Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A sexy, erotic, literary read

The cover of the erotic novel Amorous Woman by Donna George Storey has a seductive-looking Japanese woman tempting you to come hither and read the story that is clearly for "adults only" (as the cover warns). The prologue has the title character, Lydia, looking at her reflection in an airport mirror and swearing off sex in any form as she departs Japan for the United States, her homeland. Lydia isn't Japanese—she's a blonde American—but the reflection she sees (or imagines she sees) could very well be the Japanese woman from the book's cover. Lydia is in love with Japan, and her move there was an attempt not just to become Japanese, but to become part of Japan itself. Yet she'll always be a gaijin, a foreigner.

Lydia had moved to Japan to teach English, and to immerse herself in the Japanese culture. What follows is her sexual awakening, one that is driven by a fantasy life that barely stays one step ahead of Lydia's sexual reality. In fact, one feeds off the other. And don't forget, this is an erotic novel, and nothing is left to the reader's imagination. Yet, Amorous Woman is so much more than just the sex. Lydia's sexuality awakens, true, but so does her yearnings for romance, her lost father, and for just plain more out of life. This leads to a self-destructive lifestyle, as far as relationships go, that escalates to a point of no return.

The book begins with Lydia back in the States, telling her story to two young men who are her students (now she's teaching Japanese to Americans set to work in Japan). We get to hear the story along with them, and learn what happened to drive her out of the adopted country she loves. And what a story! Author Donna George Storey holds a Ph.D. in Japanese literature from Stanford, and like her character Lydia, spent time in Japan teaching English. She knows the territory. Storey's writing is very descriptive, and brings you right into Lydia's fantasy world of Japan. From the traditional marriages, to the fine restaurants (serving exotic, dangerous dishes like fugu), to the "love hotels" where married people go to cheat on their spouses and live out their wildest fetishes, to the hot springs resorts in the mountains north of Tokyo:

The bathhouse was deserted, the water smooth and glassy. Hot spring baths in Japan usually follow a guiding fantasy, transporting the bather to a rocky grotto, a tropical garden or terrace with the perfect view of Mount Fuji, even if the mountain itself is an image set in mosaic tile. This inn was more ambitious than most. The soaring cross-beamed ceiling, glowing pedestal lanterns, and swimming pool-sized cedar tub brought to mind the cathedral of a cult that worshipped both purity and indulgence. I was more than eager to make my own offering on its altar.

Lydia affairs aren't only with the men of Japan, but with Japan itself. And we get to go along for the ride. But what eventually makes the love affair end, what drives her back into the arms of America? What happened in Japan to have her swear off sex forever? The answer to those questions is why this book is a page turner—and not just because of the hot, steamy sex scenes.

But does the Amorous Woman really change her ways when she gets back to the States, and live a chaste life? Or will the old pull of sex draw her back into a self-destructive lifestyle? Will she ever find love again? Will the two young businessmen she is telling the story to revive her amorous ways by the end of the tale?

Maybe this isn't the last we've heard from the Amorous Woman. It's definitely not the last we've heard from Donna George Storey.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

It's official: American Cool is a great book!

Susan DiPlacido's hot collection of short stories, American Cool, was the runner-up in the 2008 Beach Book Festival, romance category! Congrats to Susan! The book is also a semi-finalist in the 2008 Independent Publisher Book Awards (better known as the IPPYS), erotica category. The winners will be announced May 23. Good luck!

To purchase American Cool:
Barnes & Noble

UPDATE 5/23: The IPPY awards were announced today. Susan DiPlacido walked away with a bronze medal! Congrats Susan!

37. Erotica
Gold: Erotic Interludes 5: Road Games, edited by Radclyffe and Stacia Seaman (Bold Strokes Books)
Silver: Sex Libris: A Book About What Everyone Thinks They Know, edited by Christopher Meason (Welcome Books)
Bronze: American Cool, by Susan DiPlacido (Rebel Press/iUniverse); Slave to Love, by Nikita Black (Cajun Hot Press)


Saturday, May 03, 2008

Five Star Literary Stories

If you are a lover of short stories, check out this new site, Five Star Literary Stories. Their statement:

Five Star Literary Stories combines three integral facets of the writing life: publisher, story, and reviewer. Each story is editor-nominated and considered one of the best the mag has published.

So, if you're short on time, and can't comb through the many outstanding online journals out there, if you want to just sit down with your morning cup of joe and read a great story, look no further! Five Star Literary Stories is now online!

I am thrilled to be one of their first participants. Check out my review of "I've Got Dreams to Remember" by Andrew Bomback.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Funnymen by Ted Heller

It's been a few years since I first read Funnymen by Ted Heller (it was published in 2002). I read so many books, and my memory is shot anyway, so it was time to give it another go (Heller is also the author of one of my all-time favorite comic novels, Slab Rat.)

The "funnymen" of the novel are the fictional comedy duo of Fountain & Bliss, loosely based on the legendary team of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. The narrative is unique, set up documentary style, as if Heller himself had interviewed all the major and minor characters of the Fountain & Bliss world. All of these characters (and boy are they characters!) tell of the meeting, union, and rise of the loony comedian (Bliss) and the girl-chasing crooner (Fountain), from the Catskills in the 1940s, to Hollywood of the 1960s, and beyond—past their eventual breakup, and into old age. Each character tells his/her version of events in a unique, identifiable voice, which I know (as a writer) is a hard trick to pull off.

The storytelling in Funnymen is engaging, spot-on, satisfying, exhausting, and more importantly—funny. When the laughs come (and there are plenty of them), it's because you as the reader know the characters so intimately, that you get the joke on every level, as if you are laughing at a long-time friend or family member.

So that's two great novels now from Mr. Heller, but the question is: When is the next one? It's been six long years since Funnymen was published. Ted, if you're out there, help me out. I need some more Heller. I'll be a first reader for you if you need one. Call me.