The Best American Erotica 2001
- edited by Susie Bright
Reviewed by Bill Noble
Here you are, sneaking around reading a review of The Best American Erotica 2001. What? You think you're gonna pick up some dirty parts to quote to that oh-so-sexy person at the next office party? "Have you read that story about the enormous breasts?" you'll say, flaring a nostril. "The one Todd Belton wrote for Clean Sheets? It's the first one in Susie's new book. You know, Susie Bright. Breasts," you'll say.
Or maybe your nostrils are flaring because you're tugging on your nose ring. The person in bed with you has day-glo hair and hasn't decided if they want to have sex, so you tell them the story you're going to read them is by Marge Piercy. "She's really famous! Like, dozens of novels, and she's a poet, too." As your hand creeps toward their crotch, you read them this passage about modern teenage love in your best KD Lang meets Eminem voice:
"Then he rolled Chad onto his stomach, rolled on another condom, and, using the surgical jelly he had stashed under the bed, slowly, caressing his way, put himself into Chad's ass. Chad winced and bit at the pillow, but once Evan was in, he seemed to mind it far less. She liked watching. She loved watching. She was possessing Chad through Evan's cock. She was fucking him through Evan." [Marge Piercy, The New Kid]
Or, no, your hair is silver, and your nostrils are permanently flared as a class statement. "I just need to read you this," you say, glancing around the bridge table. "Susie Bright," you say, watching Amelia, your breath constricted. "It's so utterly outrageous. Imagine, they actually publish things like this!" And you read:
"She takes the vibrator in her mouth, and she starts fucking me with it. I'm squatting above her and she is fucking me with my own vibrator in her mouth. Meanwhile her hand never stops moving. She's getting lipstick all over my toy and juices from my dripping slit are sliding down and gathering at the corners of her red lips and she is still staring at me. My legs are trembling, because she is fucking the hell out of me and herself at the same time." [Cara Bruce, You Know What?]
Lots of different folks read Best American Erotica, and, despite the proliferation of Best Of... annual collections, it remains the gold standard, a perennial bestseller. Part of the reason is its longevity -- it's come out every year since 1993. But mostly, it's Susie. Nobody else has the cache, or quite the public forum, of this exuberant woman. The Boston Phoenix long ago declared her "the goddess of American erotica." If you need an antidote to Bush and Ashcroft, try Susie Bright.
Here are a few more good parts, if you need convincing. This is from a delightfully sideways gay story, Sunday, by Dan Taulapapa McMullin:
"Pali's embarrassment at casual nudity forced him to keep his eyes above the Pastor's jawline, and he refused to acknowledge Pastor Knarffssen's erection. From the Pastor's pale, boyish body, with its slim hips and boyish ass, there curving upward toward his chest sat a great fat colorless prick that glistened around the head as pre-cum dribbled onto the blond floor. 'Actually, most of the Christian missionaries to Samoa came from Raratonga,' was Pali's response.... Even a stiff dick with a heartbeat, trembling between his ankles in the steam, would not alter his respectful attention to his mentor's words."
Or, from Hanne Blank's domestic love story, And Early to Rise, this beginning:
"I can always tell when you've dreamt of sex. In my study, I hear you through the wall when you shower, leaning against the tile with the water pummeling the lush breasts I like so much to tease, your hand between your thighs, unaware that the shower does precious little to cover your noises. I listen to you, something deep between my hips quivering at the high, piercing whimper I know means you're hovering, aching and desperate, at the edge of orgasm."
Best American Erotica is growing up in our uptight, anti-erotic, overly sexualized society. The spectrum of what can be written about has broadened to the point that we can actually learn from one another, instead of living our sexual lives in blundering isolation. And erotica is everywhere. Almost every year now, Susie's anthology includes excerpts from the work of major mainstream writers. Slowly, but with vast inevitability, we're realizing that the genie can't be put back into the bottle.
A Catholic nun was quoted in The Washington Post as saying,"If you walk down the street and see a man and woman kissing in a car, turn away, that's evil." We're doing more than kissing, sister. We're looking at our pussies in the mirror, we're limbering our juicy cocks, we're meeting other bodies in brand-new, ancient ways, and we're falling in love with life.
We're joining hands in the middle of the town square with Susie Bright, raising our voices in a rousing Hosanna to celebrate our very own personal dirty stories. Gloriously dirty stories, Sister. Try them.
Review ©2001 by Bill Noble
Bill Noble is happy to be pilloried or praised at email@example.com. His fiction and poetry appear widely on the Web and in print, and he is a Clean Sheets staffer.