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Review: Rachel Kramer Bussel, “Spanked: Red Cheeked Erotica”

Spanked: Red-Cheeked Erotica

"[…] I love what we're doing, but I'm getting confused. I'm having a
hard time telling the truth where the truth ends and the play-acting
begins. Sometimes we act like a regular couple and do normal couple-y
things; sometimes we have really fun, playful sex. And then sometimes
we get into this other thing. […]"


Andy Ohio's "Tied Down"

So, like, what's up with that other thing? More to the point: Were you in a playful mood the last time you had sex with someone?

I'm not talking about "playful" as in "kittenish," much less "monkeying" or "horsing" around. (Save your human/animal roleplay jokes for now, m'kay?)

I'm talking about the state of mind that has to do with gleeful improvisation, glistening wetness and gleaming smiles, glowing pleasure in the moment and getting a grip on (or getting gripped by) a willing partner.

The latest book to remind me of that delightful state, that pleasant periphery in which ludic languor lives, is Rachel Kramer Bussel's anthology of short stories. (Full disclosure: I received a review copy in exchange for a promise to write a review and post it to the book's Amazon.com listing.)

Each story is not just a rude and randy recitation of body-part motion-capture that one might plot on a graph with as little difficulty as one might play buzzword bingo with nearly any politician's boilerplate address.

It's also not just a collection of completely unlikely or implausible scenarios (airplane bathrooms, department-store dressing rooms, college classrooms, graveyards, etc.). It's called wishful thinking, not fantastic (in that other sense of the word) thinking. Maybe it's just my own imagination, but situations where a few words gone awry result in a gauntlet thrown down and then taken up sound not just likely, but like good ideas (as in Thomas S. Roche's "Pre-Party" and Kramer Bussel's own "The Depths of Despair").

It's why I'm willing to go along with Shanna Germain's "Perfect Bound" with its library-look protagonist, bookstore-cum-flytrap setting and delightfully unexpected uses for certain old-school office supplies, or Alison Tyler's "Betty Crocker Gone Bad," which turns a domestic quirk into the kind of escapade that might get left on a cable-cooking-show cutting-room floor, or Madeline Glass' "Laser Tag," which makes the best out of bad behavior at a concert and the resulting cute-meat meet-cute.

By the time you've dropped in on the grownups-go-back-to-high-school scenario of Madlyn March's "Reunion," the barn settings (yes, if you must, perhaps now's the time for your roleplay jokes) of Thomas Christopher's "Riding the Storm" and L. Elise Bland's "The Breeding Barn," you're probably several turns of the screw into certain physical symptoms that result from the consumption of well-written erotica. You probably won't even mind the workplace-turnabout triptych of Fiona Locke's "Pink Cheeks," Laura Bacchi's "Page By Page" and Simon Sheppard's "Fiscal Discipline."

Make a point of checking this book out wherever you get your hands on it, and you'll soon concur that the only thing better than bending over a well-told tale is, well, bending over a well-toiled-over tail.

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