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Stories of lust and longing: Review of The Pleasure Principle edited by G Sampath

books Updated: Oct 29, 2016 10:10 IST
Avantika Mehta
Avantika Mehta
Hindustan Times
The Pleasure Principle

Always better when there’s more show than tell: A dancer performs at the "Erotica" show featuring merchandise from the sex industry in London on November 20, 2009(Leon Neal/AFP)

Over the course of reading this compilation of erotic fiction, I found myself wondering whether some of the authors in this book had ever actually had sex? It seemed almost as if they had only ever watched it online on YouPorn. And, not the interesting kind of pornography either.

I can honestly say that The Pleasure Principle delivered no particular gratification to me, with the exception of three excellent short stories by Mitali Saran, Vikram Kapur, and Aditya Sharma. This trio took on the task of writing erotica with gusto, imagination, and humour. Their subtle, funny stories — Insomnia, The First Kiss, and Chunni Lal — stood out in a compilation full of long drawn (no pun intended) and clichéd descriptions of fellatio and penises.

Saran’s Insomnia centers around a bi-curious married woman and starts out as a dream of her best friend having sex with her husband. This image consumes the protagonist till the point that she finally acts upon her fantasy. The story is sharply told, with just the perfect amount of detail to make a reader wriggle in her seat.

Kapur’s The First Kiss is a simple tale of pubescent perversity, with a young boy who is obsessed with sex. The story relies on a lot of formulaic wording for sexual encounters, but rather endearingly admits that this is what the main character knows “from the novels” he had read. Because the protagonist Anil is only 13, Kapur’s language and clumsy phrasing is actually quite the opposite. He has produced to perfection the feverish first-time feelings of sexuality that all teenagers go through.

Chunni Lal, Sharma’s short story, the best one in the book, is told from the first person point of view of a hapless man dying to have sex but unable to, quite literally, find vaginal openings. I laughed out loud more than once while reading this 25-page story.

What made these three pieces so different from the rest? It was, quite simply, another writing cliché: they showed me sex, rather than telling me about it. Most of the other writers seem to think that writing erotic literature requires graphic details of the sexual play between characters. This could be great if the descriptions were novel. But they were not. Rather, it seemed as if the only familiarity the authors had with the horizontal dance was either through a Mills & Boon or through pornography.

Watch more: Video and podcast - A new collection of erotic short stories aims to please

Erotica isn’t about describing sex. It is about the suggestion of steaminess, not actual fog. It’s about the teasing details; about exciting a reader’s imagination first and other regions thereafter. It’s not about giving the reader a sportscaster style minute-by-minute breakdown on what characters are doing. If that’s what anyone wanted, they can get it on YouPorn.