Followers of Erotica Revealed know that, at times, sex is the mirror of the soul. Sexual congress can be a spiritual experience, an act of rebellion, an expression of need or an existential confrontation with one's own mortality. The erotic genre explores the multi-layered nature of desire--its meaning for the individual and for society. Erotica can be inspiring, enlightening, shocking or educational.
Sometimes, though, it's just plain fun. Jeremy Edwards' novel Rock My Socks Off is a prime example.
Rock My Socks Off is a breezy tale featuring a brilliant, gorgeous and unrelentingly horny astronomy professor named Normandie Stephens. (“My parents called me Brittany, and when I turned sixteen in a sea of other young Brittanys, I said 'Fuck this' and swapped it for the next French province over.”) If there were a Nobel Prize for lust, Normandie would win hands down. Jacob Hastings is the lucky journalist who catches Normandie's eye at a grad student party and eventually wins her heart (with many and varied clinches along the way). Normandie desperately wants tenure--almost as much as she wants Jacob--and over the course of the book they concoct a half-way accidental scheme that wins her national acclaim, almost destroys her career, and brings them into contact (and I use the term advisedly) with a collection of other equally randy characters. These include Normandie's department head Kate (a savvy and salacious bisexual cougar), Jacob's photographer Susan (superficially shy but with a deep appreciation of the erotic--at both a professional and personal level) and the dumb but charismatic dance club god Brandon.
There's a lot of sex in this book. In fact the thin plot has little function other than to provide the sexual superstructure. This is clearly intentional rather than an artistic flaw. I have read other examples of Mr. Edwards work and I know he produces a realistic story with non-trivial conflicts if he has a mind to. Rock My Socks Off is a romp with a capital R. Everyone gets off, all the time, in a wide range of environments including in the traditional utility closet, on the department chair's desk, at a roadside rest area and in the audience of a TV game show. All the while, Jacob and Normandie engage in witty repartee, emphasizing the fact that Jacob is as enamored of Normandie's prodigious intelligence as he is of her pert ass.
In some ways, this book reminds me of classic Victorian erotica like The Pearl. It is pure wish fulfillment. No one is ever too tired to fuck. No one ever gets jealous. There's enough cock and pussy for everyone. Normandie is an educated man's dream (well, she'd be my dream if I were an educated man!): articulate, self-confident, funny and horny, with a streak of mischief a mile wide and a huge wardrobe of candy-colored bikini panties that are perpetually damp.
Curiously, my most serious complaint about this book relates to the sex scenes. They are frequent but often very short, a paragraph or two. Not only are they brief, but they are also short on detail, emotional or physical. There's little time to build up tension. When a character itches, he or she scratches--or gets a partner to do so.
The characters are revealed almost entirely through their conversation. We rarely if ever get a glimpse into their minds or hearts. Even Jacob, the point of view character for most of the book, rarely shows us more than his whole-hearted appreciation for Normandie.
On the plus side, I liked the fact that sex in this tale means more than just fucking. In Mr. Edward's fictional world, sex is a whole body experience. Oral sex, groping or kissing can be just as satisfying as whole hog penetration. Probably half the sex scenes involve something other than intercourse. Furthermore, the characters enjoy bringing each other off almost as much as they like coming themselves. Not every scene is symmetric and that's just fine with everyone involved.
If Jacob Hastings reflects his creator at all (and I suspect that he does), Mr. Edwards really adores women. Jacob is not in the least submissive, but he's almost awed by Normandie and willing to let her take the lead. He has a healthy attraction to other women as well, which Normandie encourages. She's smart and experienced enough to know that his attitude is rare and precious.
You’re not a little boy who’s trying to compete with me, and you’re not a big boy who’s trying to own me, and you’re not a selfish boy who wants me to just shut up and fuck. …Do you realize how special that makes you?
Mr. Edwards paints a delightful picture of a relationship grounded on mutual respect and mutual horniness. The result is satisfaction for all, including the reader.
If you're looking for deep insights or revelations, don't buy this book. On the other hand, if you're in search of some good-natured, cheeky entertainment, I recommend it highly.
Spark My Moment is the odd title of a collection of stories by the redoubtable Jeremy Edwards who, seems to me, is a master of erotica for the male reader, though I am sure women would enjoy this book too. It is a collection of stories, as the title suggests, about the moment when an erotic impulse catches flame.
Sometimes Edwards goes on to describe the ensuing fire in these stories, but at times he very successfully leaves us with no more than a paragraph or two as the whole story. What makes these stories so successful is their unapologetic zest for his subject and for the maleness of his perspective.
Yes, his characters are unabashedly aroused by particular female body parts like bottoms and breasts. Yes, their minds tend to boggle at the endless pleasure to be had in the caress and curve of panties as they snug up to the female nether regions. Yes, he does not idealize female beauty the way that women and the fashion industry tend to do. He wants women built, as nature usually makes them, rounded and ripe, not wan and anorexic.
Even better are his male characters from whose perspective most of these stories are told. They are not losers, nor are they beefcake. They are not lunk-head frat boys or heroes of the gridiron. They are the second stringers of the male sex, the guys like most of us, who keep things going in the world. This book’s for you, to paraphrase the old beer ad, and there is precious little of this sort of writing in erotica.
You might start off with this book thinking it is upscale porn, but then you see that these guys really like sex, they are not just obsessed with it. What’s more, they really like women as people, friends, and companions as well as lovers. That is in my experience, non-existent in porn where women either drool a lot or are battery powered.
Another scintillating feature of this book is that all of these men have a real voice, and it sounds like an actual guy. Some of them are even highly articulate if not poetic, while others are mannered and stuffy in the way of academics (a world Mr. Edwards seems to know well). All of them are enthusiastically horny in the way that men are, and why the hell not?
Mr. Edwards is often having a laugh at that phenomenon, and I think most men will find their own sexual compulsions pretty well catalogued here. However, unlike the latest summer frat flick, he is not sneering at that as a weakness or blind addiction. He is revealing his sense of exuberance about life from the male point of view.
Another very appealing part of this book is that in Spark My Moment, short stories are authentically short. They are not ideas for novels that have been boiled down and still born, as is often the case with erotica. That does not mean that they are not complete within themselves with a narrative arc and nicely developed characters.
Part of the charm of this book is that he allows his characters a measure of self-doubt and uncertainty. Often they are lead to the bed of pleasure by more sure and confident female hands, which is at once, a way to make a story charming, and a fantasy that many men harbor all their lives. Who, after all, doesn’t want to be fussed over? Who doesn’t want at times to be the center of attention and the object of desire? No one, of course, even among men who find that attention makes them feel awkward when it is first lavished upon them.
As I’ve said, the title of the book seems odd to me. Yes, it does indeed deal with the spark at the key moment of arousal. Mr. Edwards is very good at finding that in the tiny nooks and crannies of human behavior. While his sexual scenes are painted with a broad stroke, the moments that initiate them are often very subtly revealed with grace and humor.
What strikes me as odd is the “My” because no one in this book ever seems selfish, much less self possessed, and that is perhaps part of what makes it feel so refreshing. His male heroes may not be stud muffins, but they are not just nice guys either. They are men who can be loving and generous in bed as well as elsewhere. Therefore you can’t miss with Spark My Moment.