Mind Caviar: The Literate Slut

"I don't want to live-- I want to love first, and live incidentally."

~ Zelda Fitzgerald (1900-1948)

Mind Caviar, Vol. 2 Anniversary Issue, 2001

Smart Reviews of Today's Hottest Books
by Cassandra Snow

Book A Journey Round a Darker Sun
By Simon Lowrie
Published in 2000 by 1st Books

After nearly half a decade spent working on his debut novel, Simon Lowrie has, indeed, hit the mark with A Journey Round a Darker Sun as he so masterfully lures the reader into a tantalizing and intricately-woven web of devotion, dominance and submission, friendship and obsession.

Never, in recent memory, have I encountered an erotic novel so intense nor quite so enveloping – for not only must the reader attempt to catch her breath while receiving her punishments at the hand of her master and train and discipline a serf of her own, but she must also bear the emotional burdens of various other exquisitely-drawn characters within whom she cannot help but to witness a reflection of herself.

Although the reader may tend, initially, to sympathize with one character in particular (or her perception of that character), those sympathies are guaranteed to shift time and time again. Nothing is static within the world Lowrie has created. Every moment is kinetic. And, the many shades of gray which emerge throughout are precisely that which drives the story as well as that which keeps the reader utterly enraptured.

Nevertheless, as with any work as powerful as A Journey Round a Darker Sun, reactions and responses to the story and its dynamics are certain to vary; and, Lowrie has, indeed, spun a tale in which it is impossible to define the lines between good and evil, love and hate… victim and protagonist.

Such delineation, if deemed necessary at all, Lowrie leaves to the reader.

“I wanted to write a book that would make people feel, and think, and turn them on. If my reader still remembers DarkSun a whole hour afterwards, I’ve done what I set out to do,” Lowrie explained in a discussion of this, his first release. “Precisely what they think and feel I leave to them, as it is not a writer’s business to intrude.”
In addition to providing insight into the psyches of the characters and the reader herself, A Journey Round a Darker Sun abounds with the pure yet primal eroticism to be found only within the embrace of dominance and submission.
According to Lowrie, “Anybody thinking of reading DarkSun should be aware of what it is. It’s erotica. I never compromised on this, or forgot what such books are for. People looking only for a good story risk being shocked and upset, and I don’t want that to happen. Even readers used to erotica might be disturbed to find d/s themes portrayed the way they are here, not because they are extreme – Claire is seldom given more than a hard spanking – but because they involve real people who just happen to live on paper and be made out of ink. Some bdsm folk disapprove of DarkSun; the action doesn’t flow from the cosy rules of ‘safe sane and consensual’, but from deeper wells than that. If there’s anybody left after reading this disclaimer, there’s a sporting chance they’ll enjoy it!”
Moreover, despite the author’s subtle modesty, the impact of and questions raised within A Journey Round a Darker Sun endure. And, upon turning the final page, the reader will find herself no longer able to view a number of humanity’s most basic needs and fears and loyalties in quite the same way.

A Journey Round a Darker Sun is truly a one-of-a-kind, masterfully-drawn, life-altering, erotic work. Brava, Dear Author, Brava!

book Embraces: Dark Erotica
Edited by Paula Guran 
ISBN 0-9673638-1-0
Published in 2000 
by Venus or Vixen Press

Embraces: Dark Erotica, a collection the likes of which have never before been witnessed, penetrates deeply into the core of the sub-consciousness, as it twists and writhes, propelling the soul along a blind road leading toward its most cavernous depths. Not for a moment does it loosen its grasp. 

Surprisingly enough, the tales woven within the volume are not necessarily as gory or “depraved” as one may anticipate. (Okay, perhaps a couple are.) Rather, they range a broad spectrum from the repulsive to the utterly beautiful, the surreal to the criminal – and back again. 

As editor Paula Guran writes in the introduction: 

“If you want unsurprising, comfortable ‘erotic horror,’ you’ve got the wrong book in your hands. Put this book down RIGHT NOW and move on or ship it back before you crack the binding and get fingerprints all over it…. But if you want something a little dangerous, stories that take a chance and – instead of opting for the safety of the now-accepted subgenre of ‘erotic horror’ – draw blood with writing that goes a step further, an inch deeper than before – read on.” (Introduction, p.ix) 
Indeed, the enigmatic sub-genre Guran has developed in the selection of works presented is utterly boundless, adamantly refusing to be contained. Hence, one may tend to experience a sense of disorientation while processing the images that emerge within the authors’ words and conceptions. Embraces is far more than intense or severe – it’s haunting.  In fact, nothing could be more difficult or futile than attempting to hold up a single work as representative of the collection. Each work is truly visionary in its own right and serves to illuminate a facet of the darkness encountered within the collection as a whole. 

