Pyrotextual

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Wanting to capitalize on America’s puritanical and parochial attitudes when it comes to the world of sex, J. H. Blair, editor of Hot Spots, has strung together 46 erotic excerpts from contemporary fiction, designed to light our collective fires. Whether the whole necklace delivers its libidinal charge or not will matter less than the quickening pleasure of stumbling onto a sublime page, only minutes ago anodyne and slack, a mere face in a crowd, and just now beading with erotic tension — “a cross grain of fear and ruin,” as Don DeLillo calls the act.

Detachable motor parts, these formations of pleasure, alphabetically organized according to their authors’ names, run the gamut from being fist-fucked by an overweight Sappho in a downtown loft to hetsex in an opulent Buffalo hotel, to not doing much of anything out in the Western desert, with perhaps a manic romp in a tub thrown in for demographic parity, if being skewered by a (homo)cidal john drugged to the gills qualifies as said “romp.”

At its worst, this urban Kama Sutra (do yourself a favor and skip the insufferable “Cliffs Notes” preface) rehashes the monotony of sex with the impoverished ugliness of its cliché imagery (“wet mango with a narrow gash,” “a scoop of guava sorbet”) bound to gag you quicker than any deep-throat action. Whether the dicks are “vivid fuchsia” or bent “like a beer can,” we hunger for something more psychic and language-y as in Rikki Ducornet: “How far the word ‘desire’ goes! How it tugs us along! … How it lights our path.” Although Lydia Lunch’s scream-perfect Sadean scene — coke, noose, “post-fuck sleep” and all — will have its ardent supporters, no doubt.

“Looking at myself in that mirror, I’d thought fleetingly, but with pleasure, of a dry, abandoned field set on fire by a homely little girl,” says the narrator in Michigan author Laura Kasischke’s “Suspicious River.” It is precisely when the erotic imagination jolts us from our manic pursuit and we simply get lost in a good story, forgetting the silly trick behind the whole project, that the endless reinvention of sex can make us surrender and lose our heads.

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