Thursday, January 2, 2014

By Way of Introduction

I've been debating whether I ought to talk about books (the obvious choice) or about other objects on shelves (as Daddy X and Lily Harlem did so well). Much as I think it would be interesting to tell you what's in my pantry, this is my first post here, and books do seem like the best way to introduce myself.

The bookshelf voyeur in me loved Lisabet's list of specific books, so I'll take a cue from her and give you the contents of a special corner of one of my bookshelves. It's the shelf I think of as "mine" because it has my work on it (though the other shelves also belong to me). Beside my work, I have my favorite printed books of erotica, the ones I've carried around forever and wouldn't give up. Here they are, in the order they appear:

My Secret Garden: Women's Sexual Fantasies by Nancy Friday
Pocket Books, 1973

This book isn't exactly erotic to me because the psychological speculation frequently interrupts the hotness, but I like it because I find it shocking. With chapters such as "The Zoo" this book revels in erotic fantasies that many publishers today won't accept. As a person who has struggled all my life with shame about my fantasies, I take great comfort in the unabashed wildness of this thing.

Delta of Venus by Anaïs Nin
Pocket Books, 1969

Honestly, it ought to be Little Birds in this spot because I like that one more, but a woman stole my copy years ago and I never replaced it. Nin's style doesn't always do it for me, but this was one of the first erotic books I owned, partly because I could take refuge in the idea that it was literary. And again, I relish how taboo it seems next to much of today's erotica.

Herotica 4 edited by Marcy Sheiner
Plume, 1996

This is a book that I stole from someone (terrible of me, I know). Perhaps there are collections that would be hotter to me as a whole now, but this book contains some very formative stories for me, particularly Mary Maxwell's "The Café of the Joyous Women" (a lovely lesbian fantasy), "Honeymoon on Cobale" by Emily Alward (my introduction to polyamory), and (the reason I will never get rid of it) Serena Moloch's "Behind the Mask" which hits many of the best spots for me. That story is lesbian femdom with a lot of attitude and reversals and bisexuality, it's set in Victorian times, and it includes piercing and feminist theory. Serena Moloch, what has become of you? Where can I find more?

Three Kinds of Asking for It
edited by Susie Bright
Touchstone, 2005

Kept for Greta Christina's "Bending," which is one of the pieces of erotica that made me realize that while erotic writing could turn me on, it could also move and bother me and make me wonder about who people are and what they're about. This is the story of a woman who thinks she only wants one thing and what happens when she gets that thing. As years have passed and my own fetishes and interests have shifted before my eyes, the story becomes more and more meaningful to me. Also, "Bending" is so hot and it's that rare story that feels truly bisexual (something I'm always looking for).

Switch Bitch by Roald Dahl
Penguin, 1965

These stories are naughty, weird, and even cruel, but again I like them for their transgression and because it pleased me a great deal to find that Roald Dahl, who I knew as a children's author, had written dirty things as well.

Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille
City Lights Books, 1987

I remember exactly where I was when I bought this, where I was when I read it, how the pages smelled and which ones affected me and how I hid the book from the person I shared a room with at the time. There is no book that has changed me more because this is the book that busted, once and for all, my conception that my sexual desires doomed me to endless depravity and steady decline (that oh-so-popular narrative of the erotic). It's not that I think it's all incredibly hot. While it does turn me on in places, it also disgusted and horrified me. This book showed me where my limits were (and taught me various important distinctions between things I did or didn't want to do and did or didn't want to think about). For the first time, I glimpsed the bright line beyond which my fantasies would not go, and I can't tell you how relieved I was to find that there was a limit. I love this book for being too much for me (though I did read it all), and I will keep it forever as a reminder.

The Best American Erotica edited by Susie Bright
Touchstone, 1996

I was so ashamed when I bought this at a library sale, and yet the fantasies it presented became such an essential part of me. I think my interior erotic landscape would be shaped differently without this book. There's Katya Andreevna's "The Perfect Fit" which introduced me to the idea of a shoe fetish, David Shields's "Girls Who Wear Glasses" which has always encouraged me, and Cecelia Tan's "Pearl Diver" which is frankly one of the hottest things ever. I love the dark dirtiness of Lucy Taylor's "Choke Hold" (and again marvel at how I can't imagine this story being published now), and the gleeful naughtiness of Amelia Copeland's "His Little Plan Backfired" which is a story of a chastity belt turned sex toy. Most of all, deepest of all, I love "The Hit," by Steven Saylor under his pseudonym Aaron Travis, which was and is the quintessence of the dirty cruelty that turns me on most intensely and has caused me so much uncertainty and shame.

Named and Shamed by Janine Ashbless
Sweetmeats Press, 2012

A recent addition, but this book struck me like a revelation. Until this, I thought I was past the sweaty-palmed desperation I felt when I was first discovering erotica. I thought no book would ever crawl into me the way the others on this list did, and yet here this book came along, showing me that I am far from jaded.

