intense sensations

Archive for the ‘Hot Stuff’ 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?

A Sentimental Journey Through France and ItalyA Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy by Laurence Sterne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Whether modern or old, the edition of a book is important. I am very fussy and perhaps even sentimental about this. For me a book is a physical object to be cherished for its sheer physicality as much as for its sentiment and sense. My first choice for A Sentimental Journey is the Oxford World’s Classics edition edited by Ian Jack and Tim Parnell. I like the font and the discreet signalling of notes with a little superscripted circle.

This Oxford edition contains A Sentimental Journey and Other Writings. The Other Writings are a sickly sweet love journal to his sweetheart, an adroit satire on political games played by obscure churchmen and some surprising sermons on such topics as feasting, concubines and enthusiasm.

Of these, A Sentimental Journey is easily the best. It is far and away the best. It is incomparable. It is sublime.

You might wonder what a clergyman is doing writing so wittily and sentimentally about his erotic experiences in France and Italy. But it is his very respectability that makes his sentimentality so piquant.

Mr. Sterne’s observations are never crude. He is a world away from Tobias Smollet’s toilet humour. You are given hints and you must find out the erotic detail for yourself. You must feel it. That is what Mr. Sterne is so very good at, making you feel. You must imagine yourself as the gentleman sitting next to the fille de chambre on the big hotel bed as she carefully searches for, then reveals, the quilted satin and taffeta purse she has made to hold the coin you gave her. You must wonder what you would have done had you been the Marquesina in Milan who was pursued by such a charming and witty clergyman. Would you, like her, have let him into your carriage?

I know I would.

That glimpse he gives us of his erotic adventure in Milan is, unfortunately all we get of Italy. The French portion of his journey occupies volumes one and two and the journal ends abruptly in Savoy, with Turin no more than a twinkle on the horizon. The work is unfinished. And yet, you might say, it is exquisitely finished.

It is impossible to do justice to Mr. Sterne’s work in a brief summary because he is so very brief himself. For readers only familiar with Tristram Shandy, it is astonishing how concise he can be. He is so concise you have to read the whole work to appreciate its beauty. He has put so much into it and, at the same time, left so much out. It creates ripples in your mind and in your senses. It is tantalising. It is perfect.

It is, truly, a classic.

ControlControl by Charlotte Stein
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve mentioned somewhere in another book review that I regularly listen to audio books in order to improve my English. There’s nothing more embarrassing than mispronouncing a cool word dropped into a hot conversation. A mangled “progeniture” could have dampened the squib of many a top drawer English gentleman with whom I’ve mingled. Without the right guide, simple words like “taut” and “tighten” can prove an insurmountable obstacle to those of us from foreign parts.

So I am a target consumer of the latest audio developments from Amazon. And I was delighted by Amazon’s video for their Whispersync technology that shows an attractive woman reading and/or listening to a sizzling erotic book in bed, in the shower, in a meeting, at lunch, on the train, and, finally, in bed again. I was delighted not just by the technology but also by the choice of book. An erotic book. A literary erotic book. Not this one, by Charlotte Stein, as it happens, but it might easily have been.

What a ringing endorsement of my favourite reading matter! They have got it so right, I thought to myself. But of course they have got it right. For if anyone knows how technology has changed our reading habits, it’s those clever researchers at Amazon.

Let’s face it. One of the joys of a kindle and an iphone is being able to load it up with steamy texts to digest in private not just at home but at lunch, on the bus, on the train, at the doctor’s … everywhere!

But being sophisticated readers we do not want rubbish on our gadgets, do we? We do not want detritus.

And with Charlotte Stein’s gorgeously svelte novel we certainly do not get detritus. This book is sophisticated and elegant. It turns you on and gets you thinking at the same time. It’s light but it’s so cleverly light that it’s heavy, dark and deep.

I won’t summarise the story, since discovering the plot is one of the pleasures of the book. This is an author who knows how to take control. Her skill is quite thrilling. She unfolds the narrative with enviable panache.

How can you write a dirty story without being crude? you might ask. Well, but that’s just it. Charlotte is in control because while she’s clever, she is also crude. Compellingly crude.

So get under the covers with Charlotte, and on the bus and in the kitchen and in the bath. The audio book is available from Audible and, take it from me, every word is beautifully pronounced.

Beginning with ForeverBeginning with Forever by Lan LLP
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This novel was like an exotic cocktail. It went down very smoothly but had quite a kick. Its very strong storyline is helped by a trio of memorable characters and their sharp exchanges. I adored Lily. She is one of three narrators and I loved the sections where she took up the story. Her way of looking at the world and the language she used really drew me into her budding romance with Carson Bradley. It was like getting a long letter from a close friend. At times she seemed like more than a friend, because she doesn’t skimp on detail. She tells you all the juiciest bits and in the choicest language, so you feel you are right there with her, savouring every moment.

