intense sensations

Archive for the ‘Cool contemporary’ Category

RakeRake by Matthew Caley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Poets are poor but readers of poetry are rich.

Rake is a slim book of poems by the rakish Matthew Caley, published by Bloodaxe Books. Some of the poems are tiny, four or five short lines. Some take up more than a page. But even with the long ones, if you like making notes there is plenty of space to do it. Or you can write your own poems underneath or beside Matthew’s if you are feeling frisky.

It is £9.99 well spent.

I chose to snuggle under the covers this cold Saturday morning and warm myself to its pulsing rhythms and insinuating cadences. Fancy an Acute Hot Knee?

If I behold your/rucked up dress, revealing as/it does one acute/hot knee in all its bare-assed/actuality, nothing//is composed.

Mmm, I don’t think he’s joking.

There is more. (This is not one of his short ones.)

I can’t do justice to his word placement. He is very cheeky with it.

There’s a poem here about a Giantess that caught my attention, after Baudelaire. Matthew’s take on it is quite erotic.

It’s not his only nod to the decadent Frenchman.

Baudelaire is clearly quite an influence, even when not named. He leads the London hipster to Hither Green (a very sexy poem), and then there is Bling, an acknowledged re-working of Les Bijoux.

My love is naked/almost, for knowing my kink/she keeps on her bling…

Tantalising, isn’t it? Or do you prefer the original?

La très chère était nue, et, connaissant mon coeur,
Elle n’avait gardé que ses bijoux sonores,
Dont le riche attirail lui donnait l’air vainqueur
Qu’ont dans leurs jours heureux les esclaves des Mores.

I feel richer for having Matthew Caley’s version. He leaves out the Moorish slave women in their happier moments, substituting a jangly American rock group called Audioslave. Witty?

You decide.

But, outrageously, Matthew’s rake claims to have had Jeanne Duval before Baudelaire did. In Brixton!!

This is some poetic licence!

It’s quite tricky to do humour in a poem. Even harder to do it in an erotic poem. But this collection aims high. The poems succeed in being erotic and funny at the same time.

How can you afford to be without this essential modern masterpiece?


The CorrectionsThe Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It’s very difficult to form an opinion of this book because it is already weighed down with so many.

I have heard it called the Great American Novel. Americans are always looking for the Great American Novel and I think they are a little bit lenient sometimes when they find something that appears to want to carry that label.

This novel appears to aspire towards something literary because the plot is really dull. Also, the characters are dysfunctional and lack an inner life. These three factors makes the writer’s job really hard. Just to get a reader to finish this book should merit some sort of award.

I suppose if your view of America is a very cynical one then you could call this the Great American Novel.

I think of it more as the Mediocre American Novel. It’s more or less what I’ve come to expect from literate American male novelists turning a spotlight on their society and it wouldn’t have held my interest for more than 60 pages if Franzen’s reputation hadn’t been so huge.

I was surprised at how unstylish the prose was, how dreary the story was and how unenviable the characters were.

It was literate. I’ll give it that. But I’m looking for something more than literate. I’m looking for something with soul.

Vanessa Wu is the author of Love Has No Limits

To the End of the LandTo the End of the Land by David Grossman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book takes a very worthy story as its subject and the novelist is a serious and assiduous one, with the ability to capture the essences of things. He can write beautifully and he can write heart-breakingly. He thinks deeply about character and consequences.

However, the book was marred by pretentiousness. The novelist also spent far too long on details of no importance. If I were his editor (LOL!) I would have cut the book by at least half. In a day! (Because the decisions are so easy.)

It makes me feel very shallow to write this. Never mind. I must press on because I have some really good erotic novels to review.

Vanessa Wu is the author of Love Has No Limits

NeverwhereNeverwhere by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Neil Gaiman is a stunningly original writer at times and at times he’s quite pedestrian. For me his best work is still in his comics.

He gathers his ideas from many sources and half the pleasure of reading his works comes from appreciating his allusions. I can’t claim I get them all. In this one, the hoodlums Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar reminded me of the two thugs, Slugsy and Horror, who come calling on Vivienne Michel in The Spy Who Loved Me, one of the least-read James Bond novels. Does Neil really expect everyone to pick up on this? Hardly. But I suppose thugs like these crop up everywhere in fiction and films.

The playful treatment of London’s place names probably works best for those of us lucky enough to live in London. The grimy reality is so different from the fantastical images conjured up by the author’s imagination that we can’t help but be impressed.

Still, the novel was a bit of a slog in the middle section and the ideas seemed somewhat forced.

Vanessa Wu is the author of Love Has No Limits

Naughty Fairytales from A to ZNaughty Fairytales from A to Z by Alison Tyler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is one book I’m ashamed to have by my bed. It is really trashy. Luckily the pink and taupe cover blends in with my bedding and can lie camouflaged on my duvet when my flatmate bursts in on me unexpectedly.

I mention it here only because there is one story that lifts it above the average. It is tucked away at the back so you might miss it. It’s called Zoe White and the Seven Whores.

I told you it was trashy.

This story is by Thomas S. Roche and, to be honest, it is not his best story. It is light and frothy. It reads like he dashed it off before his morning cappuccino. But he is one of my favourite authors because every sentence he writes either thrills me or makes me laugh.

Zoe White and the Seven Whores had me in stitches. I don’t usually laugh out loud when I’m reading but with this one I did and, what is worse, I was on my own.

Yes, I know.

I’m reluctant to recommend it. Humour is a very personal thing.

Vanessa Wu is the author of Love Has No Limits

Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous YouthTwenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth by Xiaolu Guo
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I think Xiaolu Guo has a problem with narrative. That’s why she likes writing in fragments. I wonder what her films are like. It’s possible to make films without having to explain anything. In a novel, if this is a novel, you can’t really get away with that for long. Which is probably why this nearly-novel is very short.

One of the things I didn’t like is that it jumps around in time without being clear about the chronology. Just when did this little 17 year old from a sweet potato farm get her laptop and mobile phone? The references to such things as email, VCDs and DVDs are extremely confusing, especially if you have spent any time in China during the last 20 years and know what was available when.

Because of the chronological confusion, I think it does very little to illuminate life in China in recent years, although some passages, taken in isolation, are an accurate depiction of how life was at certain points in time. These isolated vignettes just don’t hang together as either a consistent narrative or as an accurate historical record.

This English version is the work of two translators, an editor, and Xiaolu Guo herself, who rewrote it after it had been translated. The result is 20 vignettes in very short sentences that are highly polished, brittle and self-conscious. Some of it is quite poetic but much of it irritated me.

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Fear of FlyingFear of Flying by Erica Jong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s best not to get all heavy about this book. It’s light, outspoken and racy, like a long rambling monologue from your best friend when she’s very hyper and just needs to talk. Sometimes you have to just sit there and take it and let it wash over you and sometimes you nod with recognition, sometimes it’s sexy in a “I remember that feeling” sort of way and sometimes you say “Really?” in an intense sort of way and are desperate to know more. Sometimes it makes you laugh out loud (LOL). As a Chinese I was very curious to know how western women think about sex but I discovered even before I read this book that a lot of western women have much dirtier minds than this, LOL. Erica Jong. Uptight. LOL! People sometimes call me uptight. And I say, what about Erica Jong? Anyway it gets the conversation off me for a while.

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Books by Vanessa Wu

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