Thursday, October 24, 2013

Little Birds, Dark Men and Cigars

by Amanda Earl

Here are a few taboo tales that have tickled my fancy, my imagination and my neurons, and at the same time, have made me think about the world, our desires, and our fears. What these stories have in common is that they represent unspoken fantasies: being Daddy's little girl, the desire to be dominated and used, the fantasy of being taken without permission in a public place. 

I have to begin with Anaïs Nin's "Little Birds," the first story in the collection of the same name (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York and London, 1979). Today a lot of what Nin wrote would be taboo and her books would be banned for writing about sex with underage characters, bestiality,  non consensual sex, incest etc. Of course she had a lot of trouble getting her work published in her day and had to start her own publishing firm in order to ensure that the work was read.  Will there ever be a time when people understand that fiction is not reality and that the exploration of the forbidden and the unspoken is a reason why art in any form exists? If so, I'd like to time travel there.

The first story in this collection, "Little Birds," is about a man who owns parrots. He uses these parrots as a way to entice young girls into his apartment. He is a timid man. He exposes himself.  They run away. It is a careful story, told in a very restrained way. There is a subtle eroticism in the indirectness of the tale. There is no use of graphic language. He exposes himself at urinals. He is very tentative. He is not a character we can admire. This isn't a perfect world and the situation is not ideal.

In this story and much of her erotic fiction, Nin reminds me of the power of subtlety in a story. Just a few details, descriptions of the birds, the blonde hair of the young girl, his kimono, make this story fascinating, exotic, disturbing. In her work Nin portrays a world where sexual dysfunction is common. The characters are not exemplary, but their acts and desires represent the spectrum of human sexuality, whether we want to admit it or not. There are many other stories I return to in this collection, a first edition given to me by a friend I have long since lost touch with. I wonder if it would please him that his gift continues to provoke and intrigue me.

Next is Anne Tourney's "Come for Me, Dark Man" in the anthology "Sacred Exchange" edited by Lisabet Sarai and S.F. Mayfair (Blue Moon Books, New York, 2003). This opening story concerns a widow, a woman living alone near the railroad tracks. She is seduced by degrees…first by the sound of the tracks, then the music of the blues and then the dark stranger who enters her home. Her subsequent fantasies drive her mad with desire. She allows this stranger, a freight hopper, into her home, is mastered by him and then haunted by him and his music. It undoes her and changes her. 

This is such a sensual and arousing story. It is intricately woven. I am left with the image of the woman clad only in a dress, no underwear, sitting on the ground above her clothes line where the stranger first encounters her, another image of him in her kitchen, undoing his belt, pushing her down to suck his cock, the woman on the train on the floor, his boot moving over her body, almost crushing her hand, then slipping between her legs. And ultimately the music of the blues which undoes her.

"Flannel Nightgowns and White Cotton Panties" by Patrick Califia has been anthologized a few times, one of which is in the Master/Slave anthology edited by N.T. Morely, where stories appear either in "Master: 30 Spanking Tales from the Top" or "Slave: 30 Stinging Tales from the Bottom" (The Berkley Publishing Group, New York, 2004). This story is the quintessential Daddy/little girl tale about a submissive's journey and what her master figures out she needs in order to let go control.

In this story Califia leads us slowly and carefully into the scenario. He ensures we know that the submissive is a grown woman not related in any way to her master, and that this is a scene her master is playing out for her. But what a scene it is: a young girl's bedroom, a "simple flannel nightgown, red hearts on a white background," fuzzy slippers, daddy on the couch watching porn in his robe, a cigarette smoldering in the ash tray. This is a hot, hot, hot story.

It is a story that has taught me a lot about pacing and the slow seduction of the reader into a taboo scenario. I have a tendency to jump in very quickly when I write. This story reminds me to slow down, to tantalize and to lure the reader. A reader needs to be seduced like a lover, led gently into the exploration and fulfilment of unspoken fantasies.

Pat Califia is the editor of an anthology entitled "Doing It For Daddy" (Alyson Books, Los Angeles, New York, 1994). In the introduction, Califia talks about the importance of writing about adult sexuality in all its baffling diversity. He makes a point of explaining that the book is not advocating incest, but rather is an exploration of why such stories arouse. I have two favourites in this collection: "Family Man" by Jay Shaffer about a gay son who seduces his father, a farmer on the farm. And "Our Father" by Derek Adams about a young man with a hard on for the local priest. These are both well-told and arousing stories. In "Family Man" what sticks in my mind is the scene where father and son hug, the father pissing: "Hot spurts shot onto my meat. He grunted with each one. I rubbed his back. I grabbed his ass." The way their hard cocks hang as they walk to the barn where they will fuck. It's a very masculine story. The way the son comes upon his father out by the fence. Their cigars, their beards. It's a phallic, vivid scene.

