The sound of mega orgasms: the female composers taking music into intimate places

A soundtrack to an erotic feminist film, the crunch of crisps in your own mouth, a composition for strap-on and electric guitar meet the women who are making music and telling stories on their own terms

In the early 1990s, the accordionist and musical improviser Pauline Oliveros wrote the soundtrack for a feminist porn film called The Sluts and Goddesses Video Workshop. The film is presented and co-directed by Annie Sprinkle, a sex worker turned academic whose lecture covers everything from deep breathing and vaginal bling to STD prevention and mega orgasms. Along the way, we get a spectacular sonic counterpart of drones, glitches, bleeps, twangs and pulsations.

Conventional porn music this is not: no sultry saxophones, no oily bass guitars. Instead, Oliveros made sounds that are fun, tactile and inquisitive. If Sprinkles mission was to confront industry standards of what erotic looks like, freeing viewers to define their own tastes, Oliveros reminded us that the power to decide what music means should ultimately belong to the listener.

This autumn, in the wake of the allegations against Harvey Weinstein and others, a couple of things became urgently clear. We must listen more carefully to womens voices, and we must change the power structures that govern much of public and private life, including the arts.

A
A screengrab from The Sluts and Goddesses Video Workshop (1992) by Annie Sprinkle and Maria Beatty Photograph: Vimeo

Pauline was empowering her listeners, says the writer Ione, the late Oliveross partner and regular collaborator. Sluts and Goddesses was not pornography, not if you mean the word in any pejorative or sleazy sense. It was about sexual freedom, showing that sexuality is a natural and wonderful thing for women. The sounds Pauline made were deeply sensual because they related to the body. Her music was always about the Earth, the body, being human, the cosmos.

The film gets a rare public screening this week at the London contemporary music festival, in a section termed (brace yourself) New Intimacy. Contemporary music has a long and tetchy history of labels, schools and isms, almost all coined by programmers or academics rather than artists themselves. New Intimacy seems a cheeky throwback to the contentiously named New Complexity and New Simplicity movements of the 1980s.

Empowering
Empowering listeners Pauline Oliveros. Photograph: Vinciane Verguethen

There is a particular irony to the new bit, given several of the works at LCMF are three or four decades old. But what about the intimacy? Modernism was about removing the body from art, says festival director Igor Toronyi-Lalic. About removing personal identity and prioritising science, abstraction and objectivity. With postmodernism, the body is reinserted into feminist art, queer theory. That is whats at the heart of the New Intimacy movement.

The series includes a work by Kajsa Magnarsson for strap-on and electric guitar; a piece by Claudia Molitor to be performed by audience members within their own mouths as they chew sweets, popcorn and crisps; and the 1965 film Fuses, in which Carolee Schneemann documents the most intimate moments of her relationship with composer James Tenney. Also in the mix is the pristine and ultra-sparse Second String Quartet by Wandelweiser composer Jrg Frey music so stripped back and delicate it can start to feel febrile, like the tender stuff left exposed after some kind of sonic disrobing. Aesthetically, its probably the diametric opposite to the sparkly dildos and nipple tassels of the film, but maybe the point is how these works share a potential to empower and turn the attention back on audiences.

Claudia Molitor has been exploring the haptic in music for nearly two decades, and welcomes the wide scope of New Intimacy. Its a provocation, right? Most of the time, women arent supposed to express ourselves in certain ways because its considered unbecoming, so maybe its good to put something out there that is unbecoming. If it makes people uncomfortable, thats all right. A lot of women spend quite a lot of their lives feeling uncomfortable. Anyway, its hardly new. Mozart said it with Cosi Fan Tutte: women have the same desires as men.

Eva-Maria
Eva-Maria Westbroek in the opera Anna Nicole by Mark-Anthony Turnage in 2014. Photograph: Tristram Kenton for the Guardian

Composer and performance artist Jennifer Walshe likewise uses her work to deal with gender and identity. Her confrontational 2003 music theatre piece, XXX Live Nude Girls, featured Barbie dolls in all manner of sexual positions and scenarios of abuse. If you want to privilege the female gaze, she says, you have to privilege it at every level of production, right down to technical crews. Think of an opera like Anna Nicole. This was a work by Mark-Anthony Turnage, about the Playboy star Anna Nicole Smith. The librettist is a man, the composer is a man, the director was a man. Why arent women allowed to write their own stories?

