Sizzling-Hot Reads For Those Cold Winter Nights

Feb 13, 2015
Originally published on February 18, 2015 8:34 pm

The winter weather doesn't seem to be letting up — it's still cold and snowy in much of the country. For a little relief from the elements here are five ribald reads to ignite the most fiery of passions.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And it's time for our weekly antidote to winter weather - Hot Stuff.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Hot stuff.

MARTIN: Hot.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Sultry.

MARTIN: Steamy.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Hot. I am on fire.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FEVER")

PEGGY LEE: (Singing) Never know much I love you.

MARTIN: This week's Hot Stuff is not about Valentine's Day nor "Fifty Shades Of Grey." We are not going there today. But we will go here.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Reading) George had turned at the sound of her arrival. For a moment, he contemplated her as one who had fallen out of heaven. He saw radiant joy in her face. He saw the flowers beat against her dress in blue waves. The bushes above them closed. He stepped quickly forward and kissed her.

MARTIN: That is from E.M. Forster's "A Room With A View," classically steamy in an Edwardian kind of way. Our Hot Stuff Segment today is all about hot reads. And who better to talk about this than our own Barrie Hardymon? She's the books editor at Weekend Edition. Barrie, welcome to this program.

BARRIE HARDYMON, BYLINE: Thanks for having me, Rachel.

MARTIN: So let's start at the beginning. When did you realize that reading could be more than just for the mind?

HARDYMON: Well, so with the understanding that this is just my journey - I'm sure there are other - plenty of people who find their way to the reading boudoir through other paths. I think the opener for me was - were the great ladies of YA - young adult fiction - like Judy Blume, particularly "Forever." Norma Klein - she wrote a wonderful book called "Love Is One Of The Choices." And this might seem like an odd choice, but Madeleine L'Engle's "Ring Of Endless Light" is just incredibly romantic. And these were really books about young women experiencing crushes for the first time. And, you know, there's something kind of exciting about reading about a heroine that's your age, who's, for the first time, feeling her heart beat faster.

MARTIN: Mhm.

HARDYMON: Exactly.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

HARDYMON: But, you know, also stuffed in my backpack was my assigned reading, "Wuthering Heights" and "Jane Eyre." And the prose is very hot, but it's actually not explicit. And, you know, in that way it is actually still kind of sizzling.

MARTIN: All right. So let's put this to the test. Let's hear a little bit of all the hotness happening in "Wuthering Heights."

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: (Reading) My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods. Time will change it, I'm well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath, a source of little visible delight but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff. He's always, always in my mind. Not as a pleasure any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being. So don't talk of our separation again.

MARTIN: OK. Am I allowed to push back on you a little bit? My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods?

HARDYMON: Well, he's the one that's she's not really that into. But Heathcliff - Nelly, I am Heathcliff. I mean there are these crazy gothic obstacles to overcome. And when you're teenager who regards, you know, everything as a crazy, gothic obstacle - everything is "Romeo and Juliet" - it's not, like, a long way from - I have to get off the phone at 9, my mother is coming, to - oh my God, I have a lunatic wife in the attic.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

HARDYMON: You know what I mean? Like, everything feels hard. You know, I understand that the prose is old-fashioned, but the feelings are absolutely still as sizzling and scorching as one might feel today.

MARTIN: (Laughter) OK. So let's move into the 20th century though. It seems world wars offered the richest obstacles for literature and life in this period of time. What are your favorite hot reads?

HARDYMON: Obstacles are sexy. And there's no greater obstacle than a war. And I think in this category, my real favorite one is the kind of war-meets-adultery category where the world is falling apart, so now is the moment that you might want to cheat on your husband.

MARTIN: Well, if the world is ending.

HARDYMON: Exactly. So Graham Greene's wonderful "The End Of The Affair," which, you know, boasts some very, very sexy talk about onions - I kid you not - is a real favorite of mine. And it - literally the world is crumbling while they are making love. And then there's also the marvelous "English Patient" by Michael Ondaatje...

MARTIN: Yes.

HARDYMON: ...You have, again, a crumbling world and a romance that is just, you know, hot as can be.

MARTIN: Epic war, epic love. Let's get in the mood. Let's hear a little bit...

