privileged background by holding firm on a number of incredible measures by which he quantified real freedom including the abolition of property rights and the early recognition of the class struggle. Two of my favourite female authors, Angela Carter and Susan Sontag, have also championed De Sade in recent decades.
Of course, if the Romans invented erotic literature, it was the French who stole it away and made it their own, and by that it was only inevitable that someone like De Sade would slip into the genre.
Diderot’s “The Indiscreet Jewels” published in 1748 tells the story of a jealous Sultan who gains a magic ring from a genie which will make the vagina of any woman pointed at begin the speak and tell of its sexual encounters. In true Tolkien style, the ring can also make the wearer invisible, allowing the Sultan to engage in some Benny Hill-esque escapades.
Much later, Anais Nin would supplement her income in the literary heart of Paris with one-page erotic stories which herself and Henry Miller would sell to the Pornhub viewing types of the day.
“I don’t know why I help you publish glossed up porn Larry,” I say, longing for a higher cultural reach. Even De Sade has a legacy with influences seen in diverse art from the likes of Baudelaire, Freud, Beckett, Foucault, de Beauvoir and Jim Morrison. What sort of a legacy does a badly written fifty shades knock off produced by an obese farmer and a deranged bookseller hope to have?
“Because like all booksellers you are mentally unstable and tight as a cow’s arse in April. Besides I’m helping to keep the population up without ever having to break a sweat. I should be canonised or, at the very least, in receipt of an arts Council grant.”
Later, after Larry has exited with promises of a new erotic epic that will break hearts and knock doors at Netflix, Peter slides up to the counter and asks me why do they call him Larry the Ostrich.
“Because he’s got some neck,” I tell him.