by Cynthia Heimel (Simon & Schuster, $22)

NEARLY 20 years after Sex Tips for Girls hit


Love bites

Critics unleash their hearts—and barbs—on books about l'amour.


by Cynthia Heimel (Simon & Schuster, $22)

NEARLY 20 years after Sex Tips for Girls hit America like an estrogen bomb, relationship proctologist Cynthia Heimel finally brings on its long-awaited sequel, Advanced Sex Tips for Girls: This Time It's Personal. The subtitle is unnecessary; with Heimel, of course, it's always personal. Anyone who's ever read her essays in Cosmo, Village Voice, or Playboy (for the articles!) knows the fiftysomething writer/sexual bon vivant has always been searingly honest about her own romantic and cultural escapades, from her painfully girdled Philadelphia girlhood to her grass-smokin', free-lovin' 20s, her drug- and man-saturated Greenwich Village 30s and 40s, and now her menopausal but still wildly horny middle years. As always, though, she leavens the man advice ("Eschew the dreaded Renaissance man!") with personal reflections on everything from San Franciscans' over-the-top political correctness to a vastly disappointing meeting with feminist icon Germaine Greer ("Thanks for writing The Female Eunuch, Germaine, but here's a poke in the eye for making me feel like shit."), and devotes several chapters not to men as dogs but, well, to dogs as dogs—the woman is certifiably obsessed with her motley crew of rescued mutts. Some Heimel fans may feel too much of this territory has been mined before, and better, by the author. But for those who are growing old along with her—and the new generations just discovering her outrageous back catalog—it's a trip (and tip) worth taking.

Leah Greenblatt


by Susan Minot (Alfred A. Knopf, $18)

A BLOW JOB is an appropriate way to start a novella about the relations between ex-lovers who reunite one summer afternoon. Susan Minot's so enthusiastic about this literary device that she employs it the entire way through Rapture, her rather unromantic story of thirtysomethings Kay and Benjamin, whose flesh connects in Kay's New York apartment bedroom while their thoughts flit back to their sporadic encounters over the past few years, during most of which time Benjamin had a fianc饠waiting to say "I do." From their pivotal fling while making a film in Mexico (Kay's a production designer and Benjamin's a director) to their awkward interaction at a Manhattan cocktail party, the uncertain lovers interpret their affair from startlingly different perspectives. As Kay inches toward a quasi-religious devotion to this man who has consumed so many of her reveries, Benjamin sinks into self-loathing from the deepening awareness that he wants to commit to his former fianc饬 not Kay, and the impression that "the longer you were with a woman the more hurt you put in her expression."

By the climax of this series of interior monologues, one can't silence the suspicion that Kay's jaw would be pulsing with ache after 116 pages of oral gratification. Similarly contrived is Benjamin's artsy mindscape as he approaches orgasm: "Then [Kay] zoomed off as if shot by a cannon and he was standing at the yawning edge of a great brown pit under a stony sky." But Minot's work deserves accolades more than disbelief, as the engaging, intricately structured Rapture manages to expose the illusions spawned by love. Like Benjamin notes, "It's easy not to believe the bad things about a person when you first meet, particularly if you're kissing that person."

David Massengill


by Midori, Craig Morey (photographer) (Greenery Press, $27.95)

PERHAPS I'M a little biased in writing about Midori's new book, The Seductive Art of Japanese Bondage, having once had the pleasure of chauffeuring her around our city. Known as Fetish Diva Midori, she's truly "the ambassador of kink" (as Fakir Musafar, father of the modern primitives, originally dubbed her) and has been teaching the art of Japanese bondage, often referred to as shibari, for many years. (Check out www. for some insightful and titillating photos of Midori in Seattle in 2000.)

If you've ever had any desire to tie your lover up—or down—this might be one of the easiest to follow bondage instruction books, teaching you step- by-step (with explicit illustrations and vibrant photographs!) seven different positions in which to bind someone. Unlike other bondage books on the market, this articulate, encouraging work provides practical and safe advice, so anyone unfamiliar with knots can actually accomplish her task with ease and without rope burns.