Walshe also questions the potential in New Intimacy for exploitation or plain voyeurism. Sometimes I feel that women are forced into a position where they are only permitted to have a voice by articulating their most intimate details, she says. Memoirs by musicians like Viv Albertine, Kim Gordon, Carrie Brownstein, Kristin Hersh all of which are books I love get very deep into the personal in a way many memoirs by male musicians dont.

Is there the expectation that in telling their stories, they have to get into these details? That their stories are only worth being heard if they are explicit? Or, as women, is part of dealing with life being forced to deal with gender or sexuality in a way many of their male collaborators dont have to, which means its only natural to talk about it?

One lesson from Weinstein is that his alleged victims didnt speak out because the industry granted him a power that robbed them of their agency. We need to trust ourselves, wrote Mona Chalabi in the Guardian. The sickening allegations have reminded me just how important it is that we trust our instincts.

This also applies to the danger of glorifying artists. For centuries, we built up personality cults around composers made gods out of men like Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, Britten and Stockhausen. These genius narratives might have let us believe we were accessing the divine when listening to Tristan und Isolde or Mittwoch aus Licht and so feel somehow aggrandised by proxy but if composers were supposed to be superhumanly talented, their means of production remained unattainable to the rest of us, and their behaviour potentially unaccountable. It was a recipe for alienation, for too much licence, for abuse.

Red
Red Note Ensemble perform 13 Vices by Jennifer Walshe and Brian Irvine at the New Music Biennial in Hull. Photograph: James Mulkeen

Pauline was very much not into all that, Ione says. All that genius crap. Just look at the collaborative, collegial, supportive way she worked with Annie and the group of women who made Sluts and Goddesses. Look at the way she improvised with anybody.

It seems contemporary music is moving increasingly in that direction. Gone are the towering iconoclasts of the 20th century. Instead, programmers from Huddersfield contemporary music festival to Glasgows Counterflows to LCMF are looking to provide nimbler, more personal experiences.

Its about getting us to relate to ourselves better, says Molitor, whose piece 10 Mouth Installationsincludes an instruction sheet suggesting the best order in which to eat the sweets, popcorn and crisps (Hula-Hoops to be precise). Its about not going for a big public statement where one person declares something and the audience laps it up. Its more of a negotiation: Im an individual, youre an individual, so lets all acknowledge our bodies and our presences in this space.

If contemporary classical music seemed a branch of the avant-garde too erudite for everyday gender politics, too esoteric to deal with the erotic, think again. With its flexible forms, exploratory sound worlds and playful intellectual provocations, this music is proving to have a special potential to redress the way we relate to status, to each other, to ourselves not only for those making music, but also for those listening.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/dec/06/sound-of-mega-orgasms-female-composers-london-contemporary-music-festival-new-intimacy

Nkechi Anele from Saskwatch: ‘I’ve hated my hair for most of my life’

In our series Beauty and the books the lead singer of Saskwatch talks about how coconut oil helped change her feelings about natural hair and the Art of War

Nkechi Anele, the lead singer for Saskwatch, also hosts Roots n All for Triple J and is the co-founder of The Pin. Anele has been reading an ancient war manual to help her with awkward social situations, and shares her secret weapon against sunburn.

Whats thrilling

Im really loving The Art of War. Its a 2,000-year-old military manual that came out of China and is written in code. It talks about tactics on the battlefield but its more philosophical so it can be applied to everyday life how to conduct yourself and how to master changes and challenges. Its all about talking about being on the offence, not on the defence. It can be applied to a lot of things, such as conversations or dealing with awkward social situations or turning awkward situations into your favour.

Its really good to apply to personal instances of your life like the way you see things and the way you see yourself in everyday life. Its all about taking care of yourself and making sure youre in the best possible position in your life.

I still havent got over the coconut oil phase. Its been a life changer for me. In the last year Ive followed the natural hair movement of black women and decided to stop having my hair in braids, or feeling like I had to have my hair in braids to feel beautiful. Its been a really big journey and coconut oil has been my hair saviour. Its an all-in-one moisturiser but it also helps curly hair grow; it protects curly hair from the sun. Coconut oil has been part of my transformation into loving my natural hair.

