A Starter Library of Erotica
Okay, Spring has sprung and things are growing and our minds are wandering … and so are our libidos. According to the calendar, this is a time for new romance, thoughts of idle and not-so-idle affairs … and in that spirit, perhaps time to find something sexy to sit and read, either to ourselves, or to the object(s) of our affection. Thus, a list. This is not so much a ten best erotica list as a list of great erotic reading … if you enjoy erotica you already know these books, or most of them, and I’m sure plenty could come up with lists that will startle and please. After all, there’s a large, growing library of sensuality available, whether the material is listed specifically as erotica, or the more mainstream works you find in the Romance and Horror genres that have grown increasingly graphic in depictions of eroticism.
Erotica – edited by Margaret Reynolds. Probably my favorite collection of erotic poems and stories, all by women, spanning the history of Western Civilization from Sappho to Margaret Atwood. and including writers such as Anne Boleyn, Emily Dickinson, Mary Queen of Scots, Anais Nin, Christina Rosetti, the Brontë sisters and Virginia Woolf. This is a dabbling book, providing an entertaining variety of style and substance that keeps you coming back for more.
Bitten – edited by Susie Bright. Ms. Bright has put together an array of erotica collections over the years, like the annual Best America Erotica series, and her beautiful X: the Erotic Treasury stand-alone collection. If you are looking for a set of shorts with a unifying element to experience the genre in all its variant flavors, Bitten is your book. Not a bad or uninspiring story to be found, and several that will stimulate the imagination, amongst other things. A great gift for the right person.
The Story of O – Pauline Réage – Okay, this is about as ‘Doh!!!’ as this gets and because of that understanding I almost left this selection off. But this book remains one of the most incredible rides into the darkness of erotic abandon a reader will find. If you have an ounce of sensuality bubbling in the core of your being, you won’t be disappointed. Even now, over half a century since publication, The Story of O remains a stunning, unsettling journey. (And, for a look into the mind of the author, this piece at Guernica by Carmela Ciuraru, The Story of the Story of O, is an enlightening read.).
Meeting the Master – Elissa Wald. A very off-beat series of stories that focus on the exchange of power. If you are looking for story after story filled with overt dominance, sweaty bodies and lots of whips and chains you will be disappointed, provocatively suggestive cover notwithstanding. But if you are interested in the dynamics of control and submission, the subtleties and interplays, the psychological underpinnings of attraction and consummation, this is your book. Quiet, thoughtful fiction blended with an innate eroticism that shows you a world from a different perspective than the often stereotypical images that one associates with BDSM.
The Beauty Trilogy, by Anne Rice, writing as A.N. Roquelaure. Like The Story of O, I almost didn’t include this series, but that would be a disservice. In a sense, along with her Vampire books, Rice helped launch the modern era of literate erotica in the mainstream with this adult fairy tale. With all the sensual literature available for consumption nowadays it may be easy for many to pass over this trilogy as passé, but the books remain wonderful examples of a stylistic approach to a familiar theme that takes the reader outside the realm of expectation. In this case, sort of The Story of O set in a well-known fairy-tale, and told accordingly. The books’ titles: The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, Beauty’s Punishment, Beauty’s Release. While I’m at it, though tame by comparison, I absolutely loved the understated erotica of the Victorian fantasy she crafted in The Mummy: Ramses the Damned. Powerful romance.
The Butcher and Other Erotica – Alina Reyes – Much like with Wald, this story isn’t just about consummation, but what gets you there. The Butcher is an elemental tale of sense and sensation – the author moves the plot along with deliberation, mixing desire with naked lust in powerful detail. And when the payoff comes, the journey reaches a satisfying, near breathless resolution. Less memorable, the second novella in the book, Lucie’s Long Voyage, is sort of erotica LSD that keeps your attention … being a translation, I wonder if something isn’t lost in the interpretation, concepts and ideas that don’t translate over with ease. But The Butcher lingers in the melting pot of the imagination, the story resonating long after the read is ended.
How to Write A Dirty Story – Susie Bright. Susie again. I think even the non-writer will find this book interesting, given its very straightforward take on the publishing of sexually explicit materials. For aspiring writers of dirty stories, it is indispensable, not so much because of the things she teaches – much of this, after all, parallels more mainstream genres – but because of the sense of affirmation Bright accords the exercise of creating and depicting eroticism in print. There is validity here, laid out cleanly and with solid support.
The Writings ofAnais Nin – What we’re talking about here is a body of work – a lifetime work. Nin is about as iconic as you get in terms of erotica. I recall in the 60s and 70s, if you wanted written erotica, she was pretty much ‘it’ aside from Pauline Réage. A woman of my acquaintance once remarked Nin was, to her, the Godmother of 20th Century erotic writing, and I will not argue.
Butterscotch – Milo Manara – Absolutely sweet and sexy: no one draws a woman quite like Manara draws a woman. ’nuff said. Manara’s stories tend to be whimsical, cute and sexy, the combination rolled up into a pleasing and entertaining graphic package that does not disappoint. Also of note are Click, Hidden Camera, and An Author in Search of Six Characters(the title an obvious play on Luigi Pirendello’s famous comedy). All good, clean fun – sort of – with lots of beautiful imagery stimulated by amusing, fantastical but recognizable fantasy components.
Suicide Girls: Beauty Redefined – Missy Suicide – No, this is not a story or graphic novel. So shoot me. It is a thick (396 pages) volume of erotic photographs. Erotic photographs of very beautiful, vibrant alt-lifestyle women. Gal-pal Kelz and I came upon it while visiting Good Vibrations on Polk Street, where we sat down to spend what turned out to be a pleasurable late-afternoon-into-evening, paging leisurely through a copy, and ‘oooh’ing and ‘ahhh’ing with appropriate appreciation. The two of us were captivated. No words, just images … imagination-stoking images. “Buy it,” Kelz, says, and I did. You know when something special lands in your lap, so to speak. A wonderful coffee table book, filled with delightfully edgy beauty. Suicide Girls be good stuff, mon.
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