There are some very funny moments in this collection of 20 stories; it's not just fodder for dithering, though of course it is that. There are quirky insights into varied womanly perspectives -- how they view male body parts (including the oft-underappreciated male rear); how they view their own bodies; how they experience desire and relationships and orgasms.
RKB writes in her introduction, "we embrace our lusts even when they are maddening, even when they make us do things we might otherwise consider reckless." There is recklessness in this book -- encounters with strangers and with duct-tape and with nettles (brrr) -- though there are also prophylactics and conversations and solicitations of consent. There are "zipless" encounters as per Erica Jong, and hilarious self-aware interior monologues akin to Jong's own prose.
It's hard to *review* erotica; I didn't love every story, and some of that was due to the It's Not You, It's Me factor (Lucy Hughes' "Bite Me": it doesn't matter to Flightless what else happens once there is a naked razor blade in the unnegotiated bdsm scene; she is shielding her eyes and waiting for someone to tell her it's safe to look again. It turned out it was safe for most folks to look all along, but I had to go for a walk). There is also a knife-play story, "Beneath My Skin." Unlike "Bite Me," "Beneath My Skin" is female-submissive, as are about half the stories in the collection. Oh and it also has spanking in it, as do at least 1/4 of them. (Did we mention that RKB likes spanking?) Let's see, approx. 1.5 lesbian tales, one male masochist, one hot strap-on pegging scene, and three threesomes (all M-F-M). Several protagonists are over 40 and several of their lovers are younger men, which our aged Collective members quite liked.
There's even one story ("Unbidden" by Brandy Fox; do we think that's her real name?) that ventures wonderfully into seldom-charted territory -- this reader can remember only one other story, by Michael Chabon, that dared to do this: it describes hot, intimate, passionate sex between two people who are married -- to each other.
I don't know how anyone manages to write erotica without any terrible porny cliche phrases, but (as with the other RKB anthologies I've read), this one did its darnedest. (Apologies to "Ride a Cowboy," but I cannot read the phrase "balls deep" without thinking of Helms Deep and wondering whether they've ever done a sequel to Bored of the Rings.) At least two stories -- "Queen of Sheba" and "Ode to a Masturbator" -- had interesting enough prose that I'd recommend them even on non-prurient grounds, although the latter did take me out of the moment with lines like "She is blonde with enough curves to appear like a cursive lowercase q." It turns out that I have no idea how one is supposed to make a cursive lowercase q, and never did.
There are a few gorgeous descriptions of male bodies here (thank you, Elizabeth Coldwell's "Smoke"!), but I wanted more. Many of the men were invisible ("I hear his zipper, the rustle of fabric") or were merely their penes and hands, while female narrators lingered over descriptions of their *own* bodies. Sure, that hyperawareness stems from our society's relentless depiction of female bodies as objects of desire, decorative rather than sensory, but I had hoped to get away from that for a bit. But we all bring our brains with us, and one of the most winning aspects of this anthology for me was the moments when it does get intimate with women's squirmy gray matter. I dug the whole sequence in Jen Cross's "Queen of Sheba" about being *looked at*, the uneasy and complicated feelings of a young woman when her male lover is gazing at her naked -- first her whole body, while she resists the urge to pull up the sheets, and then:
"...He wanted inside me and sure I know that as a whole person, I didn't exactly exist anymore when he got into that wet fleshy focus, but at the same time I knew in that moment that I was being revered." (Jen Cross, "Queen of Sheba")
The whole book is fun, though I do recommend getting an actual paper copy and not trying to crash through it in one sitting just because you have a blog post to write. You'll laugh, you'll quiver, you'll turn down page corners.