Enough already about what’s between black and white. If you read my blog, you know I’m not afraid of the sexy stuff, but I’ll tell you what I couldn’t get through: the preview of Fifty Shades of Grey. Ugh. Bad writing just isn’t sexy. I’m not going to review it here, but for thoughtful and intelligent reviews, check out our very own John’s review at Blogging Dangerously, this hilarious review at The Sponsored Lady, and this frank examination on BlogHer.
What I am going to do is offer up some steamy alternatives that show that not only is sex sexy, so are words!
Sexual language and sensual imagery have been woven throughout the history of nearly every culture. Sexuality in written form is powerful, and often taboo. While the erotic certainly comes up here and there in the early English language (Shakespeare and his cronies were a sexually charged bunch, for example, and if you haven’t caught the saucy stuff in Chaucer, you haven’t read it carefully enough), the first known erotic (critics said pornographic) novel is thought to be Fanny Hill, more formally known as Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, by John Cleland, first published in London in 1748.
Fanny Hill was rediscovered by popular culture in the 60′s, when it was reissued following the failure of a trial against Lady Chatterley’s Lover, by D.H. Lawrence. Originally published in Italy in 1928, Lady Chatterley chronicles a love affair between an aristocratic woman and the gamekeeper in her husband’s employ. This book scandalized the English speaking literary world with its coarse language, but the themes of class difference, extramarital affairs, and the needs of the body and the mind are timeless in their way.
Arguably the Queen and King of Twentieth Century Popular Erotica, Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller‘s lives were sexually intertwined for a number of years in Paris. Hot already, right? Anaïs Nin’s Delta of Venus, a collection of erotic stories written for a private collector, is provocative, explicit, and beautifully executed. Miller’s masterpiece, Tropic of Cancer, is more an exploration of the human condition, written from the author’s first person point of view, alongside fictional characters drawn from his life. It contains descriptions of the narrator’s sexual exploits in a rather … candid fashion. The book has been the subject of bans and legal discussions of obscenity since it was first banned from import by the U.S. Customs in 1934.
In 1983, A.N. Roquelaure (a nom de plume of well-known Interview with the Vampire author, Anne Rice) published The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, the first of a BDSM erotica trilogy based loosely on the Sleepy Beauty fairy tale, and set in a medieval fantasy kindgom. Subsequent novels, Beauty’s Punishment and Beauty’s Release in 1984 and 1985 completed the series. Where I got to read Lawrence, Miller, and Nin for college credit, Roquelaure I smuggled into my dorm room and read through the night.
While I haven’t read them myself, The Story of O by Pauline Réage and Emmanuelle by Emmanuelle Arsan are both critically regarded literary erotica.
Taking a peek into the current indie erotica scene was daunting, but some thoughtful recommendations proved vastly entertaining. Eden Baylee‘s first collection of novellas, Fall into Winter is a compelling read, fresh and sexy with complex, contemporary characters. Her second collection, Spring Into Summer, was just released this week.
I dug around the Literary Erotica section on Smashwords and found a few short stories that for a dollar or less offer tantalizing, explicit, and well-written fun. Anna Austen Leigh’s The Netsuke explores the beginnings of tantric principles between a scholar and his willing student, in Blue-Eyed Lover (also available on Amazon), diarist-courtesan Bianca Noire falls for a playful and passionate stranger, and Tango Undone by Michelle Fox combines dance and dominance in a sexually charged Brazilian tango studio.
Write on Edge was not compensated for any of these reviews, though affiliate links are used. All opinions expressed are my own and do not represent my fellow editors’, unless of course, they agree.
Go ahead, spill. What’s the sexiest book you’ve ever read?