Though some readers may find the tales more sexually charged than others, there is, without question, far more to Embraces than mere eroticism. The collection, as a vehicle for forging beyond cultural and individual limits, targets the depth of the psyche far more intensely than it does the loins. Yet, if erotic inspiration does arise, don’t hold back. A little stroking may heighten the impact of the collection to levels previously unknown. 

As all categorically-defined genres tend to become formulaic over time, the unprecedented nature of Embraces very well may serve to bring the collection to the forefront as a literary and cultural icon, opening the door for exploration and introspection by spinning horror, romance, sex, crime, religion and much more into a cohesive web of most vivid language. 

“To be effective,” Guran propounds, “both horror and the erotic must continue to find the door to the forbidden, subvert convention, go beyond formula and audience expectation; they should embrace the experimental. There’s nothing wrong with comfortable, reliable fiction any more than there’s anything wrong with plain old lights-out, missionary-position, straight sex. That may be enough to be enjoyable and satisfying… for some people or for some time. But good horror – like good sex – must find ways to go further and have a willingness to push beyond previous limits and remain vital and exciting.” (Introduction, p.xi) 
As is typically the case, one can count on similar editions (inspired by the collection) hitting the bookshelves over the next couple of years. Yet, ultimately, Embraces is certain to be credited and recognized as the visionary catalyst behind all that is yet to come. 

book Noirotica 3: Stolen Kisses
Edited by Thomas S. Roche 
ISBN: 1-892723-03-4 
Published by Black Books

Your heart pounds hard within your chest, its rhythm resounding loudly within your ears. Your breath hangs suspended for an eternal moment, and you begin to feel that incessant throbbing down low that, despite all efforts, proves impossible to ignore. Your palms begin to sweat.… Yes, Thomas S. Roche has done it again – this time with Noirotica 3: Stolen Kisses

Dangerously sexy, this, the third volume within the Noirotica series (a melding of crime noir and erotica), forges deeply into thedarkest of alleys, boldly taking what can only be obtained through the power, the force or the will necessary to make it one’s own. It is predatory; it is base. And, it’s within us all. 

Disagree if you wish, but we, by nature, are all depraved. No question about it. Each and every one of us craves the intensity of our primal urges. We revel within the danger that lurks at the heart of our desires and balance precariously on the brink of ecstasy as we contemplate the deeds of which we are capable in order to experience the rush to be found within the possession of and surrender to utter power and ultimate release. 

According to Roche, the link between the criminal and the erotic is innate, its presence inextricably woven within and throughout any society, even those futilely attempting to deny and suppress its power. It will forever be a part of us – enticing and seductive. 

“Crime and sexuality are made to go together, because they’re two forces, maybe the only two forces, which make their own rules and exist on their own terms in any society, no matter how restrictive that society may attempt to be. There will always be laws – as if they existed to be broken. And there will always be sexual repression. Which means that those who rebel against such repression – they have to fuck harder.” 

The scenes drawn within Noirotica 3 are far from those of a Utopian society. Rather, they are gritty, raw and downright dirty. The characters – whores, crime bosses, dirty cops and “a bisexual six-and-a-half-foot tall African-American ex-linebacker performance artist with enormous knockers and a baseball-bat dick” – are us. Indeed, within the heat of the moment, we become each and every one of them. 

Within Roche’s invitation to the reader, his voice resonates as it emerges from the darkness – the very depths we all have encountered within ourselves. 

“So, it’s your turn, reader. Enter the urban shadowlands, step into the darkened alley where desire breaks all boundaries and renders all social structures irrelevant. Where human laws are made null and void, because the law of the jungle prevails.... But don’t be surprised if it looks a little familiar – this darkened land is where you and your hungers live. It’s where we all go when the doors are closed, the lights are out, when the boss isn’t looking and the neighbors can’t hear. This dark alley is the stage for the 24/7 morality play that stars you and me and God and the Devil and everybody. It is a dangerous world, and a violent one, but it’s a world where the chance for redemption lies at the bottom of every sin.”
Book Reviews are copyright © 2001 Cassandra Snow. All rights reserved. Do Not Copy or Post. The Literate Slut is Copyright © 2001 Mind Caviar.

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