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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Without a Stitch

Jens Bjørneboe

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To purchase Without a Stitch

Title: Without a Stitch
Author: Jens Bjørneboe
Genre: Novel
Written: 1966 (Eng. 1969)
Length: 185 pages
Original in: Norwegian
Availability: Without a Stitch - US
Nackt im Hemd - Deutschland
  • Norwegian title: Uten en tråd
  • Translated by Walter Barthold
  • Uten en tråd was made into a Danish film in 1968, Uden en trævl, directed by Annelise Meineche
  • The Grove paperback edition contains numerous stills from the film

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Our Assessment:

B : silly but well-meaning

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Poor Lillian is eighteen years old and frustrated: she just can't get off when she's having sex with a boy. Oh, she can pleasure herself well enough, but when a boy has a go it's just no good. Fortunately her classmate Brita knows where she can get help (after helping her out herself, as the sworn enemies discover that they can have some fun together, too). Brita knows this doctor, Dr. Peterson -- "a specialist in the orgasm" -- and Lillian entrusts herself into his care, with all the desired results.
       Without a Stitch begins with a bit of girl-on-girl frolicking with Lillian and Brita, as well as Lillian's attempts at having fun with the inexperienced Henry. She can't get the desired satisfaction when Henry fumbles around, and in reaction become as real cock-tease -- and eventually she realises she needs some professional help. Thank god Brita refers her to Dr. Peterson:

     "Are you a ... man ?" I asked.
     ""Yes," he said. "A man of science. First of all, I want to help you, and secondly collect evidence, statistical evidence, on young women's orgasmic inhibitions. I'm planning a work of great impact for gynecological psychiatry. That's my field, you know."
       It comes as no surprise that Dr. Peterson is a real hands-on kind of doctor -- though, as he reminds Lillian, this is serious business:
     "Oh, no," I said. "Can't you do it once more ?"
     "We're not here for the fun of it," he answered. "The government's paying for it."
       Lillian's problem seems to be that she worries about what her mother and grandmother might think, causing these inhibitions that hold her back. But Dr. Peterson helps her overcome these, and instructs her in his own moral code -- which amounts to that all sex is good (and more is apparently better ...), as long as no one is hurt or taken advantage of. It takes a lot of daily sessions -- during which she's not allowed to be with any other man -- to get the message across, but finally she's cured.
       What's a newly sexually uninhibited girl to do ? Hitchhike across Europe, of course. Conveniently her first ride gets her involved in making a pornographic erotic film -- which earns her enough money to travel in a bit more comfort (even if the sex in front of the camera really does wear her out). (To prove that Lillian isn't just a mindless sex-toy, Bjørneboe also has her buy some nice books with her new-found cash -- Fröding's religious verse and poems by Strindberg, then "a splendid edition of Kierkegaard and some charming old volumes of Hans Christian Andersen", and later some Heine and Hölderlin's Hyperion.)
       So she has a few adventures, and even falls in love in Paris. Bjørneboe doesn't get too kinky, leaving only so many variations on the theme, and as with practically all sex-writing it gets fairly one-note tiresome. Good for Lillian, that she gets wet so often (pretty much everything here seems to set her off), but ultimately that just leaves the fiction feeling pretty soggy.
        Sure, one or two of the less predictable sex-scenes are entertaining, but tellingly the book's best scenes come when Bjørneboe isn't focussed solely on the sex-act -- specifically when Lillian finds herself in Hamburg, in way over her head:
Hölderlin's race had found itself at last, and they all sang together, with the orchestra, time after time, in a beat like a huge army on the march, shouting the words for half an hour, for an eternity, over and over again, the same two lines
       It's this extended nightmarish scene, a nice little tour de force, where Bjørneboe shows what he can do -- and which makes the rest of the book feel so much more frivolous.
       Without a Stitch is fairly harmless erotic fun. The innocent-girl side to it has some appeal: Lillian seems to do little other than have sex, but Dr. Peterson really did his job and she doesn't feel ashamed about recounting what she's done. Sex isn't at all dirty here, and that's also echoed in Lillian's schoolgirl narration -- which, as she notes: "contains not one obscene word". The fact that she constantly refers to her "flower" and the various other euphemisms she uses wind up being as tiresome as any 'harder' terms would have, but it does make for a lighter feel to the book as a whole.
       There is a lot of sex here, but the kinkiness is kept to a minimum -- though there is an enema, some play with a rectal thermometers, as well as the requisite girl-on-girl action. But it all feels very, very softcore -- which is also part of what charm there is to the book.
       Hardly worth much attention, but an amusing document of the times, and not badly done.

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Uden en trævl - the film: Jens Bjorneboe: Other books by Jens Bjørneboe under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Jens Bjørneboe (1920-1976) was a leading Norwegian author.

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© 2008-2021 the complete review

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