THE BEST AMERICAN EROTICA 2004
One need only look to the rapid growth of the chick-lit genre and the proliferation of such titles as Rachel Greenwald's Find a Husband After 35 Using What I Learned at Harvard Business School (Ballantine) and John T. Molloy's Why Men Marry Some Women and Not Others (Warner) to know that there's one thing that's never far from many people's minds—relationships (or their lack thereof). As the average marrying age increases, more and more singles are seeking guidance on sex, dating, love and marriage, and the publishing industry has pumped out plenty of books to quench this thirst. There are books on how to love Goomba style, how to reenter the dating scene after a failed marriage, how to browse the Web for "the one" and even how dog lovers can use their furry friends to fetch the love of their life. But how does one navigate this sea of relationship-centered books?
Here PW reviews titles being published between December 2003 and February 2004 that will be of the most interest to readers come Valentine's Day, whether they're looking for love, hoping to renew the spark in a relationship or celebrating their singledom.
Variations on the standard hook-up fantasy alternate with stories based on more elaborate, imaginative conceits in this year's edition of Bright's annual collection. One of the most amusing offerings is David R. Enoch's "Sex in Space: The Video," in which an astronaut seeks public revenge when his libidinous space lover cheats on him with another astronaut. John Yohe offers a more earthbound erotic turn in "They're for My Husband" when a woman takes her cross-dressing spouse shopping for lingerie, only to team up with the female sales clerk for an unexpected exercise in humiliation. More cutting humor is on display in James Strouse's "Joanie," in which a chubby 16-year-old girl finds a novel way to rebel against her parents when she is sent to feed the tropical fish of her father's out-of-town coworker. Magazine writer Touré chips in with a snappy piece of sex talk poetry titled "The Guest," and Broadway star Alan Cumming tells the story of a coke-fueled romp that ends in tears; other contributors include Geoffrey Landis, Jerry Stahl and Maggie Estep. Some entries disappoint with by-the-numbers plotting, but the quality of the writing is generally high, and Bright's quick-hit format offers plenty of instant gratification. (Feb. 3)