You know what? I’m going to stick my neck out and give this book five stars. I don’t like the cover and I don’t read a lot of erotic romance but I was attracted to this book by something deeper than the cover or the genre.
I’ve been racking my brains trying to think how to express what it is that I like about this book. I know that I like it but it’s hard to explain.
What I do read a lot of is erotica. And when you read a lot of erotica you start to wonder if something serious is missing from your sex life. I mean, am I the only woman who can have an orgasm without being tied up or vampirized or handcuffed to a toilet in a public bar?
I hate being called vanilla. But the truth is I love vanilla. In fact, chain me up someone, please, because I’m addicted to vanilla ice cream. Vanilla is a very subtle flavour, I find, and very versatile. Vanilla goes with lots of things. Lots of very naughty things.
Vanilla goes very well with hot Tunisian ruins bleached by a scorching sun. It goes splendidly with a sexy, mature American archaeologist who behaves almost as well as an English gentleman.
Of course, if he behaved exactly like an English gentleman there wouldn’t even be any vanilla in the story and Beth would have her tongue hanging out with nothing to lick. But Beth is not disappointed.
I was not disappointed either.
But I was excited in a very comfortable, well-cushioned sort of way. I was able to sink back in my plumped-up pillows and enjoy the vanilla action with complete, languid, unhurried satisfaction.
I like the way Kay Jaybee tells this story. In fact, this isn’t the first Kay Jaybee story I’ve read. I’ve read a few because I like her style.
The stories don’t overreach themselves. They don’t try to shock you or do something that other stories don’t. They do something much cleverer than that. They dig deep. They draw on little things that happen in real life and turn them into very plausible adventures that could happen to you or me. They make me feel connected and turned on.
That’s not something I want to underestimate. After all, just like with those vanilla ice creams, I keep going back for more.
This anthology edited by D.L. King is a collection of truly scrumptious stories about sex with a succubus. There are twenty-one fabulous stories here and it would be unfair to single out one or two for praise but I’m going to be unfair because I want to give you just a little tease and taste.
But before I do so, let me say that there is one thing all these stories have in common, besides being brilliant, and that is that they are all very short. Yes, it may be stating the obvious but they are all very short. My guess is that they are all under 3,000 words.
I mention this because I would really like to draw attention to the skill of these writers in being able to capture my attention and impress me so much with such very brief and fleeting stories.
Jean Roberta’s story has a very long title: Moon Like a Sickle, Wind Like a Knife, but the story itself is astonishingly succinct and concise. She shows just how much you can put into a sentence if you really try. In two beautifully concentrated pages she sets the scene for a fairly complex tale. It’s a rare concoction, ripe with promise, that is dished up over the ensuing pages with lashings of gothic sauce.
Cynthia Rayne’s Succumb is even more concise. Her story and her succubus get straight to the point. ‘Brad, I need you to f— me!’ the demon declares. He gets on with the job and, ‘I came immediately, ‘ we are told. But this swift sexual activity leaves room for some devilishly languid scheming, which takes place in an atmosphere of brooding menace. I succumbed to this story. It has depth. There’s far more to Feckless Fanny than there seems.
And there’s so much more to this anthology, too.
If you are weary, dip into the sensuous descriptions of Jay Lawrence in Deliverance. Revel in Evan Mora’s wicked retelling of Romeo and Juliet. Delight in the sophisticated subtlety of Angela Caperton’s The Sorcerer’s Catch, a very clever tale in which reality seems as fragile as black lace lingerie.
And still there’s more…
D.L. King has done a wonderful job because she has brought together in one book some of the finest contemporary erotic writers and given them a theme that has evidently inspired them to new heights. So if you’ve never thought about sex with a succubus and you’d like to know more, this is a good place to start. If, like me, you’ve thought of it often and consider yourself something of an expert, this book will take you to the next level. Believe me, it really is that good!
I suppose lacking the voluminous literary heritage of England, Americans tend to latch onto any big book as a possible contender for the Great American Novel that they are always desperately seeking. It helps its chances if the book is also indigestible. That way the Brits are unlikely to read it and challenge its literary supremacy.
Hence, I suppose, the lasting appeal of Moby Dick. Who is going to read it in this day and age? Its supremacy is assured for all time.
I like to plunge into its yawning depths and immerse myself in the great shroud of its frothing prose as an antidote to Twitter. It’s fun to read it in Starbucks, especially now we have freezing fog in London and treacherous ice on the streets. America, what have you given to Britain? You’ve closed all their bookshops thanks to Amazon. You’ve replaced all their pubs with coffee shops. You’ve doomed them to a high street without record shops thanks to Apple and iTunes. You suck up all their spare cash into your great maw and you construct labyrinthine corporate shelters to avoid paying any tax in the UK. It’s genius. What sweet revenge for the all the wrongs inflicted on you by Mad King George.
But you’ve at least given them Moby Dick, a seething epic that teaches them not to go chasing after phantoms and break their necks on a brick wall. Good advice, incidentally, to anyone who feels they ought to read this novel but is put off by its sheer bulk. It is a whale of a book and you chase it down at your peril.
I do wonder where the female characters are. Ishmael clinging to Queequeg’s coffin to avoid a watery doom is about as close as we get to a love story.
