The Coming Together anthologies are probably one of the worthiest causes in contemporary literature. To date the single author collections have included M. Christian, Rob Buckley and Remittance Girl, edited under the aegis of the incomparable Lisabet Sarai. Anthologies of erotic short stories, that benefit charitable causes, allow readers to contribute to something worthy and enjoy the pleasure of erotic literature all for the same price. It’s like chocolate flavoured sex with a bonus of cash presented at the enormously satisfactory conclusion: it simply cannot get any better.
The proceeds from Coming Together Presents C. Sanchez-Garcia will benefit the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN). RAINN is the nation's largest anti-sexual assault organization. It operates a national hotline, educates the public about sexual assault; and leads national efforts to prevent sexual assault, improve services to victims and ensure that rapists are brought to justice.
But Coming Together Presents C. Sanchez-Garcia would be worth buying without the benefit of supporting a worthy cause. Coming Together Presents C. Sanchez-Garcia is a bloody good book.
Because this is a collection of short stories, I’ll begin by saying that the quality is consistent and high, even though the approach varies in a range of eclectic styles and considered approaches.
"Rough Draft" is a perfect example of this eclectic approach, beginning in the style of a letter to a men’s magazine and starting to reveal the sexploits of a just-turned-eighteen narrator in the typical fashion of an ‘I-can’t-believe-it-happened-to-me’ exposition.
Sanchez-Garcia understands the reader’s needs and expectations. As the narrative is turning to the anticipated central sexual encounter, the author ends the first segment of the story and continues it as an example of fin de siècle erotica, complete with expository dialogue and the characteristic reliance on adverbs. The transition is abrupt, snatching the reader from the comfort of the established narrative with an abrupt reminder that the content is a fiction. And again, once the reader has continued in the fin de siècle, and become suitably immersed in the narrative, Garcia-Sanchez again stops the story and begins in another genre: fantasy erotica.
The playfulness of this approach is amusing and entertaining. More than that, because the central characters in each story are essentially the same, the illusion of the varying narrators suggests, despite the change of genre and styles, the events have the coherence of a thinly disguised truth. Seriously, this is an innovative approach to story-telling that surreptitiously breaks the fourth wall of the reader/writer divide by demonstrating the multifaceted nature of fiction contrasted against the perpetual constant of truth.
Or consider the second story in the anthology: "Natural Acts." This is a short excerpt from close to the opening of the story.
On the little kitchen table, next to a cold cup of coffee, a book of marine biology is lying open. On one page is a color photograph of a female deep-sea Anglerfish. She is large and bulbous, with unnatural teeth like a heap of translucent swords. A long rod of flesh dangles down with a glowing ball at its end. A very small male Anglerfish is fused into her belly permanently, like a benevolent parasite. On the other page, there is a color photograph of a limpet, which has anchored itself to a blue rock. There are other limpets fused to the top of it, like a small stack of party hats. Next to the book of sea life, is a thick copy of Dante's Divine Comedy. The young man's friend DeEtta has been writing to him, extolling him to read Dante, so that they can discuss death. "To understand Christian afterlife mythology, you have to know Dante," writes DeEtta, in impassioned handwritten letters. "It all comes from Dante." But the idiot howling of the young man's flesh for sex has drowned all thought.
This expository paragraph shows us the reading interests of the central character – a sexually frustrated individual who is trying to sleep and deny himself sexual release. And, as most readers will know, trying to sleep and deny oneself sexual release is a little like trying to juggle soot: it’s never going to happen.
As is to be expected in "Natural Acts," the protagonist falls into a torpor of dreams, and the dreams are fueled by the images from his recent reading material. This produces a contrast between the traditional corporeal human desires with which most readers could identify and the ‘natural acts’ of his fantasy. These are presented in a diverse contrast of narratives that are disquieting and remarkable: redefining desire and arousal in new structures that defy previous expectations.
If you’re not familiar with the work of Sanchez-Garcia then this title is an ideal introduction to his writing. If you are familiar with this author, then Coming Together Presents C. Sanchez-Garcia should already be at the top of your have-to-have reading material.