Friday, March 16, 2012

Best Sex Writing 2012 goes beyond the headlines

Note: This post is part of the Best Sex Writing 2012 virtual book tour happening in March. Check out the other dates at

I usually enjoy the Best Sex Writing series, but this one–Best Sex Writing 2012, edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel– is definitely going to set the bar pretty high for future issues. The past year has seen a lot of fascinating, and at times aggravating, sex news. And with Susie Bright as Guest Judge, I knew there would be some great stuff in here. She wants us to get fired up since "we're here to reveal the well-sharpened pitchforks of sexual hypocrisy." And those pitchforks and torches and other assorted idiocy are still dominating the news this lovely election year.

Rachel says she could "have filled a book twice this size." I don't doubt it. But these pieces, varying from old-fashioned (sadly since we could use more of this these days) journalistic pieces to a humorous instruction manual, to pseudo-excerpts (what do you call an excerpt that is different?) from books that are better than what made it into those books. I have to say, none of the pieces in this collection bored me. Even the ones I didn't expect to find interesting, I did. Even if you've read many of these pieces online or in print, this collection brings them together in a way that reinforces, for me at least, why this series is very much needed.

A few highlights from BSW 2012.  

Katherine Spillar's Sex, Lies, and Hush Money: This piece, which originally ran in Ms, is about the John Ensign scandal, just another one of a seemingly endless supply of "family values" Republican hypocrite stories. While it may not seem like a very "sexy" read, it's one of those stories that gets your blood boiling, though not in an erotic way. If you don't think this is a timely piece, consider that presidential candidate Rick Santorum played "a minor but still telling role" because he's the one who "alerted Ensign to the fact that the whole sordid tale was about to be leaded to the media." 

Amber Dawn's To All the Butches I Loved between 1995 and 2005: An Open Letter about Selling Sex, Selling Out, and Soldiering OnThis personal essay by the Lambda Award winning author (for Sub Rosa in 2011) was my introduction to a writer whose books I'm now wanting to read, despite the pile of a couple of dozen (at least) books that I'm almost finished, in the middle of, just started, or got-to read. Also, I'll admit, I'm partial to the "open letter" form of personal essay. What's it about? It's all in the title. A wonderful piece. 

Joan Price's Grief, Resilience, and My 66th Birthday Gift: A version of this is in her book Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud About Senior Sex, which I'd read last year. This piece is about the erotic massage that Joan bought as a birthday present to herself a year and a half after the death of her husband. In the version here, she paints a more detailed picture, and the emotions of the experience are better portrayed than in the book. I'll probably be writing a post about the book itself sometime in the future, since I found it personally helpful. 

Roxane Gay's The Careless Language of Sexual Violence: This piece, which was originally published at The Rumpus, is her reaction to a New York Times story about a Texas gang rape of an 11 year-old-girl - no, make that about the poor town and how this crime had ruined lives and ripped a town apart.  I'd followed this news story, had read the Times piece, and Roxane's sharply critical writing about the language we use was like welcome common sense to me. She examines her own writing too: "As I write stories about sexual violence, I wonder if I am being gratuitous. I want to get it right. How do you this sort of thing right?" She's still at it here

Adrian Colesberry's Adrian's Penis: Care and Handling: There's a lot of "heavy" in Best Sex Writing 2012 (and I think that's a good thing), but there are pieces that are "light" and humorous without being stupid. I'd heard about How to Make Love to Adrian Colesberry, but had no interest in reading it. But then I read this excerpt–complete with endnotes!–and if the rest of the book is as charming, I just might have to.

Lidia Yuknavich's Love Grenade: I'd already read, and been blown away by, The Chronology of Water, which contained a version of this piece. I like this one better. Not that I went line by line to compare (though I was tempted), and I kept wondering which version the author liked best. But lines like this "We ate the animal out of each other's bodies we ate steak we ate chocolate two women my chocolate"  make me swoon. Yeah. I hope to write more about this book soon.

Well, I could go on and on, I even thought of writing a brief reaction to each and every piece in this collection, but with 24 authors represented, I'll just say go buy the book. If the subject of sex interests you, you won't regret it.

1 comment:

Joan Price said...

Great review. Thank you for discussing my piece! It was a personal challenge to share so much about that incident and what it meant to me, and reviews like yours make me glad I did!

Joan Price