But it’s a wicked book. Wicked and wild. I like to think the great white whale is a metaphor for all of us women giving men the run around: the fathomless mask of the unknown but still reasoning vortex at the heart of men’s tragically turbulent universe.
Ryu Murakami, Piercing (1994/2007)
Natsuo Kirino, Out (1997/2004)
Kawashima Masayuki, the protagonist of Ryu Murakami’s Piercing (translated by Ralph McCarthy), stands over his baby daughter’s crib with an ice pick, testing his resolve not to use it. The full darkness beneath Kawashima’s outwardly happy family life is soon revealed, as we learn that he once stabbed a woman with an ice pick, and he’s afraid he’ll do so again to the baby.
When you read as much erotica as I do, you need something a little bit different, something of exceptional quality to get you really excited. Fortunately, there are many gifted writers in the genre and occasionally all my needs are met in one eclectic, varied volume, such as this one from Sweetmeats Press.
The stories in this collection are from five different but very accomplished authors, each with their own strengths. The theme is altered states of consciousness and each author has interpreted this theme in a very different way.
In Sommer Marsden’s Sugarshuttle Express, we experience hallucinogenic hardcore. “Simplistic sex,” Sommer tells us at one point, “which is often the best.” Extremely graphic, high-octane, high-impact simplistic sex.
The sensual sorcery of Vanessa de Sade’s Gilinda and the Wicked Witch is almost a relief, set as it is in a beautiful Edwardian spa. But it’s not long before the flame of passion quickens and some seriously sexual secrets spume forth in frothy purple prose. It is a long story and, be warned, there is no respite. It’s a coiling tornado of explicit, ecstatic and voluptuously sinful depravity.
Kristina Wright mercifully introduces a cooling draught of intellectual rigour into the anthology. Her thoughtful tale about Lilith, Adam and Eve encourages you to pause for reflection in each of its three beautifully crafted sections. We get the history of humanity summed up first from Adam’s, then from Lilith’s and finally from Eve’s perspective. There are some surprises here, not least in the elegant and effortless way in which Kristina weaves so much lewd sexual activity into her philosophical thesis. In a very strong anthlology, this story appealed to me the most, with its artful feminism, delicious sensuality and perfect rhythms.
After the gentle ironies of Lilith Returns, Velvet Tripp’s story comes as a shock. Occult, brutal, Gothic, orgiastic, debauched and demonic, this is a very detailed description of an unusual exorcism. At least I hope it’s unusual. Sometimes I think I’ve led a very sheltered life. I don’t even have a tattoo.
And after that confession, here’s another. I read Fulani’s story first. It’s called Smoking Hot and, believe me, it is. Fulani’s confident, direct, hard, assured style is perfectly suited to the subject matter of a conservative woman suddenly yielding to the dark promptings of her subconscious sexual desires. I knew right away I was in for a treat and I wasn’t disappointed.
Each story is available individually as an e-book, but why not treat yourself to the full experience by buying them together as a paperback. Then you can have a sensual riffle under the duvet of a morning. I’ve been riffling repeatedly since I got this and my mind hasn’t been the same since.
The trouble with language is that it doesn’t have any taste or smell or colour. You can’t feel it lick your face. It doesn’t prick you like a tattooist’s needle. It doesn’t make you bleed.
Unless, that is, you are Viola di Grado, an Italian Goth who can make a trip to the mall sound like something from Dante’s Inferno. She has a sick and morbid imagination. She writes with the otherworldly sensitivity of someone who should really be in a psychiatric ward. She is creative in ways you couldn’t possibly predict. And she has written a defiantly unromantic love story that had me in tears from page 18.
You could say that this book is about language. The narrator, Camelia, lives in Leeds, which in winter ‘unleashes a lethal wind full of the short sharp vowels of northern Englishmen.’ After quitting university she works as a translator for a manufacturer of washing machines. Her translations run around in her brain imbuing her actions with bizarre metaphorical banality even when she is doing something much more significant than either working or doing her laundry, such as quarrelling with her mother, remembering her father, or losing her virginity to the idiot brother of the man she loves. Her quarrels with her mother take place in a world without language. Their conversations are silent. They speak with looks. And all the while Camelia is learning Chinese with the unfathomable Wen, who spurns her love and eludes her attempt to have a real relationship based on clear and unambiguous communication. ‘Talk, you bastard!’ she tells him but when he does she forgets how to breathe.
To say that the author uses language expertly would be an understatement. In an inspired translation by Michael Reynolds, the novel blends English, Italian and Chinese to impart something that exists beyond words with a surreal, symbolic language all its own.
An unromantic swim in Scarborough becomes, in Camelia’s world, a traumatic metaphor for a life that has been devastated by her move to England, by her mother’s suffering, by her father’s death. She can be assaulted by colours, mauled by the sky, humiliated and beaten up by the rain. In her world bones can awaken, rocks can be brought brutally to life and mute houses can reverberate to ‘a veritable rapture of sounds riddled with meanings.’
The ending isn’t happy. The author despises happy endings. But it isn’t unhappy in the way I expected. It was chilling. Shocking. Life and death hung in the balance. But whose? The twists and turns were stomach churning. You may end up vomiting this book. Or you may, like me, end up loving it. It made me feel gratefully, blissfully alive.