Why Marco Vassi is so Important

Marco Vassi is the most innovative writer, thinker, storyteller and human I have come across in my reading life. My review of The Stoned Apocalypse sums up my thoughts on this pretty well. Reading this book was the first time I felt my outlook on the world and my relation to it had been altered permanently. Not only did he address sex as a vital part of the human condition by giving it more narrative space than I had ever seen in a book, he also was the first writer ever to give me access to the workings of the male mind in a way that made me feel for once, like men were more like me than not. I felt more grateful to him for this reason than I have felt to any writer before or since.

His books The Gentle Degenerates–a book he said was 90% autobiographical–and A Driving Passion were also important to me and I often refer back to these in conversation. A Driving Passion is especially good for anyone who is interested in his thoughts on topics ranging from jealousy to procreation. It is a quick read and will give you a fairly good idea of who he was as a thinker and also captured his sense of humor.

He defied labels, and for this my work owes him so much. Anne Rice is the only other author I have read who spent so little time worrying over who was doing who and why. In his books people are people and they do their glorious thing, without the narrator hanging around “forgiving them” or judging their preferences. People are free to be themselves in his books and that leaves the reader free as well. In Vassi’s words I found a thoughtfulness that might remind some of Henry Miller as he spends pages pondering what it all means.

It wasn’t just sex that he covered. Marco Vassi examined the entire spectrum of what it meant to be human; he wrote about psychology, religion, politics, as well as sex and drugs as he questioned what society expects of all of us, and how these expectations limit our potential. He revealed himself in his work as impatient, jealous, petty, loving, kind, generous, and everything in between. Because he revealed so much of his own inner landscape, I felt validated for the imperfect being that I am and soaking up his outlook on the world allowed me to consider other people with the same generosity of spirit that he did.

Until recently when I talked about him, nobody had ever heard of him, which still seems incredible given how much he wrote, who spoke up for his work*, and the radical topics he handled. But lately I have found a few people who not only knew him but wrote about him!

The photographer and writer David Steinberg gives us some very intimate and important details in this essay, and anthologized his work in two books. Erotic Impulse, an anthology that also includes work by Lenore Kandel, Susie Bright, Henry Miller and others, contained the essay “Bodhi is the Body,” which is one I think everyone should read. Not only did he point out the female contribution to sex and life, instead of once more turning the female body into at best a pretty receptacle, he also made it clear how important he thought sex was as a part of a spiritual path. In Erotic by Nature, erotic images are combined with poems, essays and stories, including Vassi’s erotic fable, “The Kingdom of Come.” That may be a funny title, but a story that will also make you think.  

David Guy, a writing instructor at Duke University, has written several books that deal with sexuality from an honest and human perspective. In his book The Red Thread of Passion he devoted an entire chapter to Marco Vassi. I was especially grateful to find that he paid attention to the spiritual aspect of sex, and focused on this angle of Vassi’s work.

Michael Perkins, in his book The Secret Record, a literary examination of erotic writing, also devoted an entire chapter to him.

I highly suggest all of these books for people who are interested in Marco Vassi and erotic writing that has something important to say. 

Lastly, Marco Vassi’s literary agent and friend Richard Curtis maintains a blog and has posted about him as well, you can find one post here. I also suggest looking around his site as he posted some thoughtful pieces on erotic writing and digital publishing among other things.  

On this the 24th anniversary of his death, Vassi’s work is more important than ever. Erotic writing is, in many people’s minds, still limited to the topics of bondage and submission, or it is nothing more than a racy romance flouting explicit love scenes, or a polite word used to coneal crudely written come shots, or formulaic writing whose sole aim is to get people to stick their hands down their pants.** Marco Vassi is a writer who could do all of that and dared to be so much more.

In 2013 women and men still give up their creativity, their passion, and their independence to play the roles of wife and mother, husband and father, caregiver and provider. In 2013 gay, bisexual, transgender, and plain old “different” men and women are still fighting stereotypes, violence, and ignorance as they  work toward equality. In 2013, though whips, chains, ropes and the like serve as props in movies and music videos, those who practice BDSM still fear the conscequences for their families and reputation if they are found out. In 2013 women are still judged by and valued for their appearance–not what they offer each other and the men around them on a spiritual, emotional, and intellectual level. In 2013 popular media has trivialized all angles of sexuality to the point of banality. In 2013 Marco Vassi is more important than ever.

Rest in Peace, dude. You are still the fucking Man.

*  Norman Mailer blurbed several books and said that he hoped A Driving Passion would,”lead readers to explore the bold literary contribution olf Marco Vassi.”
** He might ask, what is wrong with that?

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3 Responses to Why Marco Vassi is so Important

  1. Jack Remick says:

    Sarah: We all stand on the shoulders of giants. I’m happy that you found this one. Your reach extends with each new insight about the art and the craft that you take away from this man.

  2. Sarah Martinez says:


    Thank you for recognizing this Prepping for my interview tomorrow, it will come out in February. I will post a link when it comes out. I mention only a couple of Seattle authors as being relevant to what I am doing.


  3. Lisa says:

    Great post! Your enthusiasm for Marco Vassi definitely makes me want to read his work and of course discuss it with insightful people like you!

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