Mind Caviar Erotic Book Reviews

"My home is where my books are."

~ Ellen Thompson (1909)

Mind Caviar, Vol. 4 Annual Issue, 2003

Meet Our 2003 Literate Sluts:
DarkLady & Alexander Renault

What makes a person worthy of being a Mind Caviar Literate Slut? Only a fabulous author who appreciates the finest work in his/her genre may have the honor.You know, someone who-- in a pinch-- would willingly stand on any busy intersection wearing a hand-scrawled sign that reads "Will Work For Books". We also look for those writers who know how to appreciate the best writings on food, sex, literature and art-- Mind Caviar's favorite topics of indulgence. Our Literate Sluts tell you what is the best of the best and just what makes it so.

Alexander Renault
Alexander Renault relaxing at his desk
DarkLady -- Sex Writer/Activist
Alexander Renault's award-winning work has appeared in The International Journal of Erotica, The Erotica Reader's & Writer's Association, Velvet Mafia, Scarlet Letters, Ophelia's Muse and Mind Caviar and other publications. His column "Inside Out" appears at Beefyboyz.com. His work is scheduled to appear in a number of anthologies including Hot Biker Tales and Villains & Vixens. His extensive non-fiction sexuality essays and interviews with sex activists and sex writers are archived at his site. Visit his site to read more essays and book reviews.

DarkLady is a gonzo sex writer who has been called "an ice breaker in a sea of phony intellectuals." Writing about and living within the porn, BDSM and poly communities, her work has appeared in magazines including Leg World, Taboo, AVN, AVN Online, Hustler Erotic Video Guide, Fetish, Gauntlet, and Exotic, and online for Good Vibrations, Technodyke and Adult Buzz. Visit her online at her frequently updated and content-rich personal site.

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But I know What You Want...
Twenty-Five Sex Tales for the Different
by James Williams
Greenery Press, 2003
Paperback, 160 pages
USD $13.95
ISBN: 189015945X 
Reviewed by Alexander Renault

Each of James Williams's twenty-five tales is well-crafted prose that reads as if the collection were written by several different authors. This makes for a pleasurable and dynamic journey. Williams' work is unselfconscious in its exploration of sexual limits, all told from multiple points of view, genders, and sexual orientations.

You can almost picture the author's face, a shade of blue in front of the computer screen at 3:00 A.M., a cigarette smoldering in the ashtray next to an empty shot glass. With surprising patience, Williams conjures up some marvelous sexual iconography and archetypes. "A Poor Fool" explores the deeper meaning behind men who worship leather and those who don it.  He also shows insight that has obviously been learned through experience.

"The Magic Mirror" drops us in the middle of a completely different psychosexual landscape of obsession, transparent concepts of time, and the mystery of mercurial sexuality. "Cages: A Three-Part Invention" was first published at Mind Caviar and is disturbing in the tradition of the Zen master's slap of a ruler against the exposed skin of the startled student. It wakes you up from the sluggishness and blasé attitude of modern day living and pulls you into the present moment. 

Williams also obviously loves to make us squirm although he would undoubtedly deny it. By the time you are halfway through his collection you will want to sit down and have a chat with the author to find out what makes him tick. The encounter would be gravely disappointing because while you fished for insight into the creativity of the writer, he would most likely not let you in even if he could.

"I and Thou" is easily the most inflammatory of the collection, particularly at a time when erotica is gaining ground as a legitimate genre (whatever that means). Detractors of pornography often harp about the psychological dangers of after-the-fact consent in literary erotica (in the tradition of Pat Califia's notorious short story "The Birthday Surprise" from Macho Sluts), but Williams's piece ups the ante by withholding consent completely and using violence. We are left with jangled nerves like heated electric wires while the author's words move like hysterical nails across the chalkboard of our sensibilities.

I agree with Califia in her introduction that "[Williams] is exploring some uncomfortable questions about the exercise of force as an of not censoring himself, and also Greenery Press for not disrupting the creative process by deleting material that may make some people uncomfortable. Let's not get stuck here.

