Nerve: The First Ten Years

From a certain distance, the pink plastic die-cut cover of this book gleams neon light around the edges of its title, perfectly invoking a marquee in an old-school red-light district. And like the literature often found in such a place, its pages are bound together with plastic caution tape to bar its contents from being seen by the casual or careless bystander. To read it then, you must own it (or befriend someone who does) and for anyone who appreciates the work has done over the past decade, it is certainly worthwhile to do so. This is a beautiful object, and a worthy format to showcase the fine-art erotic photographs that were first published on their web site. Nerve’s founders, Rufus Griscom and Genevieve Field, took as their mission to provide “literate smut” and save readers from the tedium of terrible writing on sex. As they put it: “to be more graphic, forthright and topical than ‘erotica,’ but less blockheadedly masculine than ‘pornography.'” Also, their essays and fiction (on “gender, bodies and cranky libidos”) are frequently hilarious. Chuck Palahniuk proposes a new religion; Jonathan Lethem writes on Donald Sutherland’s buttocks; Jocelyn Elders writes on masturbation; Sarah Hepola fantasizes about Ira Glass; Mary Gaitskill is interviewed; and Jonathan Ames writes about the time he seduced his interviewer. Regular contributors include sex columnists Em & Lo, Lisa Carver, and Steve Almond (who dispenses advice on how to write a sex scene). “Though some would prefer to dispose of taboos entirely, we prefer to gnaw on them like squeaky dog toys,” write the cofounders. Here’s to another ten years of doing the same.