This post is a change from my more recent ones, and a bit shorter, as I've decided to post a review of a book I've just finished reading.
The book is Sex and Cupcakes, by Rachel Kramer Bussel.
Rachel's a prolific writer of erotica, a blogger and editor. She writes the weekly Let's Get It On sex column for Philadelphia City Paper. Her topics have ranged across sex, dating, books, pop culture, and hoarding. A former senior editor of Penthouse Variations, she's edited around fifty anthologies, written over a hundred stories of her own, and runs erotic writing workshops across the US.
Sex and Cupcakes is her most recent publication, a collection of nine essays.
But why sex and cupcakes, you might reasonably ask? An interesting combination, but perhaps a bit messy.
The truth, so far as I can tell, is less exotic... Rachel blogs about cupcakes at http://cupcakestakethecake.blogspot.com
The book blurb describes it as a collection "detailing her dirty and sweet sides as well as sexual adventures, politics, heartbreak, tattoos and more."
It's had a lot of very positive reviews posted on Amazon, a few giving four stars, the vast majority five. I really enjoyed reading it myself and gave it five stars.
As soon as I saw the contents page, I thought it would be well-worth reading. Well, with essay titles like I Have Trouble With Orgasms, I'm Pro-Choice and I Fuck, What Kind Of Submissive Are You?, I Don't Want Or Need An App To Measure My Sex Life, Champagne Sex and, of course, Sex And Cupcakes, anyone with a vivid imagination and a slightly dirty mind might be curious to dip in... Yes, I'll hold my hand up on both counts.
I thought these were interesting, intelligently written and thought-provoking essays, in which Rachel is very open about herself, her life choices and their consequences. This collection of nine essays almost certainly includes something for all readers and writers of erotica.
She discusses a lot of pretty personal things, not least of which is the challenge of publishing under her real name, which means she has a "public" self which is only part of her "real" self. Writing does not require the writer to reveal their true identity, and she estimates that over half the writers in her anthologies publish under pseudonyms.
Rachel argues that being "pro-choice" is almost always being "pro-life", despite what the more conservative US commentators might say. I liked her rather provocative suggestion that being pro-choice means being supportive of all forms of consensual sexual taste, from kink to GLBT.
I enjoyed her reflections on taking an internet quiz to determine how submissive she was. Interestingly, she found it thought-provoking, but pointed out that her responses at any given time would depend on how she reacted to the people she was with, taking roles anywhere on a scale ranging from submissive to dominant.
Thinking about an iPhone app designed to score your sexual activity, based purely on movement and how much noise you make, led her to ponder just what it is that makes sex "good".
Her longest essay is a wide-ranging one, which covers how she started writing erotica, where she gets her ideas from, and how her friends and family react to her writing. Her stories range from total fantasy to being heavily based on personal experiences, and everywhere in between. She offers an interesting exercise she uses in her classes for writers. And no, I won't tell you! You'll just have to read the book.
I completely agree with her that the best erotica combines sexuality and emotion, and that there's no such thing as a "typical" erotica writer. They earn money by their writing, not by telling the reader about their personal sexuality.
Fair enough. Would we assume that a thriller writer is admitting to having a career in espionage, crime or as an amateur detective?
If you'd like a collection of interesting, varied and thought-provoking essays ranging around sex and erotica, I'd recommend this one without hesitation.
- Amazon US
- Amazon UK
Links to Rachel's writer's pages on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.