Turning to natural hair happened in two parts. I had my hair braided and it was braided really badly. I was at my friends house and shes one of those friends who tells the truth. She said, Your hair looks horrible. I have to take it out. I cant stand it. And she took it out.

Ive had my hair natural a few times in my life but not really loved it. Theres been semi-traumatic experiences such as strangers grabbing my hair and touching my hair in public. This has been an evolution because every day I wake up and think, Today is going to be the day that I hate my hair, and I dont hate my hair. Thats been a really unique thing for me to experience because Ive hated my hair for most of my life.

Hair is a very significant thing for women of colour, especially African women. My friend explained that hair to African women is like weight to white women. Its very important to maintain and it also establishes how you see yourself and how you feel about yourself in society. It becomes a philosophy: if youre not taking care of your hair, youre not taking care of yourself. The internet and social networking have meant we have a place where people are making black beauty content that isnt trying to say Hey, heres a black option. Its saying, This is what black people do. Now theres so many more resources on how to take care of your hair and so many hacks on how to manage it. Our hair is so intense; so curly and so knotty and so strong. I know so many people who are African and have broken combs with their hair. Its always a battlefield. The natural hair movement has been another step forward for black women in being proud of what theyre born with. Im happy I came to it in my 20s, but I wish I had come to it earlier.

Whats nostalgia-inducing

Recently I met Pia Miranda and it reminded me how much I loved Looking for Alibrandi when I first read it. From ages 12 to 17, I think I read the book twice a year. That book for me was the first time experiencing someone who was seen as Australian but not really the idea of Australian. There was this kick-ass chick full of attitude and full of spunk, had these crazy love crushes and was super intelligent, and was the underdog. When I saw [Miranda], it brought back so many memories of how much I loved that book and I really want to reread it.

Im a moisturising fiend. Im quite obsessed with Aesop at the moment. Ive been using Damascan rose facial treatment ($75) which is like rose oil. The first time I was introduced to Aesop, it was a present my mum gave me the first time I went overseas. Aesop has this smell that reminds me of Australia when I go away. When Im away and using Aesop, I can still smell the gumtrees of home. I live near a park and you can smell the flowers as the seasons change and it reminds me of that.

What I keep going back to

Raymond Carvers What We Talk About When We Talk About Love is something I reread again and again, mainly because sometimes you think, What the hell did I just read? The stories are so short and nothing happens but everything happens in them. I have to read them over and over again because, depending on your mood, the stories can be interpreted in so many different ways and have such an impact. Youre reading his short stories and waiting for the punch to happen, for the moment when it all clicks and all makes sense to you.

Its a classic but Ive only been introduced in the past two years. I still find myself when looking for something to read choosing a random story and thinking, Oh god, this is so epic.

I bite my lips when Im nervous or when if Im working on something [so] paw paw is my saviour. Its like coconut oil in that I use it for different things but I feel like its the only thing when your lips are dry beyond repair that will work.

Another thing I use again and again is vitamin E cream. I get sunburnt on one part of my face. Ten years ago my friend put me on to vitamin E cream and its the best thing. Whenever you burn yourself or you want your skin to look really lovely, its just the thing. I rarely wear foundation; I use moisturiser as my foundation. If Im going out and I want to look fresh or dewy thats what I put on my skin. Its the be all and end all for me.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/nov/14/nkechi-anele-ive-hated-my-hair-for-most-of-my-life

Leonard Cohen’s last book, finished ‘days before his death’, due out next year

The Flame collects unpublished poetry, as well as notebook entries and song lyrics, and offers an intimate look inside the life and mind of a singular artist

A book of Leonard Cohens final poems, completed in the months before his death and tackling the flame and how our culture threatened its extinction, according to his manager, will be published next year.

Describing the collection, The Flame, as an enormously powerful final chapter in Cohens storied literary career, publisher Canongate said that the Canadian singer-songwriter had chosen and ordered the poems in the months before his death in November 2016. The overwhelming majority of the book, which will be published next October, will be new material, it added.

Cohen, who died at the age of 82, originally focused his career on poetry, publishing the collections Let Us Compare Mythologies in 1956, The Spice-Box of Earth in 1961, and Flowers for Hitler in 1964. By the late 60s, he was concentrating more on music, releasing his first album, Songs of Leonard Cohen, in 1967.