Carson was one of the other narrators. He was more business-like and brusque but the change of viewpoint worked very well. Quite often he’d reveal a completely different perspective on something Lily had just described. The effect would be to make you laugh or wince.

Carson is not without his weaknesses. Perhaps the most glaring of these is his ex, Bianca. Besides being the third narrator in the novel, she is a cold-hearted villain who schemes to destroy Carson’s relationship with Lily. These schemes become darker and more deadly as the story progresses.

The multiple viewpoints are handled expertly and give the story variety and pace. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute and couldn’t wait for bedtime so I could dive between the sheets again with Carson, Lily and even the evil Bianca. (There is an intriguing under-explored storyline in Bianca’s life.)

The action, I should say, is not entirely between the sheets, but it’s a story that’s best read in bed. Some of those juicy bits are simply too good to be wasted anywhere else. If ever a book deserved to be called erotic, it’s this one. In fact it’s the most erotic book I’ve read this year.

Coming Together Presents: Remittance GirlComing Together Presents: Remittance Girl by Remittance Girl
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

How time flies! I’ve been meaning to review this book for so long that I’ve almost forgotten what the stories are about or why I thought they were so good.

I’ve had it at least a year.

And what a year it’s been! This time last year I was looking back on my career as a writer and remarking on how little I’d written.

Well, and during the Christmas holiday last year I wrote a story called Scandal! I was very proud of it and thought it was quite deep but I’d rushed it onto the page in only three days and I thought I should let it settle a bit before publishing it. In March or April I re-read it and decided it could be quite special if I was patient enough to let it germinate for a while and come to full maturity.

And it is germinating still. But let me assure you, it’s good!

Apart from that, and a fiery little outburst some months ago, I have had another fallow year and I’ve spent more time reading than writing.

I haven’t even been reviewing what I’ve been reading. Instead — and this is the point, in case you are wondering why this review is so far all about me and not at all about Remittance Girl — I have been studying how the professionals do it. I’ve discovered that book reviews should really be all about the reviewer rather than the book, as in this adorable example from Leo … someone-or-other. It’s very clear he’s a Leo, don’t you think?

In case you are thinking … Aha! She can talk! … Let me tell you at once that I’m not a Leo. Just a little crab.

And as a little crab, I often crawl sideways along the shore, staring goggle-eyed at the overwhelming tide of creativity all around me.

Remittance Girl is perfect company for me on my travels because she is a writer’s writer. She is literate, reflective and wise. She is a discriminating reader and draws upon her reading to stay fresh, inspired and quirky.

Whether she’s erotic or not, I’m not sure. She writes about erotic experiences. She is a storyteller. And she is fascinating.

The problem with reviewing collections of short stories is that there is so much to comment on that it’s hard to keep the review fairly short and still put in lots of information about me. But, as if reading my mind, Remittance Girl has solved this problem by including a story set in Limehouse, London, which I happen to pass through every day on my way to work.

In the old days, Limehouse was London’s Chinatown, full of shady warehouses, brothels and opium dens. This provides the backdrop for a rather prickly story about a profligate young man and a seductive Chinese woman called Mai.

“Mai seemed to be very much at home. She stepped delicately to a low table supporting two bronze lions in the Chinese style and put the flame from a small oil burner to three slender sticks of what Gerald learned later to be incense. Then, when the sticks were sending up hair-like tendrils of sweet-smelling smoke, she took up a small metal rod and struck it against the body of one of the lions. It chimed sweetly.”

It’s the stuff of fantasy. And yet it is very concrete and the descriptions are precise. There are sensual moments. You can see even from this very brief excerpt that Remittance Girl knows how to appeal to your senses. But at its heart the story is deeply philosophical. It is sharp and to the point. It ought to be, for it is called ‘The Pipe of Thorns.’

You must be prepared for sexually explicit passages. But, heavens above, who isn’t these days? But here, as in so many of her stories, the truly adult theme is what Remittance Girl does with this explicitly sexual encounter. She gives it a twist so brutal that young minds would instinctively shy away and shut down.

So these are adult stories, adult in the sense that they question and challenge our preconceptions and predilections. They can be delicate and they can be brutal. But they are never gratuitous, for they show all the seriousness of a writer who takes writing very seriously indeed.

private livesThe early lives of authors have always interested me. Not just authors but artists, actors and musicians too. Trying to earn a living by artistic means can be a titanic struggle and a real test of character. We take it for granted that Shakespeare wrote, directed, performed and produced his own plays. We pay homage only to the works, forgetting the huge entrepreneurial effort he put into building his career and scaling the uppermost ranks of English society.

And what of Noel Coward? When you listen to the exuberant, hilarious dialogue in Private Lives you might think, like me, that he was born successful. How could it be otherwise when every line he writes exudes confidence and social savoir faire? Well, it’s true that at the age of 24 he caused a theatrical sensation with his play The Vortex, of which he was the star, the author, the director and the decorator. But the following year he was spat at in the street when people didn’t like Sirocco.

