cover image Flesh and the Word 4: Gay Erotic Confessionals

Flesh and the Word 4: Gay Erotic Confessionals

Various. Plume Books, $15 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-452-27760-1

In a significant departure from other volumes in this popular series of gay erotic writing, all of the stories in this fourth volume are true, first-person sexual memoirs. Editor Lowenthal, tired of reading fiction he found ""formulaic, stale, cancerous with cliches,'' collected personal narratives, which, in their manifest humanity and stylistic and emotional imperfection, have a strong erotic impact. The collection opens with accounts of childhood experiences that shaped the writers' future sexuality, such as James Ireland Baker's ""Mustard Seed,"" a tender story of a first crush. The volume then moves on to encounters in the sexually permissive 1970s and concludes with entries set in the AIDS-wary present. Revealing the fantasies, fears and foibles of a diversity of gay men, few of these stories are weighted down by self-conscious literary affectation. The majority are disarming in their candor and sense of intimacy. Although far from tame (readers may find the fetish story, ""The Brown Party,"" more likely to make them queasy than sexy), this work succeeds not only as an erotic anthology but also as a sociological snapshot of contemporary gay male sexual consciousness. (May)