Saturday, January 26, 2008

Susie Bright Lights Up The Booksmith

I have extensively borrowed a book by Susie Bright, "Full Exposure," by which I mean, I never returned the book to a friend with whom I no longer have contact. I moved the book from an apartment in Hollywood to my parent's garage to Cambridge, MA to Allston to Brookline to Cambridge, again, over the course of six years, and never read it.

Ask me why. Go ahead. I have no answer, at all. I'm actually quite ashamed. But now it's signed, to Vanessa, so I guess I've effectively stolen it.

After listening to her read and speak I think Susie Bright has been a hero of mine this whole time, and I just didn't know it. I read Full Exposure in anticipation of her Best American Erotica 2008 event, and had that uncanny experience of deja vu that happens when a writer articulates one of my own dearly-held but heretofore idiosyncratic beliefs: like the notion that all creativity is linked to, springs from, or is in some way interacting with the erotic body.

She was electric and charming, in her home-sewn dress and Earth boots, hanging out in front of the podium instead of back in the Green Room, discussing the death of her father, reading a story about a religious sexual sadist, and telling us of her admiration for her teenage daughter all in one moment. She was cozy in her body, her project, and her honesty, and I admired her not just for the work she's done to help people quit their prudishness, but for the embodiment of genuine performance she gave to us, a gift of love without the appearance of it being laborious.

At home afterwards, I opened up my very own advance copy of Boink: College Sex by The People Having It, a beautifully produced, glossy paperback goldmine of gorgeous sexy photos, sassy erotica, and deeply truthful essays by young people from Grand Central Publishing, coming out in February. I'm featured on the cover, and a story of mine made it into the collection (hence the plug!). The coincidence of these events, Susie and Boink on the same day, is far too delicious to ignore. In the generally exhausting conservatism of Boston's Higher Education Universe, where I spend most of my waking hours, I found a powerful reminder of such a large piece of my mission: bringing the juice.

It's possible that my involvement with Boink will have ripple effects in my career. But what is exciting about Susie Bright is that she's been able to MAKE a career of what other writers try to hide, do under another name, or do half-assed. I'd like to start a new genre called "philosmut," where the thinking is Derridean and the sex is blood-rushingly explicit. An experimental style that involves very sexy characters with HUGE brains. It's out there, I'm seeing bits and pieces in these anthologies. I think the army of writers willing to try is large, but the battlefield on which they're allowed to march is small. I know Susie says there's way more magazines now than there used to be, but write more than one or two sexy scenes in your novel, if you're a young female trying to debut, and it simply can't be mass marketed, unless you're willing to get a silly cartoon slapped on the cover and be told you're another machine producing "chick lit." Write a sexy scene that's not strictly hetero-focused, and you're automatically a queer writer relegated to a single stack in an independent store. Of course some great books get through, but hell, that's always been true. I'm feeling fiercely committed to seeing some more change in this situation during my writing career.

So Susie Bright is still relevant, necessary, and a wonder to behold. I wanted to invite her over to drink tea and tell stories and laugh, discuss issues that make us furious, cook a meal that makes us swoon, and read some philosmut together.


  1. Are there any books, previously published, that you would consider the godmothers of philosmut?

  2. Another hand raised for the question tony asked. When I thought about this, as in about writing it or where i'd come from, Beautiful Losers came up. It's not directly this mode, but the combinations of explicit sexual detail with inspired poetic flights are not found many other places...Allen Ginsberg (in poetry)? But many seem to relegate those works to some "gay" category, OR, what I sense more just ignoring those sections. I like this a lot, and maybe a niche called "philosmut" is a way to do get at being able to actually write literature that is as sexual as life without it getting shoved somewhere. How about, just in general, some great erotica to read sense I haven't?

  3. Of course there are many who explore psychology and sex: Erica Jong in a lighthearted way, Anais Ninn in a much more adult and brilliant way. Henry Miller sought to make sex an integral part of his literature. To enter the field a bit, I'd read Anais Ninn's Little Birds. There are always the classics too: Story of O, Marat/Sade, etc. My yearning, still, is for a woman who doesn't write feminine romance into her sex but philosophy, and I think that given the history of many philosophers as anti-body and anti-sensuality, this is a great frontier...

  4. This "I'd like to start a new genre called "philosmut," where the thinking is Derridean and the sex is blood-rushingly explicit. An experimental style that involves very sexy characters with HUGE brains." sounds amazing.

    It's interesting, there's a mix of intense academic theory around these ideas, and some works of literature, as you mentioned...but, I want huge stacks of high quality sexually-charged literature that makes me wonder where I end, where the universe begins, and helps me ask the critical questions of the soul and existence...without it being relegated to the little nondescript corners of the queer literary universe.