Sven Davisson and his Rebel Satori Press are my MySpace friends, which means we are not friends at all, but share affinities through several degrees of separation. I saw the call for submissions for this anthology and was intrigued by it, but decided that while I’ve written a few surreal stories I could never sit down and write one on purpose. So I skipped the call and let it slide from my mind. If I had not had my tenuous links to Rebel Satori via MySpace, I probably wouldn’t have been reminded that Madder Love had been released. That would have been a shame.
I knew this anthology wasn’t erotica in the traditional sense when I asked to review it. That’s a confession, not an apology. Even the editor seemed a bit surprised that I wanted to review his anthology of surrealistic queer literature for an erotica site. He probably wondered if I got what he was aiming for. Queer doesn’t equal erotic, but when a group is defined by sexuality, sex is always part of the landscape.
Erotica is a slippery slope of definitions. “I know it when I see it” sums up my view, but since you won’t be reading these stories through my eyes, I’ll add that any story that uses sex or sexuality to explore a character is erotic to me. If you’re going to read Madder Love, you’re going to have to get past the idea of a quick payoff. These are words to be savored slowly. Wait for the complete visual to form in your mind before moving on. It’s a different kind of reading, absorbing words instead of consuming them, as with poetry.
Shaun Levin’s “The Yorkshire Adonis”and Sven Davisson’s “Dim Star Descried” are the closest to traditional erotica in this anthology. Tom Cardamone’s “Yolk” moved from sex at its most emotionally sterile moment to the point where it has meaning. The story I enjoyed most, though, was Peter Dubé’s “Echo.” It crept under my skin and gave me an uneasy feeling, as if I couldn’t quite see enough, but couldn’t get a better look no matter how hard I tried. Even after a third reading, the story seemed to hang in my peripheral vision and disappear when I tried to focus. Absolutely stunning, and unsettling.
Madder Love isn’t for everyone. Want some pat story that takes you by the hand and leads you through the familiar plot structure like a docent at the kid’s museum? Then don’t even try. Want a quick wank? Not going to happen here. This anthology may be just too far out there for you. But if you’re willing to try something different and stretch your brain, you may find the erotic possibilities of surrealism.