The Best American Erotica 2007

The Best American Erotica 2007

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by Susie Bright

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Erotic Reading That Satisfies
Every Sexual Appetite

In the fourteenth edition of this seductive series, erotica's veterans and up-and-coming new writers join forces to explore how tantalizing crossing the so-called Lolita gap between youth and middle age can be.

Kathryn Harrison explores the story of a psychiatrist whose sexual


Erotic Reading That Satisfies
Every Sexual Appetite

In the fourteenth edition of this seductive series, erotica's veterans and up-and-coming new writers join forces to explore how tantalizing crossing the so-called Lolita gap between youth and middle age can be.

Kathryn Harrison explores the story of a psychiatrist whose sexual affairs with a young client have an unexpected consequence; Dennis Cooper trails an extraordinary hustler working his older johns; and Jessica Cutler gives lessons on how a young woman can take down all the politicians in Washington with just the crook of her pretty little finger.

Guided by the genius of editor Susie Bright, The Best American Erotica 2007 will bring an exciting new climax to readers discovering that they love erotica -- and to those already hooked.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

The 14th installment of this annual erotica anthology edited by Bright opens with Vanesa Baggott's visually poetic and creative "On the Eighth Day," in which the characters of Mother Earth, Mother Nature, and God are involved in a rendezvous. Other selections are often humorous and well written, but some, e.g., an excerpt from Kathryn Harrison's novel Envy, seem more concerned with shock value. Readers may find certain selections ethically questionable. In Trebor Healey's "The Pancake Circus," for example, a gay man discovers his love interest is a pedophile wearing a tracking device, but he continues to pursue and have sexual relations with the former convict. One is left to wonder how many would find a piece like this erotic. In Marie Lyn Bernard's "What Happened to That Girl," a man meets up with his troubled foster sister, now a pornographic film star. Although he is saddened by her skinny, pale body and sad face, he ultimately says, "But I don't care" and allows his empathy to be consumed by lust. Only recommended for specialized collections.
—Stacy Russo Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

Kirkus Reviews
Sexologist Bright's annual paean to the more physical aspects of love. Since the Internet has affected every aspect of life in the 21st century, it's no surprise that several of the 23 stories in Bright's 14th anthology feature it. These include Dennis Cooper's contribution, an excerpt from his novel, The Sluts, which tells the story of a gay-for-pay hustler named "Brad" through successive customer reviews on a hook-up site, and Alexander Chee's "Best Friendster Date Ever," which charts the progress of an online connection that takes on a (very) physical dimension. Six of the entries this year are excerpts from literary novels. There is Kathryn Harrison's Envy, in which a young patient seduces her psychiatrist (who turns out to be her father); Jessica Cutler's The Washingtonienne, featuring a cocaine-fueled threesome; Alicia Erian's Towelhead, offering a look at make-up sex; and Daniel Duane's A Mouth Like Yours, in which a tenth-grade boy's dream comes true right under the nose of his girlfriend's father. Not all the stories possess the same level of skill, but most match Bright's exuberantly positive attitude toward sex. Among the best of those are Susan St. Aubi's "Taste," in which two late-night bakers treat each other to secret delicacies, and Susan DiPlacido's "Heads-Up Poker," featuring a strip-poker game where every player comes up a winner. Inevitably, there are entries that push so far into sexual fantasy that it becomes difficult to suspend disbelief. Some of the too-blue-to-buy stories include Nicolas Kaufmann's "Comeback" and Marie Lyn Bernard's "What Happened to That Girl." It is the imbalance of collecting gorgeously sensuous writing with genre claptrap that is thisanthology's weakness and its strength. The great writing shows the hackneyed slap-and-tickle prose in the worst possible light. But to exclude the latter would be to deny part of the diversity and proclivity of human sexuality. And Bright has always known that. Another year, another celebration of sex.
From the Publisher
"Like a good lover, Susie Bright's latest anthology of smart erotica surprises, shocks, warms, and makes the reader wet with page-turning anticipation. Climb into bed with this little devil and you may not want to get out."
— Lisa Beth Kovetz, author of The Tuesday Erotica Club

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The Best American Erotica 2007




Envy the young. Their beauty, their incomparable strength, cannot be bottled, as dearly as their elders try to squeeze a facsimile out of a jar or a needle.

Youth -- that petal before it uncurls, that curious morning dew -- what enormous potential. Anything is possible because nothing has been tried. Envy them? We want to gobble them up -- their very presence is an incitement, a rebuke to death. They are defiant.

But turn over the card. Power comes only with age, which elders have in spades.

You can't drive, you can't hold the keys, and you can't lay claim until you grow the fuck up. The very words "experienced lover" describe a life lived, adventures drawn upon.

