Put “erotica” in the title of any book and you have the undivided attention of 50 percent of potential readers. Male readers predominantly. Make the book title “The best of” and you have them salivating at the thought.
This week’s book, The Best of South East Asian Erotica (ISBN 978-981-08-5436-2, Monsoon Press Singapore, 2010, edited by Richard Lord), came direct from Phil Tatham’s Monsoon Press, but one could imagine the poor man, reading a piece of titillating prose every evening and wondering if it were good enough (erotic enough?) to make it into the book.
Of course, there is a fine line between erotica and pornography. And what is erotic for some, may be perceived as pure porn by others. There has also been an enormous shift in public acceptance of matters of a sexual nature in books. All that fuss over Lady Chatterley’s Lover, prose which wouldn’t raise a heart rate today, let alone anything else.
The book follows one which had been entitled The Best of Singapore Erotica, which apparently had been a Singaporean best seller, prompting the expansion into S.E, Asia, but the spread of items is not equal with Malaysia (4), Indonesia (1), Philippines (3), Thailand (6) and Singapore (5). Is Thailand the home of sexually charged writers of erotica, whilst Indonesia is culturally repressed? Even Editor Richard Lord was rather coy, stating that the sole Indonesian item was the only one “we were able to accept”. He does not go on to explain what was wrong with the others – too explicit or too mild?
At the end of each piece there are notes on the authors, most of whom are not randy young men, but tend towards latter middle age, and there are even a couple of women in there as well.
I found the categorization of the items a little difficult to follow, but can understand editor Lord’s problems. If the author is not from S.E. Asia, is the work then from the country of origin of the writer, or if the action is set in a S.E. Asian country, does that give it the Asian bona fides? The authors include well known authors as Stephen Leather and John Burdett, both excellent writers who can turn a pen to any subject.
Books like these can very easily become boring, after all there is a limit to positions, even in the Kama Sutra position 34 is exactly the same as position 46, except you cross your fingers. However, editor Lord has selected his pieces for originality and spiced the book with even one on sex with a transvestite, a common fantasy for many males.
I did enjoy the book – though obviously some items were more interesting than others, but there was a thankful lack of repetition. I did not consider it to be a XXX publication, but an anthology around a common premise (eroticism) and handled in many different styles. At B. 530 at most bookstores it is a book that is easily picked up and put down, but is not a ‘one-handed read’ if you get my lack of subtlety.