Coming Together Presents: Remittance Girl
edited by Lisabet Sarai
Coming Together, 2010

Can this be so recent? It feels as if it came out a lifetime ago. Remittance Girl's writing was another key part of making me realize that there is meaning in erotica, that this thing we do isn't just about having an orgasm, it's also about honestly exploring forbidden territory and speaking aloud about things that have always been whispered. I used to like the darker stories in this book, such as "Shellshock," but these days the one that's most vivid to me is "Motorcycle Hug," which mixes its sweetness with considerations of race and culture that still get under my skin.

Radical Encounters by Radclyffe
Bold Strokes Books, 2009

This is another new addition to the place of honor on my shelf because I'm sorry to say I only discovered it recently. How, I wondered, after all the sex I've had and all the erotica I've read and written, could Radclyffe make me feel as if she was introducing me to my own body? I'm not often surprised anymore by how things are described in erotica or how they're understood, but this book was different. It's so hot I almost can't bear to read it.

The Decameron by Boccaccio
Garden City Publishing Company, 1930

One of my most prized possessions, though it's in terrible condition (and was when I bought it). I've heard that Boccaccio later regretted the bawdiness of the stories here, but they're so delightfully dirty that I've loved them since the moment I discovered them. This is full of affairs and trickery and suggestive and titillating ideas. Even the descriptions of the stories are excellent. For example, here's the Seventh Tale of the Second Day: "The Sultan of Babylon sends his daughter to marry the King of Garbo. In the space of four years she passes through many adventures in different lands and lies with nine men. She is finally restored to her father who is made to believe she is still a virgin, and marries the King of Garbo."

***

As I conclude, I see notable absences. Many of those are in my special folder for great e-books, which we'll perhaps discuss another time. As is my wont, I've gone on a bit (I apologize in advance for that habit).

Thank you so much for inviting me to join you here. I'm so pleased to be part of this group, and I can't wait to get to know you all better.

7 comments:

  1. Although we'll miss Amanda, you're sure gonna be a super addition to OGG.

    Some of these volumes I'm aware of, others so lovingly described, I'll look to pick them up. The Decameron sounds like a paperback Balczac short story collection I bought for 25 cents, also in beat-up condition.

    Your assessment of antique erotica that probably couldn't be printed today parallels a current thread on ERWA "Writers".

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  2. Definitely an inspirational list. I wonder whether those older books reached more readers over time than the newer ones so widely available that the market is glutted. It's hard to have much of a transgressive underground these days, although the way things are going with censorship by Amazon and others the situation may change.

    It's great to have you here, Do go on in your posts for as long as you like.

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  3. DaddyX — Thanks for the kind words. I will have to look for more Balzac, sounds like. As far as erotic that couldn't be printed today, what's especially weird to me is that it seems as if erotica that was written only 15-20 years ago would no longer fly. It seems like a short time for such dramatic changes.

    Sacchi — Thanks for the welcome! I do wonder about that market glut. I read far more current erotica than it might appear from my list above, and yet I'm not hanging onto the books the same way. Perhaps it's an embarrassment of riches.

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  4. lots of these books are on my shelves too, Annabeth. a great beginning. i hope you enjoy being part of OGG as much as I did :)

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  5. This is a great annotated list of books, Annabeth. I also tend to keep my older erotic books longer, and I can't be sure if it's because they couldn't be published now or because they had a formative influence on me. (My parents had a copy of The Decameron. I don't know where it went.)

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  6. Hey, Annabeth!

    I'm thrilled to have you here, and your first post makes it very clear how well you'll fit in.

    There's much to comment on in this wonderful list of yours (so thrilled that you included RG's book - and "Motorcycle Hug" is one of my favorites too), but maybe the most telling point is this:

    "This book showed me where my limits were (and taught me various important distinctions between things I did or didn't want to do and did or didn't want to think about). For the first time, I glimpsed the bright line beyond which my fantasies would not go, and I can't tell you how relieved I was to find that there was a limit. I love this book for being too much for me "

    When we erotica authors get fed up with the gimmicks and the crap and the flooded market, we can come back to this: books change people. Erotica can offer education, revelation and healing. At our best, we're more than just throwaway entertainment.

    And Re: Bending - Did you know that Greta has a whole book of her stories out, including "Bending"? You'll absolutely love it. See my review at Erotica Revealed.

    http://www.eroticarevealed.com/archives.php?date=2013-09-01&panel_id=4"

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  7. Amanda — Thank you! I am sad we could not have overlapped, but such is the way.

    Jean — Thanks to you as well. I do think there's something to the formative influence. It is rarer for me to like any book now as much as I liked books I discovered earlier.

    Lisabet — Hi! So thrilled to be here! :) I love what you say — at best, this is way more than throwaway entertainment. I worked for years as a journalist and I eventually realized that the dirty stuff I wrote on the side was much more likely to mean something to someone than the articles I was churning out. Just read your review, and you're completely right. I need to get Greta's book, like, yesterday. Especially since the kink buttons on display in that collection sound quite akin to mine. Off to my nearest e-book retailer...

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