Cohens manager and trustee of his estate Robert Kory said that pulling The Flame together had been a key ambition for the singer-songwriter at the end of his life. During the final months of his life, Leonard had a singular focus completing this book, taken largely from his unpublished poems and selections from his notebooks. The flame and how our culture threatened its extinction was a central concern, said Kory.

Though in declining health, Leonard died unexpectedly. Those of us who had the rare privilege of spending time with him during this period recognised that the flame burned bright within him to the very end. This book, finished only days before his death, reveals to all the intensity of his inner fire.

In an interview with the New Yorker last October, Cohen spoke of how my natural thrust is to finish things that Ive begun, and of how he was getting up well before dawn to write.

I dont dare attach myself to a spiritual strategy. I dont dare do that. Ive got some work to do. Take care of business. I am ready to die. I hope its not too uncomfortable. Thats about it for me, he told the magazines editor David Remnick.

In a certain sense, this particular predicament is filled with many fewer distractions than other times in my life and actually enables me to work with a little more concentration and continuity than when I had duties of making a living, being a husband, being a father. Those distractions are radically diminished at this point. The only thing that mitigates against full production is just the condition of my body At a certain point, if you still have your marbles and are not faced with serious financial challenges, you have a chance to put your house in order.

The Flame will also include an extensive selection from Cohens notebooks, which Canongate said he kept in poetic form throughout his life, and which it promised would offer an unprecedentedly intimate look inside the life and mind of a singular artist and thinker. The full lyrics of his final three albums, along with those he wrote for the album Blue Alert by his collaborator Anjani, will also be included, along with prose pieces and Cohens own illustrations.

Canongates Francis Bickmore, who acquired UK and Commonwealth rights, called it a towering final book, hulking with morbid wit and lit up with insight This substantial parting work, from a great artist now gone, will speak to anyone who has been moved by Cohens unique voice.

The Flame will be published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in the US, and McClelland & Stewart in Canada.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/oct/06/leonard-cohens-last-book-finished-days-before-his-death-due-out-next-year-the-flame

6 Hour Binaural Beats Sexuality: Female Sex Drive, Boost Libido, Sleep Meditation Music 382





 

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Mick Fleetwood: ‘Im 70 years old and I play harder now than I used to’

The co-founder of Fleetwood Mac talks the glory days of the band, touring as a septuagenarian and what the swinging 60s were really like

Hey, Mick. How are you?

Im OK, but Ive got coconut oil all over my water bottle.

Coconut oil?

I put it on my hands. When you get old, you get lizard skin. I didnt know but its an antiseptic. I put it on my head too. It doesnt smell and its not full of chemicals. You can use it for cooking and its good for sex, too.

Sex and bald heads? Mick, I wasnt prepared for this.

Well, now you know. Its multipurpose stuff.

Its the midway point of SXSW and some people are looking worse for wear. Any tips for hangover cures?

Drink lots of electrolytes even if you need to go to the toilet all the time, its worth it. And get hold of avocado or watermelon. Avocado is full of electrolytes and protein. Put it on some toast. Put a big fucking mashed-up avocado on toast and youll come back like youve never seen before.

Gracias. Why have you decided to put out a book about early Fleetwood Mac?

My former brother-in-law, George Harrison, did a similar thing in 1980. I saw it back then and it was something I wanted to do but didnt get round to it. Jimmy Page did one for Led Zeppelin too. Its all about what started the band and a lot of people dont know about that period, and the band is 50 years old in August for the original members of Fleetwood Mac. This is the beginning of the group and its very important to me.

What is it about that period?

We were doing our thing and the Stones and the Beatles were blowing up in a way that has sociologically changed a lot of shit. Fashion, art, everything was going on. The attitude was probably the main thing in the ether. We had no idea. London was a hugely exciting place and it becomes even more exciting when you look back and think so much was going on. To do with art, to do with stuff that had a sociological effect on the world. It did. You get these comedic cliched moments of Oh, its swinging London, but the truth is it fucking was. There were people jumping into Mini Minors with Union Jacks on them. I know its become a joke, but it was that.