In "Our Father," there are striking and beautiful descriptions of the priest as seen through the eyes of the adoring young man, the communion scene: the boy kneeling down and taking the blood and body of Christ from the priest, into his mouth from the priest's hand. Shivers. The boy's pent up desire and frustration throughout the story and finally the scene in the shower: soap and sex. Such a sexy story and so well told.

In "Best Bondage Erotica," edited by Alison Tyler (Cleis Press, 2003), there is a story with an image that recurs in my mind often: pieces of fruit splayed out on a bare and vulnerable back. The story is Helena Settimana's story "Six Persimmons." In this well-written and beautifully sensuous tale, a girl is taken back to a man's apartment in Tokyo. He is described as ferocious. He bites her nipples, his teeth tear her lips. He is direct. He cuts her clothes off with a large hunting knife. He ties her down and tells her about the fruit in the bowl, six persimmons, all of different varieties.

He tells her that "Like a woman, they are not good enough to eat unless prepared and ripened properly." He describes each one, its spice, its flavour. It's exotic and dripping with sensuality. He uses the hunting knife to cut pieces, eats them from her body and takes the final piece and inserts it inside  her. The way the author describes the fruit, its texture, its scent and her body. Just so incredibly beautiful. The whole story is very lyrical in its descriptions, full of memorable imagery. There's this interesting juxtaposition of brutality and sensuality that works so well in this story.

In the same anthology is a story by renowned and prolific writer and editor, Mitzi Szereto entitled "Melinda." It echoes Georges Bataille's "The Story of the Eye" in its theme of corruption of innocence. The main character, Melinda, is bored at a Christmas party in London. She encounters two beautiful strangers, a man and a woman, ends up taking a cab back to their apartment with them and being used for their pleasure, which involves nipple clamps, bondage, a dildo up the ass, her first time performing oral sex on a woman. There's a delightful twist at the end. She is persuaded and lured and tied down and not really forced, but not able to say no to their abuse of her. For me, the most compelling D/s stories include incremental surrender and adamant or categorical persuasion.

I would be remiss when talking about my favourite erotic short fiction if I didn't mention Remittance Girl. Her body of work is chock full of memorable imagery, voices, and fine writing. One of the early stories I loved by Remittance Girl was "Penny Red," a sensuous story of the beginning of a sexual relationship of two young women who are best friends and have their first experience of same sex encounters with each other. The main character and narrator has this matter-of-fact way of speaking that I find very refreshing. 

The image of their first kiss and the drowsy-drunk appearance of the friend after…so sexy and perfectly described. The scene at the beach where the act takes place was sexy and lyrical. The description of how the main character looks at her friend with fresh eyes, the eyes of a lover, when she realizes her feelings is dead on. I like it that the main character is surprised by her friend's sudden forthrightness and initiative. They go into the water. Such beautiful and sensuous descriptions of their bodies and the sea. The ending is bittersweet. The story also appears in "Coming Together Presents Remittance Girl," an excellent collection with proceeds going to free speech through the ACLU.

I think once again of "Little Birds," the short fiction collection by Anaïs Nin. There's a story called "The Woman on the Dunes" about a man who finds a woman on the beach. She tells him the story of going to see a man being hanged. She is wearing a skirt which buttons up at the side. There is a crowd waiting to see the man die. A man comes up behind her and gropes her. He ends up turning her skirt to the back, opening the buttons enough so that his penis can enter her. He fucks her while the man is being hanged. It is an extremely erotic scene that fucks up the mind for all kinds of reasons. And isn't that what erotica does best, after all, fuck up the mind?


I could go on and on discussing my favourite erotic short stories. The part that lingers for me, that arouses me more than once is usually always an image: a dark man coming for a woman on a train, the sound of the blues in the background, six glistening open pieces  of fruit on a woman's body, a man pissing against a fence post with his cock hanging out while his son looks on with lust, a boy kneeling in desire for a priest and taking communion from his hand. I remember again and I shiver. 

