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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Dying For It: Tales of Sex and Death.

It wouldn’t be too strong of an overstatement to say I dreaded reading this collection of erotica. I didn’t know for sure what to expect, but I suspected it was either stories about necrophilia, or just as bad, story after story of women murdered during sex. Or that the stories, like most erotica, would be unbearable hackneyed.

This dread didn’t lessen with reading the first story, either, although I was relieved to see neither necrophilia nor misogyny factored into it. The story itself, though, about a Muslim woman and a white man joining the Mile High club on the hijacked September 11th flight from Boston to L.A. left me cold. Maybe I’m just not ready to view the events of that day as acceptable jack off fodder.

The collection, edited by Mitzi Szereto, improved greatly after that first dreadful story, and although it does cover murder stories (Szereto’s own contribution, “It’s All Right, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” is a naughtily delightful story about a woman who’s had it up to here with her husband’s mid-life crisis), the stories also deal with grief and love. The tales range from hilarious, from Roberta Beach Jacobson’s “Woman-in-a-Box,” the torrid, yet poignant love between a man and his blowup doll, to spooky, Lauren Henderson’s modern Scottish retelling of Bluebeard, “His Last Duchess.” And of course, there are many, many ghost stories.

This collection does the genre right, focusing on the story line in as great a detail as the graphic sex scene, and refusing to forgo the careful building of well-crafted sentences in favor of the cheap and quick one-handed read, more Anais Nin than the dreadful Herotica series, whose terrible, amateurish prose generally leaves the reader more irritated than titillated.

While the Gothesque theme of sex with a death twist (or death with a sex twist) may not leave too many people hot and bothered, the stories themselves are strong enough to be enjoyed on their own merits on a gloomy rainy day.


Originally published at the Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society

Dying for It: Tales of Sex and Death
Edited by Mitzi Szereto
March, 2006 by Thunder’s Mouth Press
Paperback, 390pp.
ISBN: 1-56025-857-8

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