Charles River Press, $3.49, ISBN 978-0-9793844-1-7
Contemporary Erotica, 2007
Several contributors who hang out at the written erotica site Literotica have come together to come up with this book. Several more volumes are planned by the way. As the title of the anthology suggests, this is a collection of erotic fantasies that involve subjects that may give some readers dry heaves, such as incest (Sex & Candy by Yui). Still, readers of erotica shouldn’t be surprised or outraged by such sexual fantasies because they have always been and will always be the staple subjects of written erotica. This anthology contains poetry as well as the more conventional prose you and me are familiar with.
By the way, this review is a revised version of the original review since this anthology is a revised edition of Coming Together: An Erotic Cocktail Volume One that was initially self-published by the people behind this project via Cafépress back in 2005. Proceeds from the sales of this anthology are going to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (protect free speech, that kind of thing), so this anthology is for a good cause. The revisions don’t really change my initial opinion of this anthology. The difference between this revised version and the original Cafépress edition is that Take Two by Colleen Thomas is replaced by Selena Kitt’s The Flintstone Experiment and also, some of the authors have moved on to the publication of their works by publishers like Phaze so their works in this anthology are credited to their published names instead of their Literotica usernames.
Back to this one, the fact that this anthology contains poetry is the first sign of where this anthology and me branch apart in our expectations of a dirty read. It is understandable, perhaps, that authors of erotica, in their search to be taken seriously, will attempt to give their works a more literary aspect. Or maybe they genuinely enjoy writing poetry. That being said and done, as a reader I am hard-pressed to find anything erotic about a poem where a woman with stretch marks looks into the mirror and declares that she is sexy (stretch marks by Janie Anderson) – I admire the sentiments and I want to say “You go, gal!” but really, shouldn’t this be in some inspirational female-oriented motivation books instead of a collection of erotic stories? Now, if this woman with stretch marks is standing before a mirror and pleasuring herself, then we’re talking, but this is a poem about a woman going “I am sexy, see my stretch marks, accept me as I am, yadda yadda yadda!” Not quite sexy there, I’m afraid.
This divergence between literary aspirations (pretensions, perhaps) and me wanting a dirty old time reading a jolly filthy story widens throughout the anthology for pretty much most of the time. Many of these stories aren’t sexy as much as they are a display of just how long the author can make his or her running sentences (and in some cases, on and on and on). Many authors here place too much emphasis on using languid and airy-fairy prose to describe the sex act, as if they want me to believe that sex is taking place on some magical metaphysical plane or something. I find myself wanting some rough and dirty playful moments. I want a couple who can slather themselves with chocolate to really talk dirty and do dirty things instead of performing overly-choreographed X-rated acts like they are on some pretentious off-Broadway play attended by six people (the playwrights’ friends). While the story of an invisible gal and her boyfriend is mildly amusing (Not What You See, What You Feel by Victoria Blisse), like its title, the story misguidedly attempts to emphasize so much on “what you feel” that the sex scenes often come off as either too cold or too overwritten to the point of floridness.
The only story I really, really enjoy is Amy Sweet’s Faded Rose, a pretty nasty story where a man uses a prostitute of faded years roughly because his own wife-to-be is too dainty for his games. This is more like the kind of stories I enjoy because the sex acts are rough, guttural, and straight-up as they are without being deliberately obfuscated by some misguided plot by an author aspiring to be the next Pulitzer-prize winner.
That’s my problem with nearly all the stories in this anthology: it seems that most of the authors are actually trying very hard to be writing anything but erotic stories. They write all these long paragraphs in turgid and bloated prose and the result is not a build-up to some scorching hot scenes but me wondering grumpily when the party will start. Where are the fun stuff, like BDSM games, taboo sexual relationships, orgies, role-playing, and others? Ultimately, I guess, it all boils down to what the reader wants from this expensive anthology. If you want to read really hardcore erotic stories, I can think of some anthologies published by “mainstream publishers” like Penguin that actually pushes the envelope better than this anthology without sacrificing its “literary” aspirations/pretensions. This anthology will most likely to disappoint if you’re one of these readers, unless, that is, you’re a fan of expensive kinds of irony too, since this is an anthology that celebrates sexuality, written by frequent contributors to an online erotica site in the name of freedom from literary censorship, only that it’s one tame and timid anthology at the same time.