I defy anyone who might say that "Goddess" does not capture the archetypes of Mistress and Slave to a perfect pitch and cadence. Literal blood has always been understood by women because of their intimate rhythmic contact with the substance through menses, yet Williams does not shy away from using it as a symbol of shared energy.

Williams's life experiences must be vast since he writes from a point of well-controlled authority. There exists not a single passage in which we can detect a lag, a moment of indifference or hesitation. We are fully taken along for the ride and But I Know What You Want is erotica at its most dangerous and delicious.

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Speaking Parts: Provocative Lesbian Erotica
by M. Christian
Alyson Publications, 2002
Paperback,  219 pages
USD $13.95
ISBN: 155583700X
Reviewed by DarkLady

 What the hell can a straight man understand about lesbians? Well, if "honorary lesbian" M. Christian's new collection of woman lovin' woman erotica is any example, quite a lot. As Carol Queen points out in her forward to Christian's latest anthology, his sexuality might best be described as "writer," so any erotic work is fair game for him when you really think about it.

Throughout Speaking Parts - as well as his other erotic works - one thing is consistent. Christian is a storyteller. Sex is not the goal of his stories, it is not the end of his tales, it is not the reason one picks up and reads an M. Christian story. Connection is his goal -- communication about the mundane, the trivial, the monumental, the unexpected. Each short story is an exploration into some form of viscera, some element of the emotional landscape. You don't have to be a lesbian to understand the bone-wracking poignancy of abandonment felt by the heroine in "The House of the Rising Sun." There's no need to be a black stripper like Taja in "The After Hours" to know that context adds meaning to sex and violence. Whether Christian places his lovers in familiar or alien landscapes, the only topography he truly wants to explore is the hidden world of emotional and intellectual states - which manifest themselves in actions, including sex. Each story delicately separates the tissues of its characters' humanity in order to get to the tasty bits inside, to answer the question "how did we get to this point" and then - just to fuck with you - they make you wonder what happens after the story ends. After all, our lives don't end once we're finished coming, so why should these paper thin lives that can cut so deeply into our own?

Although unquestionably erotic, Christians' Speaking Parts speak of more than just love, lust, damn pussies, and tangy tongues - they speak to the genderless commonality that unifies all sexual beings. This collection is
hot stuff for anyone with a heart that beats, a pulse that points, a mind that questions, and a spirit that yearns.

Oh, and the hot chica/chica sex is pretty good, too.

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Seven Sweet Things: A Novella With Recipes
by Shaun Levin
Published by Knowledge Mine Solutions, Ltd., 2003
Paperback, 144 pages
USD $15.00
ISBN: 0954379632 

Reviewed by Alexander Renault

After starting Levin’s transcendent Seven Sweet Things before bedtime I found myself unable to put the book down. Now I know what to get my closest friends for Christmas this year.  The following day I had a “love hangover,” (you know-- when you are emotionally jarred but feel wide open), that reminded me of earlier moments in my life, times when obsession and sacred sex made my blood boil--  the days when anything was possible and returning again would be both a blessing and a curse. Reading Shaun Levin's book ruined an entire night’s sleep and corrupted my concentration the following day.

One of the universal experiences explored in the book is obsessive love. Levin’s writing at times borders on poetry and his descriptions of difficult subjects are brave and unflinching.  His use of erotic description and imagery hangs in that twilight between sizzling erotica and the ethereal sublime as he explores the pervasiveness of romantic and sexual obsession.

It is fitting that some of this book has been previously published online at Mind Caviar. Recipes are interspersed throughout the book and its subtitle is “A Novella With Recipes.”  We find instructions for cakes, fudge, cookies.  Levin draws a superb analogy between food and other forms of sustenance-- spiritual, emotional, and sexual.  This also relates to the nourishment of mother’s milk as Levin creates parallels between food and love that are incredibly raw in their combination of innocence and insight.