HARDYMON: Epic kisses.

MARTIN: Epic kisses, yes. All right, let's hear a little bit of this. This is a reading from "The English Patient."

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: (Reading) There are human betrayals in war that are childlike compared with our human betrayals during peace. The new lovers enter the habits of the other. Things are smashed, revealed in new light. This is done with nervous or tender sentences, although the heart is an organ of fire.

HARDYMON: Woo, Nelly. Hubba hubba.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

HARDYMON: And the thing that's so great about these - for lack of a better term, I'll call them the adulterous armies...

MARTIN: (Laughter).

HARDYMON: ...Is that you have the contrast between the husband and lover, which is sort of the contrast between Linton and Heathcliff.

MARTIN: Yes. I was just going to say that.

HARDYMON: It's this sort of the staid husband versus the lover.

MARTIN: Stability versus crazy.

HARDYMON: Exactly. And then the world is also reflecting that. But there's also a subcategory which I really want to give honorable mention to. You know, love, which is just basically thwarted by the geopolitical situation that is happening. This is like "Captain Corelli's Mandolin," Louis de Bernieres, "Exodus" by Leon Uris and "Charlotte Gray," Sebastian Faulks. These are really, like, our love is bigger than war, but it's not big enough to really overcome the war. These are really, really sexy books because they are on the world stage.

MARTIN: All right. But we have been talking a little bit highbrow.

HARDYMON: We have.

MARTIN: Very literary. And that's fine.

HARDYMON: You want me to go low (laughter)?

MARTIN: A little bit lower. I mean, that's OK if that's what works for you. But give me some suggestions for some good, old-fashioned, romantic romps.

HARDYMON: So here's the thing. If you want, like, a roll in the hay, you really can't go any better than really one of my favorites, which is called "Riders" by Jilly Cooper - larger-than-life characters, sexy villains, beautiful starlets, really, really bad choices. I love a good bad choice.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

HARDYMON: And it's really - and it has this sort of great epic feel to it. And, you know what I would also include in this category? Not explicit, but still a really - just a sweeping, romantic tale is "A Room With A View," which we heard in the beginning. You know, and it's swooningly romantic. It's love as a call to action. It's kind of ferocious socially as well. But it has that real, you know, the sense of, like, you're standing on a hillside and you might get kissed.

MARTIN: OK. So this is a tough question. If you could only take one book with you for the weekend, what's your pick?

HARDYMON: OK. Brace yourself.

MARTIN: I'm bracing.

HARDYMON: I am about to rake recommend the most romantic book you will ever read. Really, I'm serious. So, like, make sure there's ice in the glass. Daphne du Maurier's novel, called "Frenchman's Creek," it's got all the best signifiers.

MARTIN: French? Yeah.

HARDYMON: It's got a Frenchmen. It's got a headstrong English lady. He's a pirate. I mean, it is the best.

MARTIN: I love a pirate.

HARDYMON: It is absolutely the best. And, you know, when we come upon him, he is literally squatting in her Cornwall estate reading poetry. I mean, it is like...

MARTIN: That is your kind of pirate.

HARDYMON: Exactly. I mean, this is my pirate. And they're still, you know, I mean, they're stealing stuff. It's blah, blah, blah. There's a choice between love and duty.

MARTIN: There are bad choices being. OK. let's get a flavor of this romantic pirate. Let's take a listen.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: (Reading) In England, she said, people never sleep in the afternoon. It must be a custom peculiar to your countrymen. But, in the meantime, what are we going to do until my clothes are dry? He watched her, a ghost of a smile on his lips. In France, he said, they would tell you there is only one thing we could do. But perhaps that is also a custom peculiar to my countrymen. She did not answer. Then, leaning forward, he stretched out his hand and very gently, he began to unscrew the ruby from her left ear.

HARDYMON: I think my earrings just melted off, guys.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: When Barrie Hardymon's nose isn't between the covers of a good book - wink, wink - she edits Weekend Edition. If you want to print out a list for yourself or someone you love, head over to npr.org. Hey, Barrie, Happy Valentine's Day.

HARDYMON: And Happy Valentine's to you. And happy ribald reading. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.