Claudia Dey is poised to make couples across North America much happier. A celebrated novelist (Stunt) and widely produced playwright (Trout Stanley), Dey has just released a sex manual that is as much about him as it about her: How To Be A Bush Pilot: A Field Guide To Getting Luckier. On the morning of her Toronto launch, Dey chatted about sexual tune-ups, robot dance moves, and other salient topics with Chris Reed, Artistic Director of Small Print Toronto.
Reed: How To Be A Bush Pilot: A Field Guide To Getting Luckier does not read like a standard manual. The Bush Pilot’s evolution from a run-of-the mill earthbound lover to getting his wings provides an emotional through line of sorts. Do you want people to read How To Be A Bush Pilot as a narrative, or approach it more like a Chinese menu, a cluster of options from which people can pick and mix their favourites?
Dey: Both are valid. On one hand, it is a Chinese menu, but instead of dumplings the diner-reader is offered a quiver crop with feathers, the Ultimate Orgasm Flowchart, how to rock a bathrobe, and how to disentangle oneself from a garter belt. The diner-reader must sample his or her options and decide which props and positions work for them.
The narrative arc emerged as I refined the manuscript. It became a Pygmalion story, a Luke Skywalker story, a Private Benjamin story. And while I am the Commander Mistress, of course, the Bush Pilot becomes a hero in the footsteps—or flight patterns—of the iconic, the legendary Captain Goodscrew. (Smoke machine, guitar lick.)
The exchanges between the Bush Pilot and Mistress are frequently so hysterical that we, as readers, invariably end up sharing them with our partners. (“What are you laughing about, over on that side of the bed?”) Would you say humour is a necessary lubricant when it comes to talking about sex?
Definitely. Humour is essential; it cancels out any pressure or intimidation. Humour is flirtation. Humour is foreplay. And humour reminds us that sex, when it comes down to it, is playtime for adults.
Researching this book must have been interesting. How did you approach the process? And did you unearth some misconceptions about sex, or “pilot errors,” that were just too odd or absurd to include in the book?
All oddities, all absurdities, every blooper, every outtake is in the book. Of course, they had to be edited for length, but I included them because the best way to learn is through anecdotes. A multiplicity of experiences is so informative, validating and—dare I say—titillating. A Rear Window with sex rather than murder.
In terms of the research, I read a tonne and I spoke with hundreds of people: academics, sexologists, bush pilots, and specialists in the fields of female ejaculation, being a multi-orgasmic man, BDSM, negotiating play parties. Interesting is an understatement (most grandly worn by Captain Goodscrew—who is a real person, his identity protected by his moniker.)
You characterize a sense of playfulness as being a necessary trait for Bush Pilots. What are some other key traits?
Sense of humour, curiosity, openness, ingenuity, self-awareness, the ability to communicate, and quiet confidence. Proficiency on a musical instrument or the ability to perform a remote dance move like the robot is a bonus.
Music plays a huge role in How To Be A Bush Pilot. If you were assembling a playlist for aspiring Bush Pilots, what are your top ten songs?
- “Foxy Lady,” Jimi Hendrix
- “You Really Got Me,” The Kinks
- “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” Prince
- “Already Yours,” Bahamas
- “Sexual Healing,” Marvin Gaye
- “When the Levee Breaks,” Led Zeppelin
- “Satisfaction,” Cat Power
- “Je t’aime… moi non plus,” Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin
- “Hallelujah,” Leonard Cohen
- “More Than a Feeling,” Boston
The Toronto launch of How To Be A Bush Pilot takes place November 10, 7 p.m., at the Drake Underground (1150 Queen St West). Dey will be interviewed by Michael Winter, with musical guest Peter Elkas. $5.
A version of this article also appeared on Open Book Toronto.