Beauty and strength may open doors, but it's only wisdom that tells you how to cross the threshold.

When I was young, the phrase "generation gap" came into vogue. So did the thrilling insult of my old comrade Jack Weinberg: "Never trust anyone over thirty."

Those same baby boomers are rather testy these days, and trust no one. It's coming out in their erotica, as well as their children's.

The '60s generation, more than any before it, is outraged at the prospect of mortality and determined to beat it. No Olympian gods were ever so vain. They look at their offspring and feel a combination of possession, fury, and guilt. Love? Sure, of course. But I'm talking about the darker side of Zeus's parental ego, which among the boomer set is a constant battle withnarcissism.

I speak from the cusp of boom/GenX. I've wobbled on both sides. I look at my daughter, and her beauty and vitality are so vivid I could faint. I want to lock her up -- no, I mean, I want to empower her. Actually, no, I want to scare her shitless. Oh, let's be honest: I'm scared shitless. My generation has melted the polar ice caps, looted the bank, and my inheritance to her is what?

I can remember myself at sixteen so clearly. I wanted to know everything. I wanted to fuck everyone, especially the interesting, self-possessed grown-up types. I had one girlfriend, similarly inclined, who became lovers with the an older New Left patriarch. The fellow was twice her age, with thinning hair, and I was skeptical.

She shushed me. "He's great," she said. "I can wake him up in the middle of the night and ask any question, and he will always know the answer."

Her thirst for knowledge wasn't what impressed me. It was "the middle of the night" that was so seductive -- those witching hours when only babies slumber.

When was the moment when our youth become aware of their charms, as well as their desperation? They seem younger now, although that could just be my mother talking. But look at our twenty-first-century culture. Every teenager knows the time to launch a career as a porn star is in the weeks following high school graduation. Celebrity journalism shows us that Hercules and Aphrodite will both be toppled in their early twenties without massive intervention. It's no wonder the commodification of good looks and muscles has wrought an erotic backlash.

Virginity. Authenticity. The natural pearl. These are what are idealized today, as well as commercialized beyond all recognition. Fake sex -- titillation -- is for sale; real sex is elusive and underground.

Take this state of affairs, couple it with a pox of unprecedented meddling in people's personal lives by the religious right, and the result is a toxic brew. Privacy, freedom, and nature are gasping for breath. Hypocrites alone have something to crow about.

In my fifteen years of editing BAE, I have never seen such a yowling, lustful, spitting breach between young and old.

Of course, such observations are taboo. Lower your voice! Young people aren't supposed to have a sexual bone in their bodies, right? And their elders, if they are immune to beauty and make all the rules, should be able to keep it in their pants. What a squawk.

There is so much guilt and fear about the obvious -- that young people do have hormones, and old people aren't altogether blind -- that helpful discussion in the public sphere has shriveled. It is left to fiction for the truth to come out.

The truth looks like this: any conflict has the potential to become erotic. Such honesty might get complicated, tragic, or unpredictable. Eros is kissing cousins with aggravation.

The conscience of our society drives us to protect our young, to provide for them, to cheer and cherish their independence. But we wouldn't need any conscience if doing so wasn't a challenge, if it didn't demand sacrifice. The temptations include neglect, exploitation, and dependence.

Every one of those emotions came into play as I reviewed this year's erotica. As in each edition, there is a serendipity of issues among authors, a time capsule where writers who have nothing else in common find themselves buzzing on the same theme.

This year's tender spot is a brutal tug of war and lust between generations, in which tale after tale pits an attraction/ambivalence with youth on one side and their elders on the other:

Octavia Butler's last novel, Fledgling, features a protagonist who appears to be a black girl-child who has barely survived a fire -- but is, in fact, much older than even she knows.

Shanna Germain's story of a family camping trip shows a married couple who discover a unintended spark because of their grown daughter's romantic example.

Daniel Duane's novel, A Mouth Like Yours, traces a memory of a young woman who taunts her father and terrifies her boyfriend with her sexual independence.

Dennis Cooper, legendary in his work about young men hustlers, takes on the story of a teenage prostitute, whose death or myth is exhaustively debated by the men who hired him and perhaps killed him.

Jessica Cutler's memoir from The Washingtonienne is about a young woman who drags Washington's gray-haired elite down into a scandal pit, with nothing more than the crook of her pretty little finger.

Alice Erian, the author of Towelhead, writes in the voice of a young Lebanese American teenager who, among other things, gets involved with a racist Gulf War soldier next door.

Peggy Munson takes a walk, dyke-style, with Daddy and Baby, who play an erotic game of Rock, Paper, Scissors.