Was that your favorite iteration of Fleetwood Mac?

I think its the most important, because its how it started. We came from nothing and with Peter [Green] we were doing what we love to do. For that reason, its the most important period for me. Because I like to think when things got crazy later on, at least I personally would remind myself that I was lucky to be doing what I was doing.

How did you deal with his breakdown and eventual departure from the group?

Losing Peter was devastating for all of us. He was a dear, dear friend of mine. I lost him, it was like losing a lover. Theres a picture in the book where it looks like we are gay lovers. We were so happy. Life became so heavy for Peter. We were joined at the hip and put the band together.

Did you think about quitting?

No, because we were really frightened. When Peter left, if ever there was a period where it was over rover, that was it. First of all, it was like: What do we do? Jeremy was there, Danny was there, John was there. We were so petrified we all huddled together like we were in an elevator when theres a power cut you learn to make friends really quickly.

Peter named the band Fleetwood Mac and then years later Peter said in an interview: I named the band Fleetwood Mac because I knew at some point that I was probably going to leave. He sort of knew. It didnt have anything to do with why we kept going, but he said: I always wanted Mick and John to have a job, and we did. We always had a home.

In the book, you ask Peter about why he asked you to join the band.

Yeah, and it had nothing to do with me being able to play drums. He said, You were so unhappy, Mick. Id broken up with Jenny, who Peter knew, and I was at a dead end. I was moping around and thats why he asked me to do it. He identified with someone who was hurting. Love That Burns is the title of the book, and its a song Peter sang which is devastating to me and sums up this band, to say the least.

The last time we spoke to you, you said you were still trying to work out: What is this creature Mick in the middle of this band? Have you figured it out yet?

I still dont really know what Im doing. If someone says do that second chorus, Ill go: Nooo, I dont know what that second chorus is. I call it going to the blackboard. If you leave me alone, Ill do my best. But if you start saying read this, my whole stomach will go and I get off track. Peter said: Youre perfect for playing the blues because you feel shit, youre like a big fucking sponge. Looking at me, Mick, through what is nearly a 50-year career I love to be around creative people, and I cling on to that. It tells a story about what I need or what I dont have.

Youve finished an 18-month tour that had 220 dates. How do you cope at 70?

I take care of myself. I didnt used to. I keep physically fit. Its about knowing when youre done. I drank and had nights out for 35 years. For a while it trains you like a circus animal, and you find a way to come back from it emotionally. You learn a sick form of survival. The last tour I couldnt do what I do and perform and all my shenanigans like I used to staying up for three days and then playing four shows in a row. I cant do that and I dont want to. Its a realization that those days are over.

Do you miss it?

I think theyre war stories and you have to be careful how you tell them. I still drink a little bit, but I stopped for 14 years. Im lucky, but as you get older you just cant do it, and if you do youre saying good bye to life as something that can be enjoyed. Everyone has their own way of handling it. Take the various forms of abuse out of the equation, you take care of yourself. Im 70 years old and I play harder now than I used to. I dont want to look like an old fart and Im not an old fart. I dont know how much longer Ill be able to do what I do. Im sort of a goofball.

  • Love That Burns: A Chronicle of Fleetwood Mac is out via Genesis Publications in September

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/mar/14/mick-fleetwood-mac-sxsw-love-that-burns-book

Mick Fleetwood: ‘Im 70 years old and I play harder now than I used to’

The co-founder of Fleetwood Mac talks the glory days of the band, touring as a septuagenarian and what the swinging 60s were really like

Hey, Mick. How are you?

Im OK, but Ive got coconut oil all over my water bottle.

Coconut oil?

I put it on my hands. When you get old, you get lizard skin. I didnt know but its an antiseptic. I put it on my head too. It doesnt smell and its not full of chemicals. You can use it for cooking and its good for sex, too.

Sex and bald heads? Mick, I wasnt prepared for this.

Well, now you know. Its multipurpose stuff.

Its the midway point of SXSW and some people are looking worse for wear. Any tips for hangover cures?

Drink lots of electrolytes even if you need to go to the toilet all the time, its worth it. And get hold of avocado or watermelon. Avocado is full of electrolytes and protein. Put it on some toast. Put a big fucking mashed-up avocado on toast and youll come back like youve never seen before.

