Monday, February 16, 2009

Best Sex Writing 2009: book review

Two new books by Cleis Press have enthralled me lately, and they couldn’t be more different, as sex books go. One is nonfiction, literary in a pop culture kind of way, and the other is gay male romantic erotica. I love both books. I’ll review the first here, and the other in a separate post.

Best Sex Writing 2009, ed. Rachel Kramer Bussel, selected and introduced by Brian Alexander: This nonfiction anthology presents lively, intriguing essays and memoirs from professional journalists, culture critics, bloggers, and sex workers. Who can resist, for example, essays titled “Is Cybersex Cheating,” “Sex Dolls for the Twenty-First Century,” "Oldest Profession 2.0," and “Penises I Have Known”? I had a great time investigating the meaning of “silver-balling” and the background of “Dutch wives,” and laughing my way through a college boy's dilemma as he fumbled to stay hard to lose his virginity with an ex-girlfriend.

I find the cover photo, however, misleading in its eroticism: a mostly-naked woman’s third finger disappearing into the shadow between her parted legs. Finding this book in a bookstore, you’d expect it to be erotica, but it isn’t. I’d call it a collection of contemporary journalism and personal essays. Of course your thoughts may turn erotic – depending on what rings your bell, from bathroom sex, doll descriptions, penis comparisons, or church-sanctified quickies (“absolutely okay with God”).

I always look forward to this annual anthology. As reviewer Kevin Killian said, it’s "like a whole issue of The New Yorker if The New Yorker gave any attention to sex." Thank you, Cleis Press!

Read more of my sex and/or aging book reviews and author interviews here.

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