Kathryn Harrison's novel Envy is about a psychiatrist who is seduced by one of his young clients, not without a bit of blackmail.

Marie Lyn Bernard's story "What Happened to That Girl" is about a bunch of foster kids from the same home who unexpectedly reunite after their eighteenth birthdays, when one of them becomes a famous porn star.

In Trebor Healey's "The Pancake Circus," a young man is attracted to an indifferent, handsome dishwasher his own age, who he discovers is on probation for sex crimes.

Finally, Matthew Addison, in his "Wish Girls," demonstrates one of the sweetest endings: a young man, nurtured by fembots, finally grows up and leaves them behind.

There are a few others in this collection that miraculously escaped the Lolita backlash. You'll find poker games, polyamory, kitchen grease, and other "dangerous games with competent people," as author Kim Wright puts it.

Of course Nabokov came to mind in my deliberations. Hence my little nickname for the culprits. Their generation-slashed stories made me want to revisit the history of what has been called the most exquisite novel in the English language.

Lolita was unique when when it came out in 1955. It wasn't reviewed anywhere, and sales were terrible.

But a year later, as publisher Maurice Girodias recalls, "Things started to happen -- strange things indeed. Graham Greene mentioned Lolita as one of the the best books of the year. That provoked a demential reaction on the part of the editor of the Daily Express who accused Green and the Times of helping sell pornography of the lewdest variety...the overall result of that commotion was to create a great deal of interest in Lolita among partisans and detractors, an infinitesimal number of whom had read the book."

Nabokov has been afraid to publish his opus: after all, it was written in the voice of a cruel and remorseless pedophile who ruins quite a few lives, including his own, in the passion for his "nymphet." "Light of my life, fire of my loins, my sin, my soul, Lolita." I remember chanting that passage as a speech exercise in acting class; such was its legacy.

In Nabokov's heyday, postwar parents were about to send all their kids to college for the first time. It was a prosperous, middle-class expansion, it was America Über Alles. It was also the tremorous beginning of a beat/rock/art renaissance that would rip the covers off a variety of things Mommy and Daddy would rather not talk about.

It was a different time from today's tableau: quality education out of reach, class polarization, Bush fiddling while Rome melts. Yet it shares the same vibe of false consciousness -- the pretty parade of fake news, fake sex, fake confidence -- that can never cover up the bubbling pitch.

And so, to strip myself bare, I have to admit there is one story missing from my collection this year. The finest erotic book I read the past twelve months was the English translation of Gabriel García Márquez's novella Melancholy Memories of My Whores. You won't find it here.

It's the story of an elderly gentleman, a lifetime john of leisure, who decides that, on the occasion of his ninetieth birthday, he will spend the night at his favorite brothel with a pubescent virgin.

Our man has every intention of bedding her, but upon entering the small room for their date, he discovers the child fast asleep on the bed. Not wishing to disturb her slumber, he sits beside her to wait, his own mind awash with memorias melancólicas.

The witching hours fall upon us once again, when those closest to death are the most conscious.

Márquez declined to be part of this collection -- a disappointment to me, forty-plus years his junior. His reason was that the nature of his material was too delicate. I, of course, had a reply that was just as sheer.

Everything in this book is "delicate." Erotic reality is not for the clichéd. I don't publish pulp about Mr. And Mrs. HappyPants waltzing down the shore to an ending you can see a mile away.

The more that public life discourages sexual maturity and honesty, the further truth retreats to fiction, to poetry. The lyric of dissent is delicate indeed.

Every author I publish who "crosses a line" does so not because they have a prescription, or a solution, but because they are compelled to spell something out, and to spill something just as plain.

It's hard to be blunt, to take a risk, to endure misunderstanding. If you are acclaimed as the finest writer of your time in the same breath that they damn you as a lewd pornographer, you'll know you've unraveled something worthwhile. Take your fine lace from Bruges and toss it; what we have here is aroused, conflicted -- and very, very wide awake.

Copyright 2007 by Susie Bright


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From the Publisher
"Like a good lover, Susie Bright's latest anthology of smart erotica surprises, shocks, warms, and makes the reader wet with page-turning anticipation. Climb into bed with this little devil and you may not want to get out."

— Lisa Beth Kovetz, author of The Tuesday Erotica Club

Meet the Author

Susie Bright is the editor of The Best American Erotica series and host of the weekly audio show In Bed with Susie Bright on She has been a columnist for Playboy and Salon, and has been profiled in USA TODAY, Los Angeles Times, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, and Vanity Fair, among other publications. An international lecturer on sexuality and feminism, she won the 2004 Writer of the Year Award at the Erotic Awards in London. Ms. Bright lives in Santa Cruz, California.

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