Review: The Best American Erotica 2003

The Best American Erotica 2003 The Best American Erotica 2003 by Susie Bright
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Note: This review was originally written in the early 2000s and published for a no longer running website: AudiobookCafe. This review is of both the book and the audiobook. Best American Erotica 2003 can best be described as a cornucopia (or rather pornucopia) of titillating and scrumptious stories from fantastic erotica writers across the country. The range of stories includes straight, gay, lesbian, and transgender sex with a variety of landscapes including Hollywood, a military base, a strip club, and the quintessential pool scene. This special 10th anniversary edition includes twenty-three new stories and several delicious additions.

Being the only Best American stories to be published for ten years straight without interruption, the book, first, takes a trip down memory lane. Acting editor for ten years, Susie Bright went through painstaking work to contact all prior writers for the Best American Erotica series and gave the readers highlights of what she had discovered about life after being published in this series. Through surveys in her 9th edition, Bright also reprints the five favorite stories of all time—making it a total of twenty-eight wonderful tales of sexual delight.

Like many Best American series, it can be hard to enjoy the book through its entirety because not all the stories are relatable to the reader. But particularly a book based on sexual content can have more trouble. Whereas a Best American Mysteries or Best American Travel Writing can feature a story the reader might not like, some stories in Best American Erotica may disturb the reader. The story could be disturbing due to its content or quite possibly, what erotic feelings, and questions it evokes in the reader. However, like other Best American series, it stays true to its purpose in providing the reader with a vast sampling of quality erotica writers. Therein also lies a benefit because while there will be stories that one does not like—there is bound to be a story for everyone. And be aware that your definition of erotic literature may not meet the same definition as Susie Bright and her band of writers. Many of the stories did not meet my interpretation of an erotic story but rather seemed to be erotic vignettes, which was just as entertaining.

Erotic literature is not the text version of porn and this book reaffirms that notion. While these stories do have “sex” in common—that’s not really the driving point of erotic literature. The act of arousing is what makes these stories so damn fascinating and enticing. In most pornography, it’s the sex itself that people are interested in but in this anthology, one finds that sex is not always the climax but the path taken to find sex which proves much more stimulating. A book like this makes the reader more aware of the vast panorama of what is and what can be sexual and enjoyable.

The only flaw in this gem of an audiobook was the introduction. While Susie Bright is great at hosting her show and decent at the stories she reads, her introduction lacked professional quality. She came across as bland or fake even when trying to sound exciting. She also had a few stumbles while reading the introduction, which should have been corrected. And yet, even the introduction was beneficial, learning about the history of Best American Erotica. From there, the book examines interviews with former and present writers in the series. Her questions range from typical (“What special awards did you receive” and “Did you attend college?”) to not so typical but certainly entertaining questions (“Any interesting felonies or misdemeanors you’d like to mention?” and “Has your work ever been banned in another country, expelled from a local library, or seized at Customs?”). What’s more amazing and funnier than the questions are the responses.

Listening to the Best American Erotica 2003 was a pure delight. Regardless of their arousal factor, these stories were exciting and interesting. One piece of advice when listening: Be careful where you listen to this audiobook; it proved quite distracting while listening to it at work, but was much easier to deal with in the car or at home. This audiobook has that rare ability to fully draw your attention and keep you from getting anything done, both a bane and an attribute to this book.

Open-minded listeners will enjoy this voyeuristic journey into various sex lives to observe sex both different and akin to their own experiences. While not every story will have you on the edge of your seat, ready to orgasm, it certainly will provoke your imagination and give you some superb ideas for your next sexual encounter. With 2004 right around the corner, I look forward to hearing next year’s edition.

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