Campus Sexpot
A Memoir

David Carkeet

The sizzling world of pulp romance scandalizes small-town America


"A gloriously inventive, funny, piercing memoir of coming of age in a small Sierra town in the sixties. Using as a foil a pornographic potboiler set in the town, the author develops a wide range of feeling and observation—creative nonfiction at its best."
—Suzannah Lessard, author of The Architect of Desire: Beauty and Danger in the Stanford White Family

"Hilarious, bizarre, intricate, poignant, piercing, startlingly honest, eyepoppingly funny, and ultimately, to the reader's surprise and delight, a book not about lust but very much about love, mysterious and miraculous. A riveting book."
—Brian Doyle, author of Leaping: Revelations and Epiphanies

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She tipped her head sideways, her lips offering themselves to his. He remembered the fire those lips contained, the promise her kiss held. . . . In 1962 David Carkeet's drowsy hometown of Sonora, California, snapped awake at the news that it had inspired a smutty potboiler titled Campus Sexpot. Before leaving town on short notice, the novel's author had been an English teacher at the local high school, where Carkeet was a hormone-saturated sophomore. Leaving was a good idea, it turned out, for most of the characters in Campus Sexpot had been modeled after Sonora's citizens.

Carkeet uproariously recaptures his stunned, youthful reaction to the novel's sleazy take on his hometown. The innocent nowhere burg where he despaired of ever getting any "action" became, in the pages of Campus Sexpot, a sink of iniquity echoing with "animal cries of delight." Blood pounded, dams of passion broke, and marriages and careers—not to mention the basics of good writing—went straight to hell.

As Carkeet relates his own romantic fumblings to the novel's clumsy twists and turns, he also evokes the urgently hushed atmosphere in which the book circulated among friends and neighbors. Eventually, Carkeet stumbles into adulthood, where he discovers a truer definition of manhood than the one in the pages of the pulp fiction of his youth. A wry look at middle-class sexual mores and a witty appreciation of the art of the hack novel, Carkeet's memoir is, above all, a poignant and hilarious coming-of-age story sure to revive our own bittersweet teenage memories.

Association of Writers and Writing Programs Award for Creative Nonfiction

Page count: 152 pp.
Trim size: 5.5 x 8


List price: $19.95

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David Carkeet has published five novels, three of which (Double Negative, The Full Catastrophe, and The Error of Our Ways) will be reissued in conjunction with the release of a new novel, From Away, in 2010. He taught linguistics and writing for many years at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, where he also directed the MFA program and edited Natural Bridge, a literary journal. In 2003 he moved with his family to Vermont.