Anonymous Sex. Scribner, 2022. 368 pp. ISBN 9781982177522. $18.00
This is sort of the literary equivalent of a zipless fuck–instead of an anonymous stranger having their way with you, a group of literary authors share dirty stories, leaving the reader to only guess at who wrote which lascivious tale. It’s both intriguing and a little bit of a cop-out.
As a collection, the stories are well-written, but not necessarily any better than one of Susie Bright’s best erotica anthologies, because by definition, erotica has to be sensuous, sensual, and with exquisitely rendered sensory detail. There are perhaps more stories that end on a poignant note, and the collection is more literary, with characters that discuss Rilke and modern art. Stories are prefaced by poetry, peppered with allusions, and seasoned with phrases in foreign languages (“Post coitum omne animalium triste est“). The stories cover first times, online hookup sex, group sex, prison sex, hate sex, infrequent married sex.
In “History Lesson,” a historian has a Same Time Next Year BSDM affair with a colleague at the annual conference they both attend. In “Find Me,” a historical tale of an arranged marriage between a widow and a rancher; on her way to meet her new husband to be, Eloise is seduced by a train-robbing stranger in a bear coat on the train. There is a hot retelling of Rapunzel, a horny middle-aged teacher grappling with the sexual life of her teeenaged daughter, In one rather meta tale, the narrator opens with wondering if the other included authors will recognize her story, implying she’s been involved with one of them–in another, the characters discuss how no one writes about real sex, sometimes boring and awkward and mundane and disappointing–but they will.
There are (unintentional?) motifs as well: planes and trains feature in several tales, as does clockwatching during sex. Rapunzel comes up twice, Shakespeare multiple times. While multicultural and set all over the world, no stories focus on trans, plus-size, disabled, or neurodiverse characters, though there is an elderly gentleman reminiscing (which I would not define as elder sex). Still, this is a nice addition for a personal or library collection.
I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #AnonymousSex from #NetGalley.