The protagonist’s careful descriptions of the creation of food is reminiscent of Eastern mindfulness. Levin knows that the baker is shaman, the modern alchemist.  Also the sexual connection of oily food and bodies sticky and flushed with shared heat is gripping. The narrator performs a sensual trick with hot tea but you will have to buy the book to find out what he does with it. It is quite creative!

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After Hours: A Collection of Erotic Writing by Black Men
Edited by Robert Fleming
Published by Plume, 2002
Paperback, 256 pages
USD $14.00
ISBN: 0452283329

Reviewed by DarkLady

Editor Robert Fleming has collected together a truly wonderful selection of erotica that moves beyond many preconceptions - about both what makes literature erotic and how black men live, love, and express desire. The nineteen stories contained within the pages of After Hours runs the gamut from wildly sexual to absolutely innocent.

Whereas critically acclaimed writer Jervey Tervalon's lovesick hero slides his cock effortlessly into his "Twisted" lover's ass, award-winning novelist Charles Johnson's heroine confronts "Cultural Relativity" that denies her the opportunity to slip her prince the tongue. Yet both are astonishingly stimulating to both the mind and the genitals. And both linger in the memory like an insidious fragrance.

Fleming's collection succeeds in further liberating black men from the racial stereotypes that have held them in social bondage long after the 13th Amendment freed them from legal slavery. Whereas "Birth of a Nation" depicted the lust of African males as an unholy, irrepressible, vicious force devoid of intelligence or morality - a form of racial slander that some rap and hip hop artists have embraced as a form of rebellion custom designed to make the ghosts of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks weep, After Hours reminds readers that a man of any race can be passionate, loving, adventurous, responsible, mistaken, confused, obsessed, aroused, frightened, tender, rough, or many other perfectly human adjectives. Imagine that. Everything old is new again.

As with nearly any anthology, there are stronger and there are weaker points, but as an overall offering, After Hours is fine, fine, fine.

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Sacred Exchange: Stories of Spirituality and Transcendence in Dominance and Submission
Edited by Lisabet Sarai, S. F. Mayfair
Published by Blue Moon Books, 2003
Paperback,  272 pages
USD $14.95
ISBN: 1562013475

Reviewed by Alexander Renault

Sacred Exchange is a journey down a dark, yet insightful path. This is not often the case in literary explorations of D/S (dominance and submission).  Easily one of the most misunderstood yet fascinating aspects of human sexuality, this close associate of S/M (sadomasochism) is much maligned by those who do not understand its theatrical nature.  Sacred Exchange explores this Jungian shadow in a straightforward, unapologetic tone.

Sarai and Mayfair set the tone for their collection in each of their outstanding introductions.  Sarai notes the mainstreaming of sadomasochistic images with, “Advertising has popularized sadomasochistic stereotypes.  Buxom black-leather-clad vixens in stiletto heels help to sell everything from liquor to breath mints.”

 Sarai then takes it a step further into the realm of transcendence:

Yielding complete power over one’s body to another requires a degree of trust often missing in a “vanilla” sexual relationship.  Accepting the gift of such surrender demands honesty and a profound sense of responsibility.The intensity of emotional and sensation generated by this exchange of trust is difficult to imagine, or describe.  You’ll hear talk of connection, communion, revelation, vision, transcendence, enlightenment, bliss.
Mayfair likewise treats the topic with respect and proffers, “[These stories] recount a moment when the mundane becomes sacred, a point when some paradigm shifts.”  Here Mayfair pays homage to the cathartic elements of certain brands of sexual interacting. 

The editors did a fine job of choosing writers who best explore this world of S/M and D/S.  The collection starts out strong with Anne Tourney’s “Come To Me, Dark Man,” a not too over-the-top tale of passionate submission before we are plunged into Netzach Stern’s “Martin’s Reward.”  Here we have a story that made me queasy with the protagonist’s propensity for using a sharp scalpel on her love object. 

