Can't Get Enough: Erotica for Women
Edited by Tenille Brown
Cleis Press, 2014
“Too much is never enough”. That's the title Tenille Brown chose for her introduction to this anthology, and it sums up the theme quite nicely. This is a book of stories about sexual insatiability, about lust that can't be denied and sometimes can't even be satisfied, for more than a few minutes at least. The characters in these stories get plenty of sex, plenty of pleasure, sometimes plenty of delicious pain as well, but it's never sufficient.
How well do the tales in this volume explicate this theme? As usual, some are more effective than others. At the top of my list is Preston Avery's amazing “Won't Last the Week”. The narrator meets the woman of his dreams at a party. They spend the night on the beach, so entranced by one another that they forget to exchange phone numbers.
She isn't skinny like the girls I usually go for, like my ideal “on paper” woman, but curved and soft and she fits me just right. Her breasts are big with a delicious slope to them, and I know they will overflow my grasp. I could bury my face in the valley between them and never come up for air. I could have seconds and thirds and fourths of her and die a gluttonous happy man. She does everything I lead her into. I don't ask – words are still lost to us. The first time I lower one of my hands to those gorgeous mounds, hidden between a thin blue cotton shirt, she doesn't protest of push me away- she arches into me, into my touch, and makes the most beautiful noise in her throat. That moment, those moments, are all that I can feel. The future is as unreal to me as a unicorn on the planet Saturn. That place where names and phone numbers matter is at least a world away.
As the week goes on, dreams and fantasies of the lost woman consume the narrator's life. Will he somehow manage to find her? Or will he go mad with need and frustration? The beautiful urgency of this story left me in wet wonder.
Another highly apt contribution is Kissa Starling's cautionary tale “Blue Balls”. A young man too busy with his career to pursue a relationship receives a pair of mysterious blue balls from the gypsy he consults for advice. The balls provide instant orgasms, of such intensity and delight that the protagonist soon finds himself neglecting all other aspects of his life in the quest for ever increasing pleasure.
“Before They Burn” by Beatrix Ellroy is a delicious tale of power and surrender, as a party guest teaches the hostess in the kitchen just how much she loves to be dominated. As he brings her down from her orgasm and allows her to take the cookies from the oven, he tells her: “Next time, Orya, I will take my time with you.”
In Giselle Renarde's exquisite “The Girl on Your Skin”, a lesbian couple with an explicitly open relationship discover that the scent of a casual lover on one of their bodies creates a virtual three-some, kindling a whole new kind of desire.
The editor's own contribution, “Famous Last Words”, is notable for its clever and insightful portrayal of “break up sex”. It's not necessary to love someone, or even to like them, to be swept away by lust for their bodies. In fact, one of the aspects of this entire book that I particularly liked was the fact that not all its stories end happily. Stupendous orgasms are not necessarily the key to long term happiness.
On the other hand, they're not something to be rejected, either.
Given the title, I expected Ms. Brown's story to be the last in the collection. However, that place belongs to Annabeth Leong's incredibly perverse “Objects of Desire”. Once again, Ms. Leong articulates sexual complexities that few other authors would even recognize. This tale of shame, need and kitchen utensils is one of the kinkiest – and most insightful – things I've read in months. It made me squirm, which I have to believe was the author's intention.
I've only mentioned the stories that particularly grabbed me, but overall, Ms. Brown has assembled a solid collection of erotic fiction, with considerable diversity in tone, content and gender pairings. I believe this may be her first time editing an anthology. She can afford to be proud of the result.