Magazine article American Libraries

Sexy Novels

Magazine article American Libraries

Sexy Novels

Article excerpt

Bill Ott, who writes this column free-lance for American Libraries, is editor of ALA's Booklist.

Sexy novels:

IN FEBRUARYS PAST, QUICK BIBS HAS taken a-Valentine's look at sex and love in nonfiction, but we've never stopped to savor erotic fiction. No time like the present. The novels listed below embrace both well-publicized and lesser-known fictional explorations of the erotic life. You won't find any fashion-and-passion novels here (Judith Krantz and her ilk), but you will find fiction that is both serious and steamy.

Writing about sex has proved one of the more difficult of human endeavors. Whether one takes the metaphor-fined high road or the anatomical low road, there are pitfalls aplenty-just ask Ernest Hemingway, who never quite recovered from that oft-parodied line in For Whom the Bell Tolls about the earth moving.

There's no point in arguing with the selections; everyone knows what they like and don't like when it comes to this subject, and if the tangled history of human sexuality has taught us anything, it's that there's no right and wrong. So if Lady Chatterley isn't liberated enough for you or Humbert Humbert is too kinky, go peruse your own bookshelves. I'll bet there's a tattered copy of Godly Little Acre in there somewhere, maybe buried behind that pristine edition of Will Durant's Story of Philosophy.

Gifford, Barry. Wild at Heart: The Story of Sailor and Lula. Grove Weldenfeld, 1990, $17.95 (0-8021-1181-5).

Sailor Ripley and Lula Pace, the star-crossed lovers in Gifford's roman noir, may come from the same literary tradition as the lovers in James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice, but they certainly don't go in for the same kind of sex. Cain's sex is wrenching, an angry explosion, really; Gifford's is equally hot but remarkably tender, never violent, and totally unrelated to power. Listen to Lula: "Oh Sailor, you're so aware of what goes on with me. I mean, you pay attention."

Jong, Erica, Fear of Flying. NAL, 1974 (1973), $4.95 (0451-15851-2).

All Erica Jong's Isadora Wing ever wanted was a man who paid attention. It's a shame she never found one, because in recent years her search has become downright tiresome. But that shouldn't sour us on Fear of Flying, which comes close to justifying the tribute John Updike paid it back in 1973: "the most uninhibited, delicious, erotic novel a woman ever wrote. …

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