Like many people with an online presence, not to mention our ever-vigilant government, I am secretly watching you. Yes, you, the visitors to my blog and my web site. The data is interesting if not surprising. For example, visits to my web site skyrocket the day one of my stories appears in Clean Sheets. Another statistic I could have predicted: ten people choose my erotica page for every one who takes the literary route.
Now, I’m a little bit sad about that, but not for the reason you think. You see, my “literary” stories are jam-packed with sex, too. Not as explicit perhaps, but sly suggestion and clever euphemism can be just as powerful as letting it all hang out. “Somebody’s Lying,” which appeared first in Zoetrope: All-Story’s online magazine, is about phone sex and the erotic life of three sisters. “Hot Spring,” the story that garnered a special mention in Pushcart Prize Stories 2004, has two steamy sex scenes, and you don’t really have to use your imagination all that much. “Presidential Dreams” includes a dream about Bill Clinton—and what, pray tell, could that involve but sex, sex, sex? “Courtesan with a Lover,” picked up by The Gettysburg Review, is about an American who worked as a bar hostess in Japan and her present affair with a middle-aged American businessman. Can you say “erotic titillation,” “flirtation,” or “lots of sex scenes in this one, too, for sure”? And even sweet, nostalgic “Fruit,” the story I show my kids’ teachers, concludes with a couple in bed, playing a sexy game.
Of course, I like to think all of my stories are about more than just sex, that they touch upon broader themes and make you think, rather than just feel (although making a reader feel something genuine is usually much harder than engaging mere interest). I have an essay coming out this fall with no sex at all, although it does have death in it, that other great theme of literature. It’s about how a drug company murdered my mother for money and you can bet John Ashcroft won’t want you reading that one either. What those men did to countless innocent diabetics in the name of their stock portfolios was truly obscene.
Sure, I can do serious, everyone-keeps-their-clothes-on stories and essays, if I want. I just haven’t wanted to very much. So far. And, though I do have a numerical count of the people who check out my online offerings, I have no clue why you are doing it and what you want from it. The sex or the something more? In a sense, it’s like my stories. I follow what fascinates me and hope to make a connection with an audience. Some people do write emails or speak kind words at public readings, but for the most part, my readers are shadows. Dreams.
Well, it’s getting late and I told myself I’d be in bed by eleven. Sweet dreams to you all.