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First autoerotic novel, Marcella, celebrates 40 years

Entertainment Editor

Published: Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Updated: Monday, March 11, 2013 15:03

Marcella, the first English book ever published that explored sexuality from taboo standpoints, will celebrate its 40th birthday this month with the release of a 40th anniversary limited edition of the classic version.

Marcella, written by Marilyn Coffey, tells the story of a 13-year-old girl who is transitioning from child to womanhood.

The book explains the tribulations of a woman’s coming-of-age, exploring sexuality, religion, discovery and inexperience, a subject that was otherwise untouched by media and literature.

Coffey paved the way for erotic books and acceptance of women’s sexuality across western society.

In 1973, when feminist Gloria Steinem reviewed the novel, she said, “We are beginning to speak of subjects we have been taught are unspeakable. This book is an important part of the truth-telling by and for women.”

Just in time for women’s history month, the 40th anniversary edition will now be released into a society where once taboo erotica, like “Fifty Shades of Grey”, have gone mainstream.

Today, almost nothing is considered too risqué for the public.

“I consider Marcella the most daring book I ever wrote,” Coffey said. “I believe the autoeroticism described in my novel is lyrical and often funny. In today’s popular literature, the sexuality in Marcella would be considered tame. I doubt that my book would have earned the distinction of being banned today, like it was in the ‘70s.”

Possibly due to the high controversy Marcella brought, the novel was extremely successful in 1973.

It was originally published by Charterhouse in New York, and later would spread across the pond, being published by Quartet in London.

This year, Coffey has decided to publish the 40th anniversary edition under her own imprint, Omega Cottonwood Press.

Coffey retired as an associate professor of English and has taught at Boston University, Pratt Institute and Fort Hays (Kansas) State University.

She has also been named a Master Alumnus for distinction in writing by the University of Nebraska.

At the University of Nebraska at Lincoln’s library, an archive titled the “Marilyn Coffey Collection” holds her manuscripts, letters, journals and papers.

Coffey’s contributions to women’s literature and issues are celebrated across society.

Marcella holds the distinction of the first English book ever published to use autoeroticism as a main theme.

It’s also the first book to bring sexual taboos into the limelight for American readers.

Copies of Marcella: 40th Anniversary Edition are available through Amazon.com and at marilyncoffey.net.

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