“The Body Artist” by Don DeLillo (Scribner, 2002)

The Body Artiststar

The Body Artist cannot really be called a novel (and barely a novella) with a total of 126 pages and a font size of fifteen or more, but for its shortness I’m glad.  “She rubbed in the cream to remove wastepapery skin in flakes and scales and little rolling boluses that she like to hold between her fingers and imagine, unmorbidly, at the cell death of something inside her.”

The book is full of these exhortations on life and humanity that serve more to annoy and aggravate than to enlighten and impress.  Lauren Hartke is the body artist of the title, her husband committed suicide, and she is now spending time in this cottage by the sea where it seems she is steadily losing her mind, even though her intention is to reorganize her life.  A teenager of some sort suddenly appears in her life, whom she names Mr. Tuttle after one of her high school teachers, for the boy is retarded in some way and unable to make cognizant sense, much like little Nell.  The result is a novel that simply defies any sense of logic and affords the reader very little enjoyment.

Originally published on May 13th 2002.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“Best American Erotica 2002” edited by Susie Bright (Touchstone, 2002)

Best American Erotica 2002starstarstar

This is probably the first official erotic book I’ve ever read; at least it is the first I’m admitting to having read, and while I was expecting this collection of basically heterosexual erotica, I was surprised to discover this and more, as well as various stories of a homosexual nature – both lesbian and gay.  In this context then, being a full-blown heterosexual male, I was not expecting like all the stories in this collection, and yet I did.

You know what: some erotic is really well written!  They are a lot like normal stories, except that they center on sex; as a matter of fact, some of the stories are really great.  Erotica is a genre that is often looked down upon for the simple reason that, like the porn movie industry, the stories are expected to have little plot and focus greatly in detail on the central sexual act or acts of the story.  But it is really quite the opposite.  All these characters are full and complete, they have real lives just like anyone else, except that – like a lot of regular fiction – they have something fantastic happen to them, and in erotica it tends to be of a sexual nature.  Enough chitchat, on to the stories.

“In “Joe” surprising sexual happenings take place in a detox clinic.  In Francesca Lia Block’s “Mer” the reader is taken into an unusual relationship between a surfer and a mermaid where aquatic fantasies ensue.  In Ernie Conrick’s “Backhand” we are in the mind of Anna Kournikova (fiendishly hidden behind the pseudonym of Anna Gramovitch) as she reveals her wet, slippery fantasies involving the other female tennis stars, and then finally gives into temptation with her mentor, Martina Navratilova.

Edited by Susie Bright, known for her work with erotica and the author of How to Write a Dirty Story, she has written seventeen bestselling books on sexuality and erotica and has been called “The X-Rated Intellectual” by the San Francisco ChronicleThe Best American Erotica 2002 is a book for simply everyone, whether you fully admit to liking erotica or not, whether you’re male or female, hetero- or homosexual.  Try it.  Be daring.  I guarantee you’ll enjoy it.

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Originally published on May 6th 2002.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.