Sunday, June 11, 2006

Sex Meets Magic: “Garden of the Perverse” Rocks!

I always like an erotic story that does more than turn me on, although of course, the “wet test” is of crucial importance as well. I just finished the latest anthology in which my work appears—Garden of the Perverse: Fairy Tales for Twisted Adults, edited by Sage Vivant and M. Christian (if you know erotica, these are two big names)—and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s full of surprises, delights, magic and laughs. Each story does have something more to entertain and provoke thought as well as other more carnal reactions.

As someone who’s been on both sides of the anthology, as reader and contributor, I have to say that the limits of the fairy tale frame actually did encourage a playfulness that makes these stories richer, and it was fascinating to see how other writers tackled this. Of course, there is the naughty element of bringing adult sexuality into the type of story we associate with childhood, but most authors also have some fun with the form itself, the idea that fairy tales are supposed to teach correct behavior (or correct sexual technique), reward the good and punish the wicked (the definition of “wicked” is sometimes overturned), and enable the reader to project her own psychological trials and hope for transformation onto the magical world of make believe.

The book starts strong with Hilary Jaye’s “How Taiki Found His Wings” with its valuable lesson for us all--that it’s not always bad to be a cock tease! The momentum keeps going with Jason Rubis’ “Beauty Thrasher,” one of my favorite pieces in the book and exactly what you’d expect from an erotic fairy tale, ogresses and serving maids and mysterious doings in bedrooms at midnight with wandering princes and a magic flail that “thrashes out ugliness and leaves beauty” and an ending that makes you laugh but also leaves a sweet reminder of what really matters in the end. Who knew a spanking story could be so edifying?

Another favorite is Sharon Wachsler’s “Sappenschwester,” a very witty look at a young lesbian’s initiation by a series of teachers at a Women’s Collective house. I have to say I learned a few things myself. It also reminded me of an interesting tidbit from Timon Screech’s Sex and the Floating World, that masturbation in old Japan was also referred to as “laughing” and pornography was also dubbed “laughing pictures.” Combining two forms of amusement—sexual arousal and humorous pokes at society—is truly a double delight. “The Real Story of Strong John and Pretty Sue” by Bryn Haniver is another piece that offers good fun, good writing and irreverence. And of course, it’s no surprise that M. Christian’s riff on A Midsummer Night’s Dream would be both hilarious and hot. The encounter between Titania and Oberon’s downtrodden attorney, Sol, is probably the best sex scene in the book, although the competition is tough here.

While wit abounds, there were also plenty of stories with that dreamy, mysterious and definitely dangerous quality we all associate with fairy tales. “Cat’s Eye” by Lisabet Sarai explores the nature of the animal urge and the very human conflict between individual desire and social conformity, all in the loveliest prose you could ask for. “Pipe of Thorns” by Remittance Girl takes you on a journey to an opium den where you not only get a taste of a forbidden and dangerous world, you see justice served to a man who takes desire too far. Ouch.

The anthology ends strongly and ultimately happily, with Sage Vivant’s “The Maiden of Grand Proportions.” This one lingered with me, perhaps because it touches a universal chord in all women. Why indeed are we all afraid of the real over media-created artifice and fantasy? And how interesting that a fairy tale would bring this question home so effectively….

So, yes, I have a story in this anthology, and I don’t claim to be objective, but it’s also true that I rarely feel so transported, entertained and stimulated in body and mind by a work of fiction. I definitely recommend this book. And I’d recommend you tally up your favorites and ask yourself why. That would be another journey worth taking in itself.