Such is the precariousness of success.

No-one can doubt, though, surely, the enduring appeal of Private Lives. It is not only entertaining, it is an essential resource. When infuriated by your lover, don’t stutter platitudes or seethe in awkward silence. Snap with panache. Prick him with needle-sharp sarcasm. Be sexy. Destroy him with lethal one-liners.

Private Lives picks apart the complexity of sexual relationships with rare candour and precision. It is funny because we recognise the truth of every word. It exposes with ruthless flippancy the vanities, the vulnerabilities, the secrets and the lusts of the two central characters. Packed with passion and brilliantly performed by Paul Scofield and Patricia Routledge, two of England’s most distinguished actors, this audio edition makes it possible to listen to their riveting quarrels again and again and enrich your own private life with their biting wit. Although written in the 1930s, the play is astonishingly modern. You can lift entire phrases and drop them seamlessly into your own erotic bickering. Your lover will find you at once more sexy, more sassy, more classy and more desirable.

You can find this production on AudioGo, the home of BBC audiobooks. There are different versions of the site for different countries, so make sure you are looking at the site applicable to where you live.

And if, like me, you listen on the go, you can impress your fellow passengers with frequent worldly smiles and the occasional guffaw, before going home and scintillating with your lover.

StrummedStrummed by Stella Harris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

On those days when you have your most rapturous sexual experiences, you can’t help feeling deep in your heart that there is nothing trivial or superficial about sex. If you are going to talk about it, you are going to be as articulate as you can. If you are going to write about it, you want to find the very best words. And if you are going to read stories about it, you want them to be chosen by Kojo Black at Sweetmeats Press.

The very best writing flows like music. Sex is a lot like music too. It has sounds and rhythms. It is amplified and enriched by the synchronous movements of your body. So it makes perfect sense to have a sexual anthology themed to music, and to the idea that your body is an instrument that can be strummed.

Since it is an anthology compiled by Kojo Black, you would expect “Strummed” to include some of the very best writing, conveying, through its sounds and rhythms, the pleasure and profundity of sex. And you would be right.

Here is an example of some beautiful musical writing by the very refined and very sensual Harper Eliot, from her story “And the Midnight Trio.”

As he reached the angular shape of her hip, he kissed her shoulder, pausing there to let her feel the rough stubble on his chin.

It was moments like these, always moments like these, that allowed Violet to escape the mundanity of day to day life. She wasn’t sure when exactly she had agreed to sit and live with boredom, but she went to sleep each night with the wish that she was living a more extraordinary life. Meanwhile she made no attempt to create any constant excitement, living instead off feelings such as these, the stubble of his chin grazing her milky flesh.

The other stories have moments like these too. The writing is not grandiose or pompous but it touches you. It sinks into your subconscious and resonates there.

In “On the Highway 17” by B.Z.R. Vukovina we meet a folk singer called Cob who knows in his soul that he is going to be famous. Cob’s journey has a mythic quality that is expressed not just through the juxtaposition of black bears, totems and the rugged beauty of the Canadian landscape, but also in rhythms like these:

Cob heard the water before he saw it: a faint buzzing that intensified like a swarm of insects, steady without the monotony of mechanisms, always on the verge of crashing, of waves, like the string of a guitar plucked hard, once-and-forever.

The trees ended.

He emerged from amongst them and approached Winnie, who was already standing on the slick, rocky edge of the white rushing water of the (“They call it the Dead Horse.”) river.

The other stories in the collection are more prosaic but the impression they make is no less emphatic. We meet several highly creative cellists in “Well Played” by Stella Harris. There’s a rampant rock chick in “Raw” by Amélie Hope. And in “The Vicar’s Organ” by Percy Quirk we meet the plain spoken Mrs. Evans and the even more plain spoken Mr. Creasey.

“You’re a horny little slut, Mrs. Evans,” he said to me, smirking. My nipples were dark and erect. I could already imagine his hands on my breasts, roughly kneading them, hurting and exciting me. “Get on with it,” he said, gesturing impatiently with his hand.

I unfastened my skirt, again folded it, and laid it next to the blouse on the sofa. I was down to my stockings and knickers.

“Leave them,” he told me. “I will only use your mouth today.”

One of the advantages of reading an anthology is that you get variety. Variety of phrase, of image, of voice. Variety of situation and, let’s be blunt, variety of sexual position. There are different insights and different obsessions. But one of the particular advantages of a Sweetmeats anthology is that the stories are relatively long. They have time to evolve.

I have only given you a hint and a taste of them here. A few chords and motifs. To get the full effect you really need to dive in deeper. So get the full works and immerse yourself in this stereophonic symphony of sex.


Books by Vanessa Wu

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