16 comments:

  1. Ms. Nin has become one of my favorite writers of late. I'm currently reading her diaries, and am almost finished vol.2. I also picked up Henry and June, which contains much of the sex that was not included in the diaries, although taken from the same sources. What you say about the subtleties of her prose almost defines her fabulous work, but I don't find it restrained in the least. In those subtleties, she accomplishes more raw turn-on appeal than many others who use more graphic language. Am aware of "Little Birds" and will now have my book guy find it for me. As I said, have been reading lots of her. Will read more.


    I have 'Sacred Exchange' in my well-stocked cabinet. There's stuff in there I don't know is there. Will read that piece, which I don't think I have yet. Sounds like something I want to read.
    And I am also familial with "Woman in the Dunes, Kobo Abe's surreal masterpiece, both the book and the film done by Teshigahara. Spellbinding works of art, both.

    Gotta get 'Doing it for Daddy'. C'mon! :>)

    Thanks for this post, Amanda. So much good info and TBR list.

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    1. thanks, Daddy X, glad you enjoyed. what i meant by restrained for Nin's work was that she isn't effusive, but rather objective in tone. her use of very few adjectives & adverbs for instance. it's a minimal style. one you favour ;)

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  2. A beautiful post, Amanda. Could almost be an anthology in itself.

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  3. I think your description of Little Birds and what makes Nin's writing so powerful is spot on. I always think of that collection of short stories and Wim Merten's composition "Struggle for Pleasure" as a sort of synesthetic bundle. I guess what Nin and some of the other erotic fiction writers I have admired taught me is that pleasure is not easy. Because of the war between biology and culture, this thing we pursue - pleasure, not drive, not simply biological imperative - is difficult, because, in a way, it is art.

    We are forever creating fantasies of it being easy, but it isn't. And so, for me, the stories that stay with me are the stories that tell that truth. That it's not.

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  4. i'm coming around to that more & more, RG. thanks for reading & thanks for your excellent writing.

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  5. Amanda, it's also a pleasure to read a post by someone who admires the same writing that I admire. I think you're right about Anais Nin, but since much of her erotica was written for hire (paid for by one customer, a kind of reading john), I've always wondered how much of it was intended simply to please him, and how much was her own view of reality. Re "come for Me, Dark Man," I think that whole anthology deserves a wider audience.

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    1. Thanks for the vote of confidence, Jean. The book didn't sell at all. Too literary, I guess.However, it includes some gorgeous stories.

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    2. thanks, Jean. yes, i was thinking about that too when i was rereading Nin. she talks a lot in her forewords about how she wrote erotica only for money. it has always disappointed me to know that. i agree about Sacred Exchange. it's so wonderful. i could have written about many of the stories.

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    3. I don't think the fact that Nin wrote for money, for a specific reader, necessarily diminishes the erotic charge. I've written erotica for hire, for Custom Erotica Source, and found the experience to be oddly intimate and arousing. There's such a direct connection between you and the client, even if you never meet or discuss the work in person. You're trying to get inside his or her head and bring the fantasy to life. I've received enthusiastic feedback from a couple of clients, saying I'd written exactly the tale they imagined. Almost as good as an orgasm...!

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    4. yes, makes sense. i'm not irked by the fact that she wrote erotica for hire, i'm irked by her attitude about erotica. in her Little Birds preface, for example, she says that the ONLY reason to write erotica is for money. "It is one thing to include eroticism in a novel or a story and quite another to focus one's whole attention on it....But focusing wholly on the sexual life is not natural." She likens writing erotica to prostitution.

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    5. i think it's the idea that the only reason to write erotica is for money. i don't mind being paid for my writing, whatever it is, but if i wanted to do something only for money, there are much easier ways to make money.

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  6. Amanda, I've read many of the stories you mention (though not, appallingly, "Little Birds")- I just tend to forget them until I'm reminded.

    Anne Tourney's tale is my favorite in a book of mostly exceptional stories. Thank you for mentioning it.

    " For me, the most compelling D/s stories include incremental surrender and adamant or categorical persuasion." I feel the same way. There's no erotic charge without the battle between reluctance and temptation.

    I am definitely looking forward to editing your Coming Together volume!

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    1. it saddens me to hear that Sacred Exchange didn't sell well. sometimes people are such twats. honestly.sigh. "the battle between reluctance and temptation." yes! exactly. i am looking forward to your editing suggestions for CT :)

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