Gracias. Why have you decided to put out a book about early Fleetwood Mac?

My former brother-in-law, George Harrison, did a similar thing in 1980. I saw it back then and it was something I wanted to do but didnt get round to it. Jimmy Page did one for Led Zeppelin too. Its all about what started the band and a lot of people dont know about that period, and the band is 50 years old in August for the original members of Fleetwood Mac. This is the beginning of the group and its very important to me.

What is it about that period?

We were doing our thing and the Stones and the Beatles were blowing up in a way that has sociologically changed a lot of shit. Fashion, art, everything was going on. The attitude was probably the main thing in the ether. We had no idea. London was a hugely exciting place and it becomes even more exciting when you look back and think so much was going on. To do with art, to do with stuff that had a sociological effect on the world. It did. You get these comedic cliched moments of Oh, its swinging London, but the truth is it fucking was. There were people jumping into Mini Minors with Union Jacks on them. I know its become a joke, but it was that.

Was that your favorite iteration of Fleetwood Mac?

I think its the most important, because its how it started. We came from nothing and with Peter [Green] we were doing what we love to do. For that reason, its the most important period for me. Because I like to think when things got crazy later on, at least I personally would remind myself that I was lucky to be doing what I was doing.

How did you deal with his breakdown and eventual departure from the group?

Losing Peter was devastating for all of us. He was a dear, dear friend of mine. I lost him, it was like losing a lover. Theres a picture in the book where it looks like we are gay lovers. We were so happy. Life became so heavy for Peter. We were joined at the hip and put the band together.

Did you think about quitting?

No, because we were really frightened. When Peter left, if ever there was a period where it was over rover, that was it. First of all, it was like: What do we do? Jeremy was there, Danny was there, John was there. We were so petrified we all huddled together like we were in an elevator when theres a power cut you learn to make friends really quickly.

Peter named the band Fleetwood Mac and then years later Peter said in an interview: I named the band Fleetwood Mac because I knew at some point that I was probably going to leave. He sort of knew. It didnt have anything to do with why we kept going, but he said: I always wanted Mick and John to have a job, and we did. We always had a home.

In the book, you ask Peter about why he asked you to join the band.

Yeah, and it had nothing to do with me being able to play drums. He said, You were so unhappy, Mick. Id broken up with Jenny, who Peter knew, and I was at a dead end. I was moping around and thats why he asked me to do it. He identified with someone who was hurting. Love That Burns is the title of the book, and its a song Peter sang which is devastating to me and sums up this band, to say the least.

The last time we spoke to you, you said you were still trying to work out: What is this creature Mick in the middle of this band? Have you figured it out yet?

I still dont really know what Im doing. If someone says do that second chorus, Ill go: Nooo, I dont know what that second chorus is. I call it going to the blackboard. If you leave me alone, Ill do my best. But if you start saying read this, my whole stomach will go and I get off track. Peter said: Youre perfect for playing the blues because you feel shit, youre like a big fucking sponge. Looking at me, Mick, through what is nearly a 50-year career I love to be around creative people, and I cling on to that. It tells a story about what I need or what I dont have.

Youve finished an 18-month tour that had 220 dates. How do you cope at 70?

I take care of myself. I didnt used to. I keep physically fit. Its about knowing when youre done. I drank and had nights out for 35 years. For a while it trains you like a circus animal, and you find a way to come back from it emotionally. You learn a sick form of survival. The last tour I couldnt do what I do and perform and all my shenanigans like I used to staying up for three days and then playing four shows in a row. I cant do that and I dont want to. Its a realization that those days are over.

Do you miss it?

I think theyre war stories and you have to be careful how you tell them. I still drink a little bit, but I stopped for 14 years. Im lucky, but as you get older you just cant do it, and if you do youre saying good bye to life as something that can be enjoyed. Everyone has their own way of handling it. Take the various forms of abuse out of the equation, you take care of yourself. Im 70 years old and I play harder now than I used to. I dont want to look like an old fart and Im not an old fart. I dont know how much longer Ill be able to do what I do. Im sort of a goofball.

  • Love That Burns: A Chronicle of Fleetwood Mac is out via Genesis Publications in September

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/mar/14/mick-fleetwood-mac-sxsw-love-that-burns-book