I wish there were more long-term relationship erotic stories like Christen Clifford's "After Ten Years"
I wasn’t really in the mood for a reading last night, and I was running really late. As I walked fast from SoHo to the Lower East Side, I got a voicemail from D.L. King that Bluestockings was packed. We had a good crowd, despite the umpteen other events, and as I listened to Christen Clifford read her story “After Ten Years” from Gotta Have It, I was struck by how rare it is that I get a perfect story like that about a long-term relationship. It was tender and sexy and real; it wasn’t trying to pretty sex up, make it funny or perfect. There are moments of friction between the characters, ways they don’t get along, aren’t quite in sync in bed, and yet the narrator isn’t looking elsewhere. She wants what she wants from the same person after ten years.
I’ve known Christen a long time; I once did an event she organized at Makor, along with Julie Atlas Muz and I can’t remember who else. I’ve seen her perform her one-woman show 17 Guys I Fucked while I think 7 or 8 months pregnant. Hearing and watching her read, seeing her blush or squirm, was so moving. I wish I could do readings with all the authors (66, since 3 of them are me), and hear what they bring to their work. I hope more people will send me stories like that, especially for my next erotic romance anthology, but even for the “erotica.” It was perfect and moving and in 1,200 words or less, she captured sex in a long-term relationship. THAT is what I look for when I edit an anthology, that mix that doesn’t shield sex from the rest of the world, or use sex to shield characters from the rest of the world. It mixes them together, and she brought all the italics in the story to life as she read. I wish I had a recording of it, but maybe part of me doesn’t; maybe you had to be there, and maybe that’s as it should be.
I wanted to select a short segment of the story for you, one that captures what I’m talking about, but you know what? You have to read it. I’m not even asking you to buy it (and, shhhh….I’ll give you a copy if you ask nicely and promise to write a review for me on Amazon, until I run out), but go to your local bookstore. Look at page 173 and take five minutes and tell me if that doesn’t move you. Or, yes, you could buy the book (see below for options). But really, I'm sick of the relentless selling, the postcard mailing, the posting in a bazillion places, the utter uncreativity of book promotion. Who knows if I'm good at it? Who knows when those statements arrive whether anything I've done has made a difference? Right now, I just am moved by a story...the whole reason I got into this crazy thing called erotica editing.
There’s love and hurt and lust and pain and desire and raw need. There’s so much in that short short story and I listened, me, someone who is likely never to be in a relationship for ten years, someone for whom that seems inconceivable. There is a line in the story that is not at the end, but near it, that is, I think, the backbone of it, what makes all the surrounding words so meaningful: “I want him to fuck me forever.” So yeah, that reading reminded me why I say yes to these things even when they’re often the last thing I want to do. I was in a sports bra and t-shirt and ratty sweater, no time to change. I was ratty and wheezing and didn’t really care, and I read some other people’s stories and my own. I knew I’d be reminded of D.L. King’s librarian late fee punishment story “Punishment Befitting the Crime” every time I pay the New York Public Library for my overdue fees. I remembered that way back when, in, 2001, I think, I organized my very first reading, and it was at Bluestockings. It was a nice way to end a long day, to sign off from doing readings and focus on words on the page, on the screen, words in ways that don’t involve quite as much relentless ubiquity and self-promotion and stress, words that have room to breathe and give the reader a chance to read them alone, in private, not be blasted with them live. That is not really my thing anymore, and the freedom of not having to corral people anywhere every month is one I feel immensely. I’m grateful every time anyone shows up, and was pleasantly surprised at the crowd last night, at the readers, and at myself. So thank you for that, for a last hurrah (though I will be asking questions about art, morals, death [her book opens with a suicide], love, sex, pornography and more of Pleasure Bound author Deborah Lutz Thursday night at 7 at McNally Jackson, which will also have copies of my books ,but interviewing, where the burden is on someone else to talk, I’m happy to keep doing).
Order Gotta Have It from:
Kindle edition (coming soon)
Bn.com (Barnes & Noble)
IndieBound (find your local independent bookstore)