There's always something for everyone in a Best American Erotica anthology, and this 10th anniversary edition of the long-running series serves up the usual "it takes all kinds" m lange. Edited once again by connoisseur Bright (Susie Bright's Sexwise), this collection features a soft-focus excerpt from Susanna Kaysen's memoir The Camera My Mother Gave Me as well as stories from relative unknowns exploring s&m, transgender issues and voyeurism. Greta Christina's "A Live One" is a seductive tale of a peep-show sex worker and her satisfying interaction with a customer behind glass. "Ponyboy" by James Williams showcases the world of submissive men ("ponies") and their "riders." Paula Bomer truly surprises with her combination of emotional honesty and raw sex in "Fucking His Wife, Four Months Pregnant with Their Third Child." In addition to 23 tales culled from various publications (including Penthouse, Paramour and Zyzzyva) over the last year, this collection also boasts two bonus features. Bright includes the results of an author questionnaire offering sociological data about 137 of the BAE contributors from the last decade: ages, occupations, colleges attended, hobbies enjoyed and crimes committed are candidly revealed along with contributors' thoughts about censorship, anonymity and the stigma attached to erotic writing. Bright has also surveyed readers to compile a list of the favorite 100 BAE stories of the past 10 years, five of which are reprinted here. This enormous range of subjects and styles is what makes the anthology shine, although some of the stories sacrifice good prose for steamy effects. (Feb.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
If the tenth anniversary edition of Bright's sturdy annual isn't all things to all men, women, and warm-blooded animals, it's not for lack of trying.
Now that the indefatigable impresario (Full Exposure: Opening Up to Sexual Creativity and Erotic Expression, 1999, etc.) has left behind the focus on fetishism and identity politics that made several of her earlier collections seem pat and mechanical, the 23 new stories here are less wide-ranging but more heartfelt and emotionally appealing even for readers who may not be gay, lesbian, transgendered, or sadomasochistic themselves. If Lisa Wolfe's "How to Make a Cake" is nothing more than a deliciously straightforward paean to X-rated baking, Susan St. Aubin's "The Man in the Gray Flannel Tights" rings some unexpected changes on crossdressing; Tsaurah Litzky's "End of the World Sex" lives up to its label; even Martha Miller's fleet "The Baby-Sitter" takes off from the time-honored fantasy suggested by its title to plumb the erotics of spousal jealousy. Meanwhile, Susan Volchok's deadpan "How We Did It" amusingly sends up the Insert-Tab-A tone of some of the selections from bygone years. The most interesting features of the volume are the ones that offer evidence of the series' growing pains: the obligatory inclusion of mainstream authors like Chuck Palahniuk, Dagoberto Gilb, and Susanna Kaysen; extensive excerpts from Bright's interviews with the authors of all the first ten annuals ("Q: Do you have any collections we should know about?" A: Accordians"); the results of a readers' poll that identified the 100 favorite stories from earlier volumes; and the reprinting of the top five vote-getters, which are all, in their very different ways,hot stuff indeed.
Though Bright can't decide whether she's broadening, legitimizing, or kidding erotic fiction, and her indecision sometimes seems awkward, the escape from pigeonholing it may be the best indication of the genre's health, and that of its legion of readers.