Touchstone Books, 368 pp., $14
Do you enjoy smut? Are you intrigued by shocking or "bizarre" sexual behavior? Then grab an oven mitt, run to your nearest independent book store and pick up a copy of The Best American Erotica 2003.
Each February, an edition of BAE emerges, containing stories originally published in the previous 12 to 18 months. Sex guru Susie Bright, editor since its birth in 1993, has compiled an especially naughty collection of stories for this 10th anniversary edition of BAE.
Bright opens the book with a series of interviews with BAE "author alumni," in which she attempts to dispel the stereotype that writers of the erotic are "spectacled horndogs, nerdy nymphos, or the 'A' students into kink." Some of these questions are on the tame side ("When not writing, I'm likely to be ... " or "What occupation do you hold, or have you held, besides being a writer?") Others are not so chaste, such as ("Are you now, or have you ever been, a sex worker?"). The answers vary as dramatically as the questions, making this Q&A session an entertaining read.
The 23 stories in BAE 2003 traverse the erotic spectrum. No matter what gets you hot, Susie's got it covered: heterosexual to homosexual, masturbation, BDSM, role-play and fantasy, sweet and sensual to downright raunchy. Both the subjects and writing styles are as endless as the ethnicities of the characters within these stories. "American" erotica, if defined by BAE 2003's contents, is all encompassing.
Of my personal favorites is a story by Bertice Berry called "The Erotic Adventures of Jim and Louella Parsons." The couple face a challenge when, after 26 years of marriage, Jim can no longer "get it up." Louella hopes to alleviate the problem with some guidance from her deceased ancestors (with whom she communicates with in her sleep). The story details advice given by "Grandma Sadie," which has Jim back in the saddle in a matter of days.
Lisa Wolfe's "How To Make A Cake" is another imaginative selection. This tale opens with our female narrator standing in line in what's best described as a half fast-food restaurant, half airport. In front of her, others "place orders" for various sexual encounters, and are then directed to the appropriate gate. A girl in a plaid skirt and knee-high socks demurely requests "Discipline. Receiving. Hand." When our narrator steps forward and requests "Baking," the story takes a deliciously unexpected turn.
The Best of American Erotica 2003 closes with a "Reader's Choice" listing of the top 100 stories published in the BAE series over the past 10 years. This list is peppered with descriptions of some of the stories and the top five are printed in their entirety: Steven Saylor's "The Hit," an excerpt from Nicholson Baker's "The Fermata," Rose White and Eric Albert's "She Gets Her Ass Fucked Good," Ivy Topiary's "My Professor" and William Harrison's "Two Cars In A Cornfield."
Of all the contributions to the latest edition, I found these final five to be some of the most eye-opening. "The Hit" depicts an extreme (and somewhat violent) 12-hour encounter between a mobster and a much younger room service waiter, which includes bondage, whipping and verbal degradation. The excerpt from Baker's "The Fermata" details a sex-crazed gardening hobbyist who has an intense sexual encounter in her tulip garden with a neighborhood boy and his girlfriend. The title of "She Gets Her AFG" says it all.
This collection certainly goes out with a bang. As someone who isn't easily shocked, a few of the stories in BAE 2003 left me slack-jawed. However, most were delightfully creative and entertaining. I fully intend on picking up a back issue or two of The Best American Erotica for a little erotic history lesson.