Friday, October 01, 2010

Cream: The Best of the Erotica Readers & Writers Association, edited by Lisabet Sarai

(pb; 2006: erotica anthology)

From the back cover:

"For ten years, the Erotica Readers and Writers Association (ERWA) has offered high quality erotica writing. Now, for the first time, in one steamy volume, Cream showcases the best of what has been been published by the ERWA.

"Offering humor and horror, drama and delirium, Cream introduces readers to characters they won't forget: the no-nonsense sex shop proprietix in Keziah Hill's 'Laying Down the Law,' the lewd and lovely bibliophile in Seneca Mayfair's 'The Bookseller's Dream,' and the tragically tattooed barmaid in Thomas S. Roche's 'Avril's Name.'

"Cream will take you from the slums of Bangkok to the snowy reaches of Central Park, from the jungles of Guatemala to the hockey rinks of Quebec, and from the days of the speakeasies to the post-apocalyptic future. Whether you like your sex as dark and bitter as black coffee or as light and sweet as crème brûlée, Cream has something to suit your taste buds."

Overall review:

Exemplary erotica anthology.

Editor Lisabet Sarai has set a high bar for these authors to clear, and, for the most part, they have done so. (Two of the stories didn't grab me, but that's because I had qualms with their stylistic choices and tones; that said, I still appreciated why Sarai included these distinct stories in this collection.)

There are so many wonderful works in this anthology that I set my standout stories bar higher than usual.

If you only own a few erotic anthologies in your life, make this one of them. All of these stories are worthwhile reads.

Standout stories:

"Because I Could" - Daina Blue: A Death Row inmate (Donald B. Camrooney) writes about the crime that landed him in prison. Brutal, dark, remorseless.

"What Was Lost" - Robert Buckley: Janet, a young woman, establishes a brief but oddly erotic relationship with a decrepit old man (Mr. Havilland) with a wild outlaw past. Intriguing, sympathetic, off-beat, with interesting characters and an eye on early twentieth century history.

"Newborn" - Ann Regentin: A forensics bone specialist, Martina, makes new discoveries about the world and herself in a war-torn Guatemalan village. Troubling, wise and ultimately uplifting work.

"Ghosts of Christmas Past" - Richard V. Rainment: Initially romantic X-mas tale with an effective mood morph at the end.

"Butoh-ka" - remittance girl: In Saigon, a woman (Sara) learns a new, borderline-bizarre way to dance, with help from her instructor (Kaoru). Not your usual "dance as a metaphor for sex/life" clichéd piece, this, "Butoh-ka" reaches into disturbing, gripping emotional territory that put me in a similar mindset of one of my all-time favorite novels, Kenzo Kitakata's Winter Sleep -- intuitive, beyond-words transcendant.

"Junkie" - Jaelyn: Short, sharp tale a nameless woman whose sudden, violent sex with a rough lover (Terry) hook her. Shattering depiction of addiction.

"Absences" - Chris Skilbeck: In a broken-society future, a man (James), his coma-prone wife (Petra) and her sister (Donna) deal with life- and society-changing realities. Longer than most of the stories in this anthology, it's complex, truly original and comparatively epic, echoing the best work of bigger-name science fiction writers.

"Secondhand" - Chris Bridges: Martha, a woman with psychometric abilites - she's "able to the history of a thing by touching it" - goes lingerie shopping in a thrift store, a visit that makes a bigger-than-expected impact on her. Original with a dramatic finish.

"A Man in a Kilt" - Helen E.H. Madden: In Scotland, a Dom (Nan) teaches her Scottish bottom (Jimmy) the difference between want and need. Romantic, in a BDSM way; distinct work.

"Color Less Ordinary" - Sydney Beier: A lipstick shade - "Garnet Chrome" - acelerates a pick-up that takes a surprising, delightful corkscrew. Light, fun.

"The Bookseller's Dream" - Seneca Mayfair: This bookstore fantasy is hot, smart and romantic.

"Avril's Name" - Thomas S. Roche: Sad, lovely, visually-intense tale of love and tattoo ink.

"Tears Fall On Me" - Sydney Durham: An emotionally twisty affair leads to something deeper -- and, for a time, darker -- for two lovers. Enchanting, loving work.

"Challenger Deep" - Kathleen Bradean: While fulfilling her deceased father's last wishes, a woman (Erica) begins to actualize some wishes of her own. Tropical and character-resonant story.

"Up in the Morning" - Mike Kimera: First-person point-of-view acount of male desire in married middle age, and its situational changes. Romantic, smart-minded and protagonist-progressive.

"Black Widow" - Seneca Mayfair: A husband-killer prepares to strike again. Striking, noiresque flasher.

"What Is Thy Name?" - Teresa Lamai: A woman decides between her divine amour, who may or may not be real, and the world's notion of sanity. Biblical, dark, original flasher.

"The Rigby Legacy" - Rose B. Thorny: Sex and revenge flasher, effective with its great finish line.

"Veronica's Knickers" - Julius: The funny exit sentence is a cherry to an effervescent, romantic flasher.

"The Question" - Jude Mason: Solid set-up, hilarious and wicked ending to this 100-word story.

Other stories:

"Laying Down the Law" - Keziah Hill; "A Race to the Finish" - J.Z. Sharpe; "A Little Help" - Nan Andrews; "Debra's Donuts" - Julius; "Mad Dogs" - Lisabet Sarai; "Kiki" - Jolie du Pré; "Drillers" - Dominic Santi; "My Dark and Empty Sky" - Teresa Wymore; "Boy Toy" - J.T. Benjamin; "Successor" - Amanda Earl; "Vegetable Medley" - Madelyne Ellis; "Dirty Velvet" - William Dean; "An Evening at Katzenspieler's" - Cervo; "Home Ice" - Tulsa Brown; "Groupie" - Lisabet Sarai; "Vixen 6.9" - Rachel McIntyre; "Maybe Next Time" - Michael Michele; "Punter" - Mike Kimera; "Lost and Found" - Dani Benjamin; "Grandmother's Inheritance" - Elizabeth Daniels; "A Good Haunting" - Amanda Earl; "Domestic Bliss" - Keziah Hill

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