cover image In the Box Called Pleasure

In the Box Called Pleasure

Kim Addonizio. F2c, $12.95 (150pp) ISBN 978-1-57366-081-5

Eroticism fraught with danger, violence and a fragile redemptive possibility infuses poet Addonizio's (The Philosopher's Club) collection of short fiction. In 22 stories, slim hopes for sexual satisfaction and true love are overshadowed by the troubled pasts and messy entanglements that plague the characters' lives. Women seem to bear the brunt of their lovers' (and their own) addictions, loneliness, rage and obsessions, and even while many of these female characters are defined by an undeniable ""survivor"" instinct, they also exhibit a na vet and a desperate hope that sex will save them. Sexpot bartender Angel in ""The Fall of Saigon"" betrays seething, lovelorn thief Dennis with a guy who rides a Harley, never knowing how close she has come to provoking a homicide. Similarly, Fran, the narrator of three linked tales, prefers Sasha's rough, sadistic lovemaking to Loren's gentle ways, and winds up losing both men. In ""The Gift,"" a woman finds a realistic dildo on the street and takes it home. She falls asleep and awakens transformed into a man feeling the raging lust of her new appendage, but she quickly discovers that enhanced power comes with unbearable vulnerability. Other tales feature two men dying of AIDS, a young mother unable to cope with her daughter, and myriad couplings involving liquor, hotel rooms and cruelty. While the characters' problems are varied (alcoholism, sexual obsessions and abuse, drug addiction, masochism, loneliness) their voices are disconcertingly similar. Addonizio's phrasing is provocative, and her settings range from seedy bars to surreal psychological escapes. She aptly susses her characters' paradoxical sexualities and passions: ""I realize I've lived by definitions; now there aren't any and it's impossible to function."" In the end, however, their erotic rewards seem barely worth the struggle. (Oct.)