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Best Lesbian Erotica 08, edited by Tristan Taormino


I have to admit, I always enjoy Cleis’s “Best…” anthologies. The production standards are invariably high. The quality of fiction involved is unfailingly arousing and literate and the stories are always enjoyable. In short: they provide the perfect blend of sexiness and well-written prose.

Best Lesbian Erotica 08is no exception. With masterful stories from the likes of Radclyffe, Rachel Kramer Bussel and Catherine Lundoff, it’s guaranteed to excite. Roxy Katt, Shanna Germain, D.L.King and Jacquleine Applebee are also included in this anthology, along with a long list of other talented authors.

But in my opinion, one of the most frequently neglected aspects of Cleis’s “Best…” anthologies are the introductions.

I have been called a geek in the past because I enjoy reading introductions. Personally I don’t think this is geeky. No one would enter a party without chatting politely to the host or hostess on arrival. Why should it be any different with a book?

I suppose the natural aversion to introductions come from all those boring prefaces that school children were forced to copy out as punishment for talking/smoking/masturbating in class. (NB—I was not guilty of all of those charges—I think it’s rude to talk in class).

But, at the front of a work of fiction, and especially when it precedes an anthology, an introduction is a fascinating insight into the thinking behind the book. And, because Best Lesbian Erotica 08 has two introductions, this volume offers two different perspectives on the same subject.

Tristan Taormino begins her introduction talking about the power of transgression and its aphrodisiacal qualities. Tristan Taormino is an award winning author, columnist, editor and sex educator. Anyone familiar with Taormino’s work will know she always writes with clarity and authority on the subject of sex. Anyone unfamiliar with Taormino’s work probably lives in a cave. The introduction to Best Lesbian Erotica 08 is another fine example of her skills as a writer.

Taormino contextualises the impending stories as a celebration of difference when she says “…what ties all these stories together is the desire to push something perhaps a little too far, to give the middle finger to “polite society.”” She is not using hyperbole when she says, “They push even further beyond what’s “normal” expected and acceptable.” The only thing Taormino fails to mention is that every story is a bloody good read.

Ali Liebegott, poet, novelist and LAMBDA award-winner, begins her introduction on a more personal level. Before talking about her first (amusingly unrewarding) experiences with lesbian erotica, she recalls her first exposure to pornography.

One of a group of young children, following a fearless gang-leader, Liebegott recounts the revelatory experience of finding a treasure-trove of porn discarded in a dumpster.

Liebegott is a damned good writer and this insight into her childhood is as evocative as any of the fiction that follows. The descriptions of naked flesh caught by zoom lens photography on thick glossy pages—and the implied excitement of discovering something forbidden and exciting—could have come from the consciousness of anyone regardless of sex or sexuality.

This subtle revelation sits well against Taormino’s previous words. Taormino introduces the book celebrating the exciting difference of transgression: Liebegott’s anecdote reminds us that arousal and the pleasure of discovery are universal. Perhaps it’s that blend of differences and similarities that makes this anthology work so well.

Liebegott goes on to admit the difficulty she had as a young woman in finding quality, exciting erotica. And, while that may once have been another universal truth, Best Lesbian Erotica 08 makes finding quality erotica a whole lot easier.

Simply buy the book.

Best Lesbian Erotica 08
(Cleis Press, November 28, 2007; ISBN-10: 157344300X)
Available at: Amazon.com / Amazon UK

© 2008 Ashley Lister. All rights reserved.

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