Jenn Wynne


by Phil Shoenfelt, Jolana Izbicka (illustrator) (Twisted Spoon, $13.50)

THE ONLY thing more boring than sinking into a life of drugged-out emptiness is reading a plodding, laborious account of that journey. Shoenfelt, a veteran of both the London and New York punk scenes in the 1970s and '80s, defies his fast-and-furious past by describing the plight of his protagonist with all the zip and wit of a dull butter knife.

Set in London around the late '80s, Junkie Love is a dry textbook study of drug culture and empty love within the Blank Generation. The characters in Shoenfelt's first novel never actually do anything; rather, their author simply assigns them rote, inactive tasks (such as not eating, not talking, not moving), and then reports back to his readers in a monotonous stream of emotionless history lessons. While the listlessness of Shoenfelt's characters befits their drug-addled minds, one would hope the author's storytelling would compensate for their colorless lives. The plot resists movement with such heel-dragging inertia that the reader begins to dream of injecting the slim, stylishly black-bound book with enough methamphetamine to scare even the most seasoned of junkies straight.

Romance and drug abuse, unfortunately, lie close to each other on the cellar floor; both are pits of agony designed to lasso the user into faithful submission and both often end in bitter heartbreak. But Junkie Love misses the boat on both accounts, capturing neither the pitiful neediness of love nor the elusive escapism of addiction.

Laura Learmonth


by Lucius Shepard (Four Walls Eight Windows, $18)

THE BRIDGES of Madison County for New Yorker readers, Lucius Shepard's novel Valentine is sexy but ultimately a tease. Vancouver, Wash.'s Shepard is a lyrical writer who sets a visually interesting scene in the South Florida town of Piersall. There's a bit of the Twilight Zone in this tale of our narrator Russell, who finds himself stranded during a hurricane (which mysteriously cuts Piersall off from the outside world yet leaves the town's boardwalk, inhabitants, and visitors unscathed). He runs into his great lost love, who's also trapped in Piersall. She falls into his arms and his bed faster than a Bond Girl, but despite mornings, days, and nights of excellent sex and proclamations of enduring love, she still won't leave her husband for reasons left unclear and irritating (to both Russell and the reader). They don't have children, he's not dying of cancer, he's not even going off to fight the Nazis, ࠬa Casablanca. She just doesn't want to hurt his feelings. If this is a love story, I'm not swallowing it. I'd like to read a novel from the other perspective sometime: Would her husband really rather have her, even if she's thinking about Russell every time they have sex? Unfortunately the "mystery" of Piersall (complete with official-looking workers in biohazard suits) arrives too late to contribute to any sort of satisfaction.

Audrey Van Buskirk


by Paul Beckford and Kevin Dax (Green Candy Press, $12.95)

PAUL IS a young, green-eyed, Bataille-reading scholar, and Kevin is a published author, but their primary occupations in life are sucking cocks and, yes, swallowing. Drunk on Cum is formatted as a collection of their daily e-mails to one another, through which they confess, blow-by-blow, their adventures in cocksucking (and through which, over time, they fall in love).

Readers who like cock talk get plenty of pleasure: "I lick the ever-flowing ooze from their veiny shafts, and work their cocks into seething furies of cum before they toss their loads onto my cheeks, my eyes, and into my hair." But too many phrases trigger the gag reflex: "As much as I like being creamed on, he wasn't completely my cup of jiz, so I rubbed my lips over his oozing head, but didn't imbibe."

Part of this book's thrill comes from the assertion that these are the real letters of two actual guys (using pseudonyms). I don't buy it. The whole premise is contrived; the trite tone of both guys' letters is identical; and as a gay book, it conveniently contains everything it's supposed to: dilemmas about HIV, peripheral characters with Kaposi's markings, the token almost-got-gay-bashed scene, and buckets of Chloroxy cum. If these are real guys, they certainly can't write. For all the intellectual posturing they do (quoting Whitman, Voltaire, Renault), there's only one well-executed reference in the lot. Kevin, trying to describe the taste of one guy's goo, writes: "Did MFK Fisher ever have this problem, describing a delicious new meal in a way that would distinguish it from the last delicious meal?"

Christopher Frizelle

comments powered by Disqus

Friends to Follow