Simon Sheppard’s “Saint Valentine Was A Martyr, You Know” is easily one of the least self-conscious pieces involving gay male S/M ever published.  Sheppard is smooth and his story gives one the feeling of peeking into someone’s bedroom at 3:00 A.M.  Master storyteller M. Christian’s “Moving” captures the emotional bond between playmates while S.F. Mayfair’s own contribution “White Coyote” is an ethereal shamanistic study of the limits of sexual adoration.  Andrea Dale’s “Return to Wildwood” is a well-crafted romp while with “Empty me.  Fill me,” L. Bachu demonstrates that a good writer can create intense ambiance with few words. 

I am compelled to report that my S/M and D/S cultural competency is lacking and I was uncomfortable with some of the physical violence.  Parts of Tim Bough’s “The Most Important Right Now” made me feel queasy and light-headed, but for those interested in well-written tales of S/M and D/S, Sacred Exchange is certainly an unforgettable collection.

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The Bachelor Machine
by M. Christian
Published by Green Candy Press, 2003
Paperback,  270 pages
USD $14.95
ISBN: 1931160163

Reviewed by Alexander Renault

M. Christian has done it again-- even better this time. The Bachelor Machine is a supremely creative work of sexual fiction.  Man and woman and machine, the futuristic components of each story stretch the imagination to levels that are at times difficult to fathom. From a creative angle, M. Christian’s varying worlds consist of an array of new and fascinating products and technologies: compressed crystal matrix explosives, tailored mutagenic bacteria, forced geometries and inversion fields, neurofacilitators, and biostatus support cradles.  It pulls you straight in. 

The Bachelor Machine starts out strong with “State.”  This is no frivolous or quaint sex story-- a female prostitute disguises herself as a deluxe sex machine.  Within this story the word “State” describes state-of-the-art technology but the word is also related to altered states of consciousness.  The complexity of her experiences is astounding: she is perceived by men to be a machine and thus perfect; she is allowed a rare clandestine glimpse into unselfconscious male sexuality because her customer believes she is artificial; her inhibitions are (almost) set free; the man believes that his work-for-hire prostitute has no memory, so he does not have to worry about making any embarrassing mistakes.

At one point the woman perceives “a whiff of the metal tang of his excitement.”  This is supremely ironic since the customer is human and the woman notices the odor of the biochemical reaction of the hormone release of his sexual arousal.  Who is really the machine here?  These are also psychosexual territories few of us have ever been before, with the futuristic variables, and that is what makes the book so exciting and readable.

One of my favorite stories in the collection is “Bluebelle.”  Bluebelle is an airborne police patrol cycle shaped like a woman.  The driver straddles her back.  The bizarreness of the tale comes from the alarming fact that the driver not only has sex with her, but their conversations reveal their emotional support and encouragement of one another, even in the line of duty.  It seems to be an almost natural extension of a driver’s love for his own car, motorcycle, boat, or airplane-- but with a few twists.

When M. Christian’s characters come to life in his sometimes disturbing yet gripping collection, we are faced with some difficult questions and unnerving involuntary responses: what does it mean to seek sexual intimacy with a creature that has no consciousness?  Why are descriptions of these interactions so stimulating?  We are faced with the impossible task of identifying ourselves-- who are we?  Are we more human in comparison to these sometimes perfect, sometimes banal, machines or is the notion of sexual intimacy with a machine a cop out, just masturbation by remote control?

Immortality is another big question when humans become a combination of brain and electrical/mechanical accessories for failed organs, limbs, or tears in the skin.  One of the most ambitious and thought provoking tales is “The New Motor.”  This machine is “the Physical Savior of the Race, The New Messiah . . . the New Motor!”  The “Mechanical Messiah, Clockwork Jesus, Divine Device, Holy Contraption,” is designed to save the world and all its inhabitants.

At the close of his book, M. Christian leaves you with an eerie feeling of bewilderment. This feeling is not so much fear of the future, or of machines, but how we feel about how we define ourselves at the present time. M. Christian has certainly sparked my interest in this genre, and I only hope he has not spoiled me. 

Reviews Copyright © 2002 Alexander Renault and DarkLady, respectively. All Rights Reserved. Do not